The Wayne Wengerd Family and the Legacy of Pioneer Equipment
An abiding testament to the brilliant future available to small farming.
by Lynn R. Miller of Singing Horse Ranch
On a Small Farmer’s Journal cross-country trek in 1980, more than 38 years ago, Kristi and I met the young, growing, industrious and steadfast Wayne Wengerd family of Dalton, Ohio. We learned of their young business, PIONEER EQUIPMENT, and something of the plans for its development. It was apparent from the first moment that we all shared a strong belief in small farms. We were honored to be offered a tour of their shop facility where they were building the first generations of Pioneer forecarts, as well as steel wheels for many Amish farming applications. And we toured grandfather Henry’s clock repair shop where I acquired a pocket watch. That meeting and tour began a long friendship.
Today, Wayne and Mary Wengerd enjoy the wide view of their large family’s brilliantly successful equipment manufacturing business with an ever expanding lineup of innovative animal-drawn tools and implements. And what secrets are there to this success?
A hallmark of the Pioneer Equipment system has been their superb, field-tested engineering coupled with production-line planning which has resulted, repeatedly, in affordable, durable implements sold now ‘round the world. But I must hazard to offer that ahead of even that, has been vision. Wayne saw a need and a possibility when many, back then in the 70’s and 80’s, saw little or none. Farm and rural economy experts scoffed at the notion of success for small farms and the notion of animal power. We have the scars to prove it. Pioneer Equipment never scoffed, instead they marveled at the resilience and hope embodied by the small farm community and jumped in to contribute.
Pioneer Equipment did not just happen to supply a void, though there definitely was one. Pioneer Equipment created entire new markets for its tools by supporting and believing in the small farm community and seeing what it might become. In the beginning, the idea of a ready supply of affordable forecarts, allowing ground-drive implements old and new to be pulled by teams of horses, was a service, outside of the Amish community, that found a relatively small market. But over time people came to see that there were ways they could make animal-drawn systems work. That there were small companies that would supply them with what they needed. It was limited, yes, but Pioneer and other similar companies came to suggest a promise that it would only get better.
And the proof is apparent in the evidence. The community grew and its needs expanded. So did Wayne’s enterprise. Today Pioneer Equipment offers a staggering array of exciting and practical implements, attachments and connectivity. From motorized forecarts that allow horses and mules to pull pto mowers, haybines, balers and etc. all the way down to light weight basic forecarts for small, tight-quarter use. From basic walking plow and cultivator designs to more complex tool bar implements such as the popular homesteader, which allows the horse-powered market gardener to till, plant, cultivate and harvest all with quick and easy attachments. From broad field application to narrow row work in market gardens, Pioneer continues to explore, engineer and innovate new ideas. With each step of the way they fertilize the future of an accessible human scale agriculture of astonishing practicality. Pioneer Equipment’s history and continuing path of service is a clear and exciting indicator that the future for small farms spreads far and fertile ahead of us all into the world our grandchildren will navigate.
As an indicator of how wide and yet how specific the Wengerd philosophy spreads I share this. Pioneer puts out a newsletter, The Pioneer Post, and in the Spring 2018 edition Wayne wrote of the optimism of the season:
“April showers bring May flowers. According to this statement we should be seeing lots of flowers in May. Tis the season to be optimistic. We till, we plant and nurture, we just know we’ ll have a bountiful harvest.
“These are challenging times. It takes more hustle than ever before to keep up with all the demands of running a farm or business enterprise. I realise it’s hard for farmers to be optimistic about their future, especially in dairy. The experts don’t see the farm economy, especially for the small operator, improving in the near future. It’s tempting to be pessimistic but there are bright spots. Prices go up and prices go down. They always have and always will.
“I’m always inspired and encouraged to see our people, especially farmers, get together, discuss and collaborate in preserving our traditional small family farms. Pooling and sharing knowledge, experience and resources is part of our heritage. There are educational seminars, field days, farm tours – the list goes on and on. All farm families should attend at least a few events every year.”
It has been the great good fortune of the Miller family, and Small Farmer’s Journal, to have shared a universe and friendship with the exemplory, generous, intelligent and hard working Wengerd family of Dalton, Ohio. Every single member of the worldwide small farm community knows a better future because of the existence of Pioneer Equipment.