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Andy Gartner and his teammate took first place in the 29th National Postsecondary Agriculture Student Organization national convention competitions held in Pennsylvania in March. The tractor, above, is among the machines overhauled by the mechanic in training. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Gartner team takes first at nationals

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Park Rapids Enterprise
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Gartner team takes first at nationals
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Park Rapids alum Andy Gartner claimed a sweet victory in Hershey, Pa. at the national John Deere Ag Machinery Service Technician competition at the end of March.

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He and his teammate from North Dakota State College of Science (NDSCS), Wahpeton, captured the first place team award, competing against 18 teams from across the nation.

"I didn't believe it," Andy said. "Did I hear that right?" he asked the person next to him when the announcement was made.

Andy, who's pursuing an associate degree as a John Deere ag technician, and Josh Hora had won the North Dakota mechanics competition, making them eligible for the nationals.

The competition at the state level included a written test, identification of parts and tools and diagnostic stations, which gave him an edge.

"Diagnostics is 90 percent of what we learn," the 20-year-old said of his schooling.

Andy claimed high individual at the state competition based in Minot.

He was to head out with other teams from NDSCS March 10, but a snowstorm delayed the flight - his first ever - and a tired corps of technicians arrived in Pennsylvania for the competition.

Among the challenges were recalibrating a tractor's transmission via computer.

A four-wheel drive tractor, he explained, has eight or nine computers.

"It was tough for the straight diesel people," he said, but he and Josh were well versed on the subject of computers.

The national competition also subjected the students to a written test as well as a measuring station, where they employed micrometers and gauges to determine hydraulic pressure.

"At the national level, it was more about understanding how to communicate with tractor computers to make adjustments," Andy explained.

Partner Josh claimed first individual at nationals, Andy took eighth and their team took home the first place trophy and $500 each.

Evergreen Equipment of Wadena was Andy's sponsor for the event.

The students also headed to the Mason Dixon Farm to watch robots milk cows.

A single robot - with a $180,000 price tag - milks 50 cows, "increasing milk production and decreasing labor," explained Andy, who grew up on parents Leo and Lynn Gartner's dairy farm east of Park Rapids.

They have not yet partnered with a robot, which reportedly pays for itself in seven years.

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