Better than cutting grass

An MU club repairs mowers to earn money
Sunday, March 4, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:57 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008
Paul Cowherd, left, and Josh Lehenbauer, members of the Agricultural Systems Management Club, change a lawn mower’s oil at the club’s annual Spring Lawn Mower and Tiller Tune up.

Lawn mowers waiting for service line the garage of the Agricultural Engineering Building on the MU campus. It’s time for the MU Agricultural Systems Management Club’s lawn mower clinic.

The club tunes up lawn mowers every year to raise money to help fund scholarships and trips.


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The clinic opened its doors Thursday for Columbia residents to drop off their lawn mowers so they can be revamped before the warm weather kicks in. Repairs took place Friday, and the mowers can be picked up Monday and Tuesday.

Bill Hires, a retired MU associate professor of agricultural engineering, said that the clinic began in either 1975 or 1976.

“I’m not really sure how it started, but I know at the time we had lots of people asking how to fix lawn mower problems,” Hires said.

Hires said the idea to repair lawn mowers to raise money was his brainchild along with a colleague and a graduate student.

The club charges $30 for a tune-up, which includes changing the mower’s spark plugs, oil and air filter and sharpening the mower blades. It is $30 per half-hour of labor for other repairs.

“The students do a tremendous amount of work, and it helps the community,” Hires said.

Columbia resident Bruce Piringer, who owns a 15-year-old lawn mower with a red deck and black engine casing, said that he has been bringing his lawn mower to the clinic since 1996.

“They’ve been keeping that antique running for a long time,” Piringer said. “As long as they keep it going, I’ll keep coming back.”

Piringer said that the fact that his money supports the students is an added bonus.

During Thanksgiving Break last year, club members took a trip to Hutchinson, Kan., where club president Paul Cowherd said they met with representatives of Archer Daniels Midland Co., which is one of the world’s largest agricultural processors of soybeans, corn, wheat and cocoa.

Former club president and current member Andrew Mann said that out of the 25 students who went on the trip, five were offered internships and one was offered a job.

Funds also go toward scholarships for students in the College of Agriculture, Foods and Natural Resources who want to study abroad.

The clinic will reopen its doors April 26 and 27 for residents to drop off lawn mowers. Repairs will take place April 28, and pick-ups will be April 30 and May 1.

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