'Brutally simple' tractor stops in Rushford

RUSHFORD, Minn. — Imagine a tractor made completely of off-the-shelf parts that a farmer easily can repair himself, with pieces he or she can find in the community.

RUSHFORD, Minn. — Imagine a tractor made completely of off-the-shelf parts that a farmer easily can repair himself, with pieces he or she can find in the community.

That's what Horace Clemmons, Locky Catron and Jeff Adams have set out to do. The team of three is the whole group behind the Oggún tractor, which they brought to Featherstone Farms in Rushford on April 5.

Oggún is the name of a mythical god for metalworks and protector of the people, according to Cuban legend. Why Cuba? Because one of the original business partners, Saul Berenthal, was of Cuban descent and wanted to do something for the people who lived there. He and Clemmons decided to start a business in December 2014.

"Initially they thought software, then they looked at the economy in Cuba and realized that probably wasn't going to work out very well," Catron said. "So they started looking at everything else that was going on in the country and realized the government had given land back to about 300,000 farmers, but they only had about 60,000 tractors on the island."

Not to mention, the tractors were rather old and needed a lot of repairs. Berenthal and Clemmons thought it would be good to create something simple and affordable. That's why they used off-the-shelf parts. They modeled the tractor after the classic Allis-Chalmers G.


Unfortunately, their work for Cuba didn't last. But they weren't out of options.

"Until the embargo was lifted, no one except the tourism industry was going to be able to do anything," Catron said of Cuba. "So we moved our efforts elsewhere and started manufacturing in the U.S. It was something that had global applicability."

The Oggún team members, based in Paint Rock, Ala., pride themselves on their unique business model: value-based rather than stockholder-based, and mindfulness toward what small farmers can afford.

"Even though we built the tractor that's probably the most affordable one in the world, we still could only get to 10-20 percent of the wealthier farmers on a global basis," Clemmons said. "$10,000 is an awful lot of money for a small farmer today. So we said we had to create a business model where the price goes down every year, not up."

Now, Oggún sends the tractor design and whatever parts the customer needs, with the goal of the customer being totally self-reliant within five years. They want customers to find the parts they need in their local communities.

"Over time we expect you to make all of it," Clemmons said. "That's the only way we're ever going to creep down to the 40-60 percent of small farmers. It's called trust. It's called value-added."

Oggún refers to itself as a "virtual corporation," representing the core team, all of their customers and their vendors. They work with well-known manufacturers such as Honda and Kohler, but the manufacturers don't just send them parts — they work directly with Oggún on engineering. Catron said that's the only way the companies get their products to developing countries, where they'd be too expensive otherwise.

Right now, Oggún has distributors in Ethiopia, Peru, Australia, Colombia and Brazil, all local people who can make sales based on what's culturally important there. Catron said they are in talks with 20 other countries.


Farmers who purchase tractors from them have more creativity than with others. They have a choice in which parts they include. A power takeoff, bumper and toolbox all are optional.

"You design components to put together, and you let everyone be creative in how they use those components," Clemmons said. "There's no logo on this tractor because we say, 'It's your tractor.'"

Oggún doesn't spend a lot of money on advertising to keep overhead costs down. But local farmers found out about the company through the media and invited it to show them the tractor. Workers at Featherstone enjoyed the chance to test drive it. Catron and Clemmons also stopped in Hutchinson and Motley in Minnesota, and Iowa City, Ames and Atlantic in Iowa.

"The things we've done are all brutally simple, but they're all very different," Clemmons said. "I learned such a valuable lesson from the Cuban people. We went down there knowing part of the story. But they helped us understand how we can better serve small farmers across the globe."

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