Trips Tickle Kids and Parents Alike

Combine Farm Fun Into Kid-Focused Rural Road Trips

Pamela Smith
By  Pamela Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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Looking for fun and education, Ryan Heiniger and son, Matthew, take a selfie to memorialize their trip to Kinze Manufacturing in Williamsburg, Iowa, this summer. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Heiniger)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Ryan Heiniger turned a hunt for parts this summer into a road trip his 14-year-old son, Matthew, will never forget. The Burlington, Iowa, farmer had spotted some items on Craigslist that appeared to have promise in helping restore a vintage bucket elevator on the farm. Why not turn the journey to inspect the parts into an adventure?

While COVID-19 has temporarily put the kibosh on many attractions, it didn't stop the Heiniger father-son duo from filling their schedule. Fun and educational offerings that have a farm flavor abound in many areas of the country, and fall is still a good time to sneak in a quick getaway.

"After filling up on Casey's breakfast pizza and donuts, our first stop was Kinze," Heiniger said. "It was a two-hour free tour and was so neat to hear the story of how Jon (Kinzenbaw) got started. A trolley took us right onto the manufacturing floor, and it was pretty incredible to be that close to the workers, including some welding robots."

Also available at the Williamsburg, Iowa, plant is the Kinze Innovation Center (KIC) that showcases the company's rich heritage and highlights how technology continues to shape farming. Historical farm machinery including the 12-bottom adjustable plow, the first rear-folded planter, the first grain cart and tractors from Jon Kinzenbaw's personal collection are among the exhibits. Precision technology and what's coming down the road are also featured.

The KIC… encompasses more than 25,000 square feet, has more than 30 displays of video and interactive and theater seating for more than 70 visitors. The center focus is on the motivation, imagination and perseverance of American innovators and the steps taken (and challenges faced) to bring new products and technologies to farmers worldwide.


A farmer who follows Heiniger on Twitter extended an invitation when he noticed the two were visiting the central Iowa area. "My kids and wife poke fun at me about being on Twitter. So, it was great stopping to meet him and tour his farm. It was also a lesson, about how networking and friendships can evolve," he said.

The father and son share a love for hunting. So, their trip included shopping trips to some large outfitting stores.

"One of the highlights for both of us was heading to the Iowa State University campus. We traced my steps as a college student, and I had a blast telling stories. Matthew seemed really in awe of that -- going into some of the buildings and reliving college through my eyes was a big hit.

"We're not pushing him one way or another about college, but it seemed like a good age to start planting the seed to start thinking about his future," Heiniger said.

Sure, there was hay to bale and crops to tend at home, but Heiniger figured you can't put a value on stopping time to make memories. Matthew recently got his driver's learning permit, and the remaining teen years will speed by quickly. In late August, the father and son took another road trip to catch the Half Century of Progress working vintage farm show at Rantoul, Illinois. And, yes, it was a good place to research their bucket elevator project.


Many farm equipment manufacturers have educational opportunities, but keep in mind that COVID-19 concerns may limit availability at this time.

Kinze Manufacturing factory tours must be pre-scheduled and are limited in size. The Kinze Innovation Center does not require pre-scheduling.

AGCO's Intivity Center in Jackson, Minnesota, continues to welcome guests. Register at… for a tour to watch Massey Ferguson wheel tractors, Fendt and Challenger track tractors, and application equipment such as RoGator and TerraGator roll off the assembly line. The Intivity Center also includes an equipment showroom, displays about farm innovation, a farm game and gift shop.

Visitors are highly encouraged to pre-register their plans to visit the Intivity Center due to the dynamic nature of COVID protocols and equipment build schedules.

John Deere's public attractions are temporarily closed due to the pandemic, acknowledged Chad Passman, public and industry relations manager for John Deere North America. Monitor that reopening through…. The website details available tours, attractions, and more along with updated information on open times and online scheduling availability.

Case IH tours and attractions have also been temporarily halted for COVID concerns, but you can monitor reopening at….


Meanwhile, Heiniger said the best part of these kinds of trips may be the windshield time. Kids -- and parents -- talk about different things when away from home. Here are a few tips for making the trip more enjoyable.

-- Break the trip up with a lot of different stops. "Two hours at any one place is probably enough," Heiniger said.

-- Check the age restrictions for various tours. Some manufacturers require children be of a certain age and be with a parent to be in the manufacturing area.

-- Don't make the trip all about the adult or the kids. Blend interests and share time.

-- The trip doesn't have to be a marathon. One or two days away can be as good or better than a week. Sometimes there are fun and interesting attractions close to home for day trips.

-- More than one child in the family? Consider giving them their own getaway time.

"My 11-year-old daughter is coming into her own as a farm girl, and I'm looking for a trip she and I can do together soon," Heiniger said.

Know of a great farm-related getaway for families? Let us know.

Pamela Smith can be reached at

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN

Pamela Smith

Pamela Smith
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