Made in America? Really? What does that mean?


“Stuff that works, stuff that holds up.The kind of stuff you don’t hang on a wall.

Stuff that’s real,and stuff you feel. The kinda stuff you reach for when you fall”  ……Guy Glark, Texas songwriter



It first happened  when one day in 1987 that  my Dad proudly announced that he bought an American John Deere green tractor, because he didn’t want to support the Japanese economy by buying a Kubota tractor like mine. (This sentiment was fairly common amongst World War II veterans.)

So I  lifted the hood of his newly purchased green John Deere and found the serial number plate,– A Mitsubishi  motor married to a Yanmar tractor assembled in Osaka, Japan.   It resembled his old John Deere two cylinder Model  420U because it was painted green, but therein the similarities ended    It was a dog in my estimation…and I believe that  he would have been more comfortable operating the Kubota I thought he should have.

Its pretty confusing today trying  to buy American, such to the point that you have to read the fine print just to find out who exactly  did produce it.   For example:  Case – International  Harvester is pretty much an American Company,  right?  Recently they introduced a new line of low horsepower tractors to the market and branded them  Farmall   after the venerable predecessors with the same  name  that successfully butted marketing heads with John Deere  in the period from  the late 1920’s to the mid  1980’s.  I was looking  for a no frills tillage tractor with about 90 hp and the new Farmall  95 seemed to  be what was available to me.  The verdict is still out on whether it is a good tractor or not, considering the active life of  tractors can span anywhere from 20 to 35 years and its only 3 years old.  (We still use actively  6 tractors that range in age of 35 to 60 years).  Turns out my Farmall 95 is in reality a Fiat tractor put together in Ankara, Turkey and the loader on it is built in Sweden.  It’s American in name and paint scheme only.

Wait! What about  the new clawhammer style banjo I just bought form the Morgan-Monroe Banjo Company?  Sounds pretty  American, doesn’t it?  Wasn’t Bill Munroe the father of American bluegrass music? Yeah, but his namesake banjo was built  by oriental luthiers in China.  And, like a lot of the pacific rim instruments ( and farm machinery),   it’s pretty reasonably priced and  pretty well made.  And if this isn’t baffling  enough….my old 2004 Toyota Tacoma truck was assembled by American workers in Atlanta, Georgia. And it  just so happens that  Atlanta is also home to a plant  that assembles Kubota tractors.


The interesting thing is that quality  used to be  synonomous with the American name. Its  a great deal more  complicated than that now. I maintain that the chessey  sheet  metal fenders on my Kubotas wont be around in 50 years,  but my little 245 Kubota tractors  don’t cost any money  to run, are  easy to get parts for and I suspect if I can keep a seat on them and  decent rubber under them  those little motors and transmissions will make 50 years of farm work  long after their  fenders turn to dust.  And my little Georgian  2004 Toyota truck is as comfortable as any sedan, and has given me 98000 trouble free miles with a little brake work, oil undercoating biennially, and a  piece of the muffler replaced. Cant beat that with a stick, as the locals would say.

I like supporting the local  economy as much as possible. Buying American made goods is a natural extension of that, and I am willing to pay some extra for that privilege.  But determining what is produced  in the US and is produced elsewhere is now a complicated proposition made  more complicated by the American companies like Case IH who slap branded American names on overseas products.

Are Carharrt pants still made in America?   I  better check.    Levis aren’t…..

"Stuff that works,stuff that holds up...."  83 year old ex dariy farmer George Cilley beating the weeds into submission with a 18hp  Model 1956 Farmall 100
“Stuff that works,stuff that holds up….” 83 year old ex dariy farmer George Cilley beating the weeds into submission with a 18hp Model 1956 Farmall 100