By the late 1960s, Jon Kinzenbaw had made a name for himself in the farming community by re-powering John Deere 5020 tractors. As interest in them grew so too did demand for product demonstrations. The only problem, however, was that Jon couldn’t find a plow capable of keeping up with the 320-horsepower tractors.
A borrowed plow kept plugging up on cornstalks because it lacked vertical and lateral clearance between the bottoms. So Jon set out to buy the best plow available, but couldn’t decide between a 16-inch or 18-inch cut. It occurred to him that a farmer shouldn’t have to choose one or the other.
As Kinzenbaw recalls, “Both (the 16- and 18-inch plows) had the same components. It’s just the angle at which the bottom is bolted to the backbone that made the difference between the two. It just clicked like a light bulb: why not make that on a pivot and do it on the go?”
So the young innovator bought a few plow bottoms, some heavy bar stock from a crane manufacturer in Cedar Rapids, and got to work at his small welding shop in Ladora, Iowa. That spring he took a concept model out to the field and the trial run was a great success.
“It instantly proved my point that you could adjust on the go,” said Kinzenbaw.
Kinzenbaw knew farmers would appreciate the versatility and convenience of the adjustable width plow. The problem would be getting it to them. After all, Kinzenbaw owned a humble welding shop and didn’t have the manufacturing capacity to meet what would likely be heightened demand for his new product.
That’s when Kinzenbaw met Bill Dietrich of DMI through a mutual acquaintance named Jay Barth.
“Jay came to me one day and said this Jon Kinzenbaw had invented a new plow that allowed you to adjust the width on the go,” Dietrich recalls. “Jay realized that Jon didn’t have a production factory, but DMI did. We could mass-produce the plow and also had an organization that Jon didn’t yet have. Therefore, a much larger volume of plows could be built.”
Kinzenbaw agreed to license the plow to DMI and even stayed with Dietrich and his wife as he developed the prototype at the DMI factory in Goodfield, Illinois. Dietrich said he was impressed by the young enterprising Iowan who worked tirelessly until the plow was completed.
The adjustable width plow was introduced to the public at the 1971 Iowa Farm Progress Show. Pulled by Kinzenbaw in one of his repowered John Deere 5020’s, the novel plow opened a lot of eyes.
“It was a very innovative product and the people at the show were just mesmerized by it,” Dietrich recalls. “It was something that was very new on an old product, a moldboard plow. And Jon really put on a show.”
According to Kinzenbaw, the adjustable width plow made such an impression on farmers because it was so long overdue. Somebody just had to come along and realize the need for it.
“I can still remember the advertising of one of the majors that said ‘150 years in the plow business – who else?’ And it never occurred to any of those people that you could make the plow adjustable cut,” said Kinzenbaw. “It caught on to the point there was no reason not to have a plow be adjustable. There were two, three companies that jumped right on and copied it immediately. Almost overnight, all the plows built were adjustable, and that still holds true today. That's what happens when you find a better way to build something.”