Covered in grime, Jim Schippert methodically drills bolt holes into an air compressor base, while over his shoulder and through open doors, 500 acres of grain on the cusp of harvest beckon for a combine. Surrounded by ordinary fields of corn and soybeans, the farmer crouching on a concrete shop floor and working with the patience of a stone has passed into the realm of the extraordinary. He is 92 years old—a living legend. Young farmers beware: Jim Schippert is still rocking the rows and tinkering in his shop in south-central Nebraska, just outside the town of Republican City.
His latest invention is an elevator to lift him to the combine platform.
In 2017, after a bad knee turned a John Deere 9510 combine ladder into a problem, the Nebraska producer set his mind to the challenge and let the sparks fly. “You have to understand: I needed to pick my corn so this was going to get done,” Schippert says.
He had recently built two shafted elevators in separate utility buildings and believed the concept would work in a combine if he could make the right fit. “I looked on the internet for something commercial, but everything was too expensive. There was no point in not building my own. It was a fairly easy build, but I knew it would take a few days.”
“Grandpa told me he was going to remove some rails off the side of the combine. I was hesitant, at first, but I got out of the way. At 91, he finished the whole thing in a week, and I still can’t believe how well it works,” says Jimmy Sindelar, Schippert’s grandson.
Beneath the combine platform, Schippert mounted an ATV winch, running it over and under several pulleys. He cut grooves into two pieces of pipe to hold the elevator steady and mounted them on the side of the combine. Last, he built a riding platform to carry him up or down, operated by remote control. (Schippert has two remotes—one in his pocket and the other hanging in the cab.) Built almost entirely from spare parts in the shop, the elevator expense equaled the cost of a new winch from Harbor Freight.
“At first, it seemed like another day at the office and nothing out of the ordinary. Just one of those ‘Grandpa invented something else,’ days. The reality is he’ll never cease to amaze you. There may be a thousand things on this farm he’s built,” Sindelar says.
Brody Molzahn grows corn and soybeans outside Huntley, and is a close friend to Sindelar and Schippert. “At first I didn’t think anything about the combine elevator because it’s so normal for Jim,” he says. “He’s already built two on his own, and this next one didn’t strike me as unusual except it was on a combine. But when you step back and really realize what he did, it’s so cool and incredible.”
“I never even knew how old Jim was for the first three years I knew him, and assumed he was 20 years younger than he is. I’ve never seen or heard of anyone his age working at this level. He’s probably got four or five projects going in his head right now,” Molzahn adds.
Roughly a year after elevator construction, Sindelar posted a video of his grandfather ascending to the cab. It was a short clip, meant to offer a quick look at Schippert’s ingenuity. Sindelar watched in shock as the video shot out of the Twitter gate: 1,200 views climbed to 12,000, and flew past 100,000. “It was on local news and foreign news, and the numbers kept growing,” he says. “Grandpa had never even heard of Twitter. It was a phenomenal response and he deserves it. At 92, he’s an amazing man, but he just doesn’t realize it.”
With more than 400,000 views and 1 million impressions, Schippert still can’t believe the attention. “I had no idea anyone would be interested,” he says. “I’ve always got a project and I’ll never stop.”
See Jim Schippert’s elevator in action and learn more about his innovative drive at bit.ly/Jim-Schippert