One thing that is clear when you look at Oggún’s website, watch its videos, and study its tractor, is that this a no-frills organization. No frills: just results. And that is precisely why we love them and it so much.
In his ever-relevant essay “In Distrust of Movements,” Wendell Berry writes that the local food and land movement must “content itself to be poor,” because, “We need to find cheap solutions, solutions within the reach of everybody, and the availability of a lot of money prevents the discovery of cheap solutions. The solutions of modern medicine and modern agriculture are all staggeringly expensive, and this is caused in part, and maybe altogether, because of the availability of huge sums of money for medical and agricultural research.”
What we see here, in the Oggún tractor, is exactly what kind of practical, pragmatic results come from a thrifty approach. Accessing Cuba’s local food shortage, Cuban-born Horace Clemmons and his business partner Saul Berenthal quickly realized that Cuban farmers needed technology that was simple, rugged, and easy-to-repair. And then they asked, why don’t tractors like this already exist, tractors like the original Allis Chalmers G that farmers in the US used in the 1950s? They suspected that stock-based shareholder business models might be to blame: too much money and the input of too many people with money who just do not understand the problems of small farmers.
So, in the grand spirit of Farm Hack, they used open-source technology to build a tractor with all off-the-shelf parts. Thus, repairs can be done in the field and in small local machine shops. Oggún adapted its business model to keep over-head costs low, partner closely with other local businesses, and never develop products that are planned for obsolescence. The tractors is made in Alabama, but it’s available to and possibly revolutionary for small family farmers all around the world.
Tune into Greenhorns Radio today at 4:00 PM to hear Locky Carton, Oggún partner and graduate of the University of Iowa’s agricultural business program, speak more about this exciting project. If you can’t tune in today, don’t forget that a podcast version of our show is always available at the Heritage Radio Network!