Steve Sherwood of Sherwood Technologies, Mullingar. Photo: Teresa Dillon

‘Caring for Repairing’ to spotlights farmers' right to repair

Column 4 (final column before Repair Acts event)

Repair Acts, Ireland are hosting a four-day free programme that includes an art exhibition, workshops, community conversations and live performances in Kilbeggan on November 3-6.

As part of the programme the team interviewed a number of professional repairers, including artisan and skilled trades people for their documentary ‘Turning the Collar’.

‘Turning the Collar’ will première at St James’s Hall in Kilbeggan on Friday November 4 as part of the opening night of the programme, full details of which can be found online at

‘Turning the Collar’ focuses on the livelihoods and stories of professional repairers from across Westmeath. One of the professionals interviewed was Steve Sherwood of Sherwood Technologies, Mullingar.

A native of Mullingar, Steve grew up watching his father mend TVs, radios and computers. Since opening his shop, Steve has now found himself specialising in complex repairs, in particular those relating to farming and agriculture.

Steve Sherwood of Sherwood Technologies, Mullingar. Photo: Teresa Dillon Photo by null

Farmers have always been at the forefront of the ‘Right to Repair’ movement. The ‘Right to Repair’ is essentially ‘what it says on the tin’, our legal right and permission to repair the things we own.

Given that the cost of a new tractor or piece of equipment starts off in the tens of thousands, farmers expect that they should be able to repair their equipment. Like in the case of many products, however, over the last two decades agricultural machinery has increasingly become more complex.

Connected to the Internet, tractors and other agricultural machines are no longer a mix of mechanical controls. Instead, they are now complex digital devices made up of electronic controls, touch screen monitors and a variety of other computer chips and sensors. That makes the machines efficient, but it has made their repair much more difficult.

Manufacturers and dealers now invest heavily in training in-house engineers to deal with related hardware and software issues, which means farmers can no longer fix their equipment themselves and may even struggle to understand what is wrong.

In the United States, farmers, alongside repair activists, have been pushing agriculture manufacturers to change. This year alone, two new lawsuits were filed against agricultural manufacturer John Deere alleging that the company is establishing a monopoly in the repair of its equipment. This includes, for example, requiring farmers to return to Deere for all repairs, causing delays, particularly if a company engineer has to travel to a remote location. Production halts and livelihoods suffer.

Locking farmers into particular supply chains is only one part of the problem. In our documentary, Steve Sherwood speaks about tactics such as de-badging where companies consciously do not label parts with information such as serial numbers or other identifiers. This intentional act on behalf of the companies is a form of planned obsolescence, so that the information that is needed for repairing is consciously withheld.

Even if farmers had the skills to repair their tractors, or they took them to professional repairers, it might still not be possible to solve the repair, as the part may not be labelled, or the manual, or circuits schema is intentionally not made available.

As part of the ‘Caring for Repairing’ Exhibition and Féile in Kilbeggan, a rich variety of some of the finest Westmeath professional repairers are coming together and we will host a number of free mending and fixing workshops.

Steve Sherwood will be speaking at the opening ‘Community Conversation’ event on Thursday November 3 at 6.30-8.30pm on the Right to Repair and his experience of working on agricultural repair.

We welcome all farmers to drop into St James’s Hall that evening for a lively discussion on the issue.

Illustrator Mark Flood will be capturing the conversations. Mark has worked for many years with the economist David McWilliams on his popular series ‘Punk Economics’ and Mark’s drawings will form part of our exhibition programme.

Alongside that talk, over Saturday November 4 and Sunday November 5, we will be hosting a number of free events, including our exhibition, which will be opening from 10am-8pm daily.

Across the weekend we’ll host a variety of workshops and demonstrations ranging from dry stone wall building and repair, to bike repair and furniture uplights.

O’Dwyers Stone Masonry from Multyfarnham, Kenny Bicycles, and Handmade Design Studio, Mullingar, will be running workshops. Irish artist Fiona Harrington will be leading a workshop on lace techniques and mending, and the eco-toy store Jiminy will host a drop-in Repair Café in the library.

The award winning Irish inventor, Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh, will speak about Sugru, the repair putty she created. Dave from the Rediscovery Centre will lead parents and children through a ‘make your own toolbox’ session, and catering for younger children, Noelle Dunne will host a ‘fun mends’ for early years.

So there is an abundance of events available for all ages, including a number of tours, walks and performances: a tour of Kilbeggan industrial heritage with Ruth Illingworth; a walking tour of Ardan Wood by the Native Woodland Trust; and live performances from musicians David Kitt, Niall Moran and TokTek.

The final evening performance is with writer and broadcaster Manchán Magan, who brings his theatrical installation Arán & Im to St James’s Hall.

Full details on all the events, including the free opening night exhibition and programme is available on: