John Deere converting factories to make masks for area hospitals

FARGO — John Deere is changing its day-to-day operations, devoting time and resources to making and providing face shields for people all over the country, including at the Fargo VA Health Care System.

The company initially made the masks for their employees at 16 of their facilities across eight different states, but it worked well and was so efficient that they realized there was potential to do more.

"We could produce more than we needed ourselves, so of course, we wanted to ramp that up as high as we could," Operations Manager Bryan Bossart said.

In Moline, Ill., John Deere altered normal operations to be the hub of mask-making. The company has a goal of making 400,000 masks and will produce more if needed.

"The engineers have worked with local colleges and industries to get the materials needed, and they've converted it into a whole assembly line now," said Dave O'Connell, president of John Deere's local military resource group.


Since early April, they have produced nearly 300,000 masks for health care facilities as close as North Dakota and Western Minnesota, including the Fargo VA Health Care System.

"It definitely eases a burden," said Karinne Davidson, chief of voluntary services for the Fargo VA. "It's just that extra sense of protection for our veterans and even our administrative staff who otherwise wouldn't have this kind of equipment."

John Deere employees are humbled by the response.

"It's kind of strange to have the people who are really on the front lines doing all the work thanking us for providing all the equipment," Bossart said. "This is just something small we can do for them."

Davidson said she's grateful a company like John Deere would give up their production line and step into a bigger role in times like these.

"It's a great feeling to know that the humanity is there, and we're all in this together. We're willing to do our part," Davidson said. "It's that shining light in a not-so-great situation."

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