Craft & Design
Made On Earth — On the Right Trac

on the right trac

Farm equipment can be expensive and hard to maintain, but open source enthusiasts are out to change all that. In rural Missouri, Marcin Jakubowski and the team at Open Source Ecology (OSE) are designing a sustainable village for the future. One of their latest prototypes is an open-source tractor, called LifeTrac.

Inspiration for the project came from disappointing experiences with used tractors. After spending $2,000 to fix a transmission on an old Massey Ferguson that died a week later, the team received a donated Allis-Chalmers D-17. After a bit of light work, the clutch on the Allis went out. Instead of spending $1,000 to fix that, Jakubowski decided to explore another option: make their own, better tractor. “I liked $100/year maintenance costs more than $2,000/year costs,” Jakubowski explains.

Spending time when and where they could, the team put the prototype together in four months at a cost of $4,000. LifeTrac comes complete with a hydraulic drive system, front-end loader, articulated steering, a 55hp diesel engine, and 4-wheel drive to boot. They’ve also added backhoe, PTO generator, and rototiller attachments to make the tractor even more practical.

The team has used LifeTrac for various projects around their Factor e Farm, located an hour north of Kansas City, Mo., and Jakubowski says the results have been outstanding. “We used LifeTrac to pull the Allis out; friends hauled it off. That’s a political statement on OS equipment replacing design-for-failure-and-high-cost equipment.”

Next for the team: more attachments for LifeTrac, and a small, walk-behind version called MicroTrac, with its engine and other parts interchangeable with the big version. The team is also working on a solar steam engine, a hydraulic compressed-earth block machine, a sawmill, and modular construction techniques and materials. OSE is currently accepting donations from dedicated fans to help continue their efforts with the sustainable village model.

Open Source Ecology:
LifeTrac Build Videos:

Abe Connally

Abe Connally and Josie Moores live with their two sons off the grid in the mountains of the Chihuahuan Desert. They develop innovative and practical solutions to homesteading on a budget. is the online documentation of their experiments and adventures.

View more articles by Abe Connally