It’s Husker Harvest Days, Nebraska’s biggest agricultural trade show, and Kevin Kenney is working the pavilions. The engineer, inventor, and inveterate manure-stirrer is trying to be discreet. He has allies here among the sellers and auctioneers of used tractors and aftermarket parts. There are farmers, mechanics, and the odd politician or two who embrace him. But enemies lurk everywhere.
Kenney leads a grassroots campaign in the heart of the heartland to restore a fundamental right most people don’t realize they’ve lost—the right to repair their own farm equipment. By sheer dint of personal passion, he’s taking on John Deere and the other global equipment manufacturers in a bid to preserve mechanical skills on the American farm. Big Tractor says farmers have no right to access the copyrighted software that controls every facet of today’s equipment, even to repair their own machines. That’s the exclusive domain of authorized dealerships. Kenney says the software barriers create corporate monopolies—and destroy the agrarian ethos of resiliency and self-reliance.