MATTOON, Ill. âIt’s different every day. It’s always difficult and it’s very interesting. You really must be the kind of person who likes to find answers. This career path will never be boring.
Those are the words of Woody Reinhart, describing the careers his students in the diesel and farm power program at Lake Land College have and will have.
They could describe Reinhart and his second career.
Reinhart is relatively new to teaching at Lake Land College, having served as an instructor and coordinator of Lake Land College’s diesel and farm power program for only eight years, beginning in 2014.
But he was tied to the college as a student and supporter for most of his adult life, and he taught, in one form or another, throughout his farming career.
“If you don’t go back and look a bit at history, you don’t know how you got there and evolved,” he said.
Looking back on the history of diesel, farm power and farm equipment can be found in her wheelhouse. Reinhart, originally from Mattoon, was a teenager when his father changed careers by buying a local farm equipment dealership.
âI got interested in it because I worked there in high school,â Reinhart said.
He attended Lake Land College as a transfer student and received his bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from the University of Illinois in 1979. It was not the best time to seek employment in the agricultural industry, as Reinhart soon discovered at first. his job search, venturing to the West Coast to see if there were any openings.
âThere were no jobs to be found. I came back and, without any job prospects, I went back to work in the dealership with my father,â he says.
Reinhart worked as a shop foreman and parts manager. Throughout his 30-year career in those jobs at Reinhart Ford Tractor and later Farm Pride after the dealership merged with another larger dealership, Reinhart taught, though he didn’t recognize it as part of from his work.
âWhen I went to interview at Lake Land, some people at the college commented that I had really been doing this, teaching, for years. I was not only teaching the interns we had from Lake Land, but I was often teaching our clients about different things,â he said.
While working at the dealership, Reinhart became a member of Lake Land’s agricultural advisory board and continued to support the college’s agricultural and diesel programs. When the program instructor retired in 2014, members of that council urged Reinhart to apply for the position.
“At that point, I wasn’t sure I wanted to change careers, but I was also starting to burn out,” Reinhart said.
One of his reservations was working with people who were going to be younger than his typical customers in the farm equipment business.
“In the dealership, I was dealing with people who were usually 50 and older,” he said.
After entering the college atmosphere and a new career as a college instructor, Reinhart found the move less daunting than he initially thought.
âThe education side of things that I had already done all these years, but not in a formal way. So it really wasn’t that difficult as a transition,â he said.
He is also able to use the knowledge from his first career in his new career.
âI think one of the benefits my students get is the experience I bring after working at the dealership. I try to use it in class. My dealership career spans so many years that I cover the history and foundations of how we got to where we are today in agriculture and agricultural technology,â he said. .
A big difference from his job at Reinhart’s dealership is covering a wide range of brands and types of diesel and agricultural brands and equipment. This is something he continues to work on, to expand the types of equipment and technology his students have access to, as well as the brands of equipment.
âI like the program because it’s a diverse program. It is open to all types of machinery, from agriculture to industry, to consumer products, to power generation. They discover a wide range of not only equipment, but also brands, which opens their eyes to different internships and opportunities,â he said.
Lake Land College also hosts a John Deere TECH program supported by John Deere and solely dedicated to training students to become John Deere technicians.
Keeping up with the ever-evolving field of diesel and agricultural technology is a challenge, but no stranger to someone whose early career spanned three decades in agricultural equipment and technology.
âThat’s the biggest challenge, but it’s also very interesting to follow the changes and see what’s happening in agriculture and on the farms. Technology and machinery on today’s farms are changing so rapidly. Precision agriculture is taking hold on more and more farms,â said Reinhart.
Reinhart’s motivation is his students and the college that has been a part of his life for so many years.
âIt’s really nice to have students in class asking themselves ‘why?’ That’s what really motivates me. I love teaching and helping them see things so they can go where they want with their career. When I see light bulbs going out all the time, it keeps me going,â he said.
With his students, the college where he started as a student and now works as an instructor has a place close to his heart.
âI’ve come full circle with Lake Land College. I love this campus and what it offers and what it offers youth and adult learners in this area,â said Reinhart.
He and his wife, Debbie, have two daughters, two granddaughters and a third grandchild on the way. Reinhart’s two sons-in-law work in the agricultural machinery industry.
Even when he’s off the teaching clock, Reinhart isn’t far from his subject.
âMy hobby is restoring older equipment. I have a 1936 Chevy truck and I work on old steel wheel tractors,â he said.