The first thank you has to go to Charlie Lomangino, a master tinkerer and fiddling farmer in the Hudson Valley region of NY. Charlie spent plenty of time showing me how to keep our original gasoline "G" working our first season and a half.
Instead of getting frustrated at seeing I had thrown all his careful instruction out with the old "G" Engine in a fit of rage one day, he offered to help me figure out how to fit the new electic motor I had purchased on in it's place!
We built it with scraps of metal, pulleys and belts pulled from his substantial junk pile, and used a lathe so old I think it was originally turned with draft horses. He spent hours working with me on that first tractor, lending his awesome "tinker" brain to the problems we faced, and I am still using that original tractor today, years later, in it's original configuration.
Bob Battson, of Electric Vehicles of America, has also spent much more time than necessary helping to figure this machine out. He has never been annoyed at my constant inane questions, second-guessing of equipment, corner-cutting, lack of ability to remember part names and repeated loss of instruction manuals. He asked all the right questions before encouraging me to even START our first conversion project, and his original choice of equipment has proven right-on for both tractors. Calling him for help and parts for this project was nothing but dumb luck, but I couldn't have done it without him!
Herman Niekamp, of Niekamp Tool Co. signed on to help design and build the second tractor for this USDA SARE Grant, and stuck with the project even when the funding ran out at a fraction of the hours we had budgeted for the project.
His constant positive attitude, creative mind, and years of experience in the shop has resulted in a bomb-proof (but still easily repairable!) linakge between the old tractor and new electric motor. Although not a farmer, he definitely understood what farmers do to machinery, and very much took that into account in his work.
The USDA SARE Grant program is outstanding. The idea of the program is to encourage farmers to try new sustainable agriculture techniques and ideas, and... unlike most governemt programs, this one REALLY WORKS. It works in large part because the folks running the NorthEast SARE program actually understand real farmers and what we need and what we're like... and what we don't need!
They are flexible, encouraging, hand-holding... and their application and summary paperwork is SHORT, logical and MAKES SENSE even to people who have never thought of writing a grant before. If you have an idea you think could improve sustainable agriculture, give this program a try!