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Keep Calm and Drive a John Deere

Smitten with John Deere’s iconic green and yellow colors, you’ll find Jeff Blackford, an Eastern Illini serviceman, on a John Deere tractor, repairing and restoring John Deere tractors, collecting John Deere tractors and driving John Deere tractors in local tractor pulls. Some say that Jeff bleeds green.

There are many similarities between John Deere and Jeff. The saying goes, Nothing Runs Like a Deere, and that sums up Jeff as well. He’s extremely reliable and can always be depended on. He comes through for members every day without fail. His job responsibilities cover a wide array of tasks. Outages are always his number one priority. He also gives precedence to on-going maintenance of poles, lines, meters and electric systems in his territory which spans from Mahomet to Potomac. You’ll find him outside of Gifford one day fixing a security light and in Osman the next, doing a JULIE locate.

One great example of Jeff’s dependability happened December 24, 2017, when most people were spending time with their families drinking eggnog, opening presents and eating Christmas cookies. Jeff was called out to an auto accident when a driver’s vehicle slid on ice and hit a utility pole. Not just any utility pole, but a three breaker, double dead-end pole an hour from headquarters. After addressing the injuries of the driver and securing the safety of the area, Jeff went about restoring power in the ice, cold and snow. He worked as quickly as possible, because members in the area were out of power. Jeff met the challenge of restoring power head on and the lights were on for Christmas.

Jeff began working at Eastern Illini as summer help in 1989. He became an EIEC employee in October 1992 and has spent his 25-year career assisting members. He wants members to know employees at EIEC pride themselves on being responsive. Everyone at Eastern Illini has the goal of restoring power as quickly as possible. Jeff also wants members who farm to know that today’s agricultural equipment is expansive and it’s important to be cognizant of power lines when moving equipment. This past fall, Jeff was called to a location when tillage equipment became entangled with power lines. The farmer waited in his tractor until Jeff arrived and was able to cut power and the farmer could safely exit.

When Eastern Illini decided to restore the antique digger truck a few years ago, Jeff used his many talents to assist with that monumental undertaking. The repainting of the truck took place in his father’s shop on the family farm.

When he’s not assisting members, Jeff himself farms near Rankin. He raises corn, soybeans and goats. When he’s not in the field farming, he tinkers on his John Deere Model A tractor that has been passed down from his grandfather, Raymond Blackford. The Model A is just one of Jeff’s many treasured tractors. He won’t divulge exactly how many tractors he owns, but let’s just say he could probably host his own tractor show.

Jeff is the son of EIEC members Dean and Phyllis Blackford. Jeff and his dad are very involved in the I & I Tractor Club. Jeff has three children who have followed in his footsteps and are passionate about agriculture. His daughter Kirsten teaches ag at PBL High School and his other children Katie and Andy are pursuing agricultural degrees as well.

There is a song by Don Walser that sums up Jeff Blackford’s love of John Deere tractors. The lyrics are: “Well, I work an old John Deere tractor every day, plowin’, plantin’ crops and cuttin’ hay. Well, the good Lord knows that I wouldn’t want it any other way. The good Lord gave this country boy a place to run and play and work his old John Deere tractor every day.”

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