Steinlage always looking for better mouse trap
By Jean Caspers-Simmet
Date Modified: 06/04/2012 2:19 PM
WATERLOO, Iowa —Loran Steinlage calls himself "a better mouse trap kind of guy."
"I get an idea, and I go to the shop and start building," said Steinlage, who started farming in 1986 when he was a high school senior.
He took time out from planting corn to share his innovations with engineers at last week's Agricultural Machinery Conference at the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center in Waterloo.
Steinlage quipped that the last time he gave a speech was in 10th grade. He used a PowerPoint presentation that his daughter made for him to show his inventions. He built a 3-point drag for FFA, stations fashioned out of Craftsmen tool boxes for his wife's hair salon, a bean roller from an anhydrous tank, a swing tongue haybine and a cultivator bar.
For his latest project, he is putting bearings in parallel arms for corn planters.
Steinlage said nearly everything he creates is motivated by need. He tries to make do with what he has. Making do includes a dual changer, the deck plate gauge, a bogey puller and an on-farm fuel containment diking system.
He likes the "Keep It Simple Stupid" or KISS philosophy.
The project that brought the most satisfaction was building a combine header restraint.
Steinlage speaks often of his family —his wife, Brenda, son, Rolan, daughters Kelli and Kassi and his parents Florian and Leona.
"Family is what drives me to do what I do," he said. "I put family first."
Rolan was diagnosed with a brain tumor several years ago. Steinlage stayed with his son for 40 days in Iowa City while he received radiation treatments. To keep Rolan's mind active, Steinlage took him somewhere every day.
The first day in Iowa City, they stopped at the Coralville Hy-Vee to get something to eat. When Steinlage heard farmers talking at a nearby table, he joined the conversation.
One of the farmers, Roger Stutsman, wrote down his contact information and told Steinlage to bring Rolan out to see his fertilizer setup and feedlot at Hills. Stutsman introduced them to other area farmers.
Stutsman shared with Steinlage that his son, Michael, had been killed in a combine head accident.
"I've always had issues with the way we took heads off," Steinlage said. "I didn't think it was safe."
Steinlage came up with a design that involved a simple chain with two hooks.
"It worked flawlessly," Steinlage said. "The best compliment I got out of that deal was when someone asked me what kind of CAD program I drew it up on. I didn't even waste a napkin on that one."
Steinlage gave the idea to Stutsman, who donated patent rights to Farm Safety 4 Just Kids.
"This had a purpose," Steinlage said. "When you can stand with a dad who lost his son less than a year after the fact, and he can tell you that you solved the problem. We haven't been able to get a manufacturer to pick it up because there's no money in it, but we'd still like to get it made."
Steinlage and Brenda own Ta Da Salon in West Union, and they raise 750 acres of corn as FLOLO Farms.
Steinlage put up a greenhouse, which he leases to neighboring Yost Farms. He is experimenting with composting and hopes to use it in the greenhouse some day.
Steinlage turned the south half of his barn roof into an American flag as a tribute to his father who was a Berlin Ultimatum veteran. The barn can be seen best on 210th St., southwest of West Union.