Far West Dealers’ Legacy Lives On at UC Davis Campus with Western Center for Agriculture Equipment

The Joe A. Heidrick Sr. Western Center for Agriculture Equipment (WCAE) is situated on the west side of the University of California Davis campus. The center’s main 18,000-square-foot multi-functional building is used for university courses, graduate and professional research, and as a venue for industry programs and events.

The WCAE was designed and developed in the mid-‘90s with funding from an expansive grassroots effort including the Far West Equipment Dealers Association (FWEDA), equipment dealers, manufacturers, various companies with ag interests, and many private individuals. The objective was to create a centralized hub where workforce development, advancement of agriculture equipment technologies, and the industry could connect.

“Ag Equipment center at UC Davis Becomes a Reality,” was the headline in the May 1997 issue of the FARWEST Bulletin as construction on the center got underway. As a Platinum Key to the project, the association urged equipment dealers to join FWEDA’s “$100,00 with $40,000 plus in cash and pledges” to support the center’s construction with many members answering the call. Association members who stepped up included Gearmore, Bingham Equipment, Linder Equipment Company, Solex Corporation, Wilkinson International, Berchtold Equipment Company, Kuckenbecker Tractor Company, Nikkel Iron Works, Renner Equipment Company, T.G. Schmeiser, Valley Truck & Tractor, Flory Industries, Arizona Machinery (Stotz), Garton Tractor, Midland Tractor, Woodland Tractor, Torrences Farm Implement, Booth Machinery and former Far West executive Jerry Huerter.  

John Deere Co, Case IH and New Holland also contributed to the center with  donating funds  for the main large bay to be named for them “New Holland Demonstration Lab.”

To achieve the multiple purposes of the center, the building comprises large laboratory rooms where various types of equipment can be stored, showcased, or maintained, multiple meeting rooms, and a workshop. Adjacent to the building is one of several fields that make up the nearly 14 acres of land available for use by the WCAE. The field is purposefully never planted to provide a “sandbox” for testing and training on equipment by researchers, students and industry partners.

On a Saturday afternoon in October 2005, FWEDA was invited to attend the formal dedication of the Joe A. Heidrick Sr. Western Center for Agriculture Equipment with “short remarks concerning future plans for the facility, and an update of facility usage with a walking tour of the facility itself.”

With the Center fully operational year-round, a major component is about 20 weeks of ag and construction equipment dealer service and sales training, making use of the Far West Equipment Dealers Training Wing and the New Holland Demonstration Lab. Over the years, FWEDA has used the center’s various rooms for meetings and events. The Center also hosts the Farm Power and Ag Mechanics contests during the annual UC Davis Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Field Day where several thousand FFA and 4-H high school students come to compete in just about every category of ag. Various ag equipment companies support the event with small and large tractors at WCAE and UTVs for the broader campus-wide event.  The Far West Equipment Dealers Training Wing and other rooms are also used for UC Cooperative Extension events for farmers and by commodity groups.

The WCAE supports the industry and workforce development through university courses. Currently, in Fall Quarter 2021, they have 130 students enrolled in their programs split between one of UCD’s most popular courses, Field Equipment Operation, where students learn about the different parts, troubleshooting, and the fundamentals of farm tractors, and an intro to welding course. An additional tig welding course is being trialed this quarter. The Field Equipment Operations course provides students hands-on experience with using tractors in the field and their implements.  Winter Quarter hosts another 130 students for both introductory intermediate welding, engines technology, and wood working.  Spring Quarter now will host yet another 130 for a second offering of Field Equipment Operation as well as Equipment and Technology for Small Farms.  Summer Session includes Teaching Agricultural Mechanics, a course taken by students in the UC Davis teaching credential program’s planning to become high school ag teachers.

“We want to show the future of Ag and not just the past,” said Daniel Frank, a lecturer for the Biological and Agricultural Engineering department at UC Davis. Frank is an experienced educator, an expert in creating educational programs, and advocate for workforce development. This past summer he helped gain approval for a new major, Ag Engineering Technologies (AET).

“We are excited to be working to improve our students’ value to the greater ag community,” Frank said in discussing the new AET major. The major will allow students to focus on the operations, automation, data collection, and operations management of agricultural technologies. In conjunction with the major, the program is developing multiple courses concentrated on precision farming technologies. These courses will use a John Deere 6430 with a Trimble GPS unit and autosteer they have in their inventory of equipment.

The center was made possible through the partnerships of dealers and manufacturers who all saw the importance of a center that was focused on the agricultural equipment industry. Today, the center is a vital source of education, research, and industry connections. 

FWEDA renewed its support of the WCAE in 2021 by endorsing a $65K Smart Farm Big Idea grant as part of a $500k effort by the college to advance new initiatives. FWEDA dealers, including Beeler Sales, also support the program with equipment for students.

You May Also Like

Tools for Today’s Agricultural Equipment Dealerships

California Accelerates Climate Change Measures to Achieve Goals

Colorado Analyzes the Labor Shortages & How Employers Can Adapt

FWEDA States Receive $300M in Federal Funds for Airports, CO Gets Largest Award at $63.2 Million