Tommy Porter chokes up when he talks about the land. As he tops a hill, he leans on a young oak tree. Eyes misting. Cheeks flushing. Spring green hay fields and cattle pastures roll out behind him.
Porter owns these 600 acres and another 308 down the road. He raises beef cattle, poultry and hogs, but he subscribes to the belief that he’s a borrower, a steward.
“The bank and I may hold this property, but we’re here for a short time,” he says.
“To be able to tend to part of God’s creation, that means something to me.”
Just 30 miles to the southwest sits the glass-and-steel, corporate skyline of Charlotte. It’s North Carolina’s largest, most metropolitan city. Here on the outskirts of the town of Concord, however, Porter has carved out his peace.
By the late 1970s, he and his wife Vicki were ready to chase the dream and started their cattle herd with five cows. In the mid-1980s, they bought 200 acres of corn and soybeans, and converted them to pasture.
In 30-plus years, they have grown the herd to 350 Hereford-Angus cows and calves. Along the way, Porter invested in the chicken business, expanding that operation to 68,000 broiler pullets and 30,000 broiler egg layers for Tyson Foods. The third leg of the livestock operation includes 2,200 large, white sows that breed between 102 and 105 pigs per week for Murphy-Brown.
Porter’s family has been a large part of his farm’s success. Growing up, his sons, Derek and Jared, and his daughter, Erin, performed daily chores and remained interested in the farm. Even though they’ve all got other full-time careers these days, Derek, a firefighter, still works the farm on his days off. And Jared’s wife, Colleen, now manages the layer houses.
“Tommy started with a dream,” says Chip Blalock, executive director of Sunbelt Ag Expo. “He didn’t inherit anything. He did it all the old fashioned way from scratch.” Judges considered the scope of Porter’s success a major factor when naming him the 2011 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year.
Part of Porter’s award as Farmer of the Year included the year-long use of any Massey Ferguson tractor serviced by Statesville Ag and Turf. He says he selected the MF5465 for its size. The 100 pto horsepower is the perfect fit for spreading fertilizer on his hay fields, then cutting and baling it when the time is right.
“It’s nice and roomy,” says Tommy, which is no surprise considering it has one of the largest cabs in its class. And the 61 square feet of glass translates to an immense amount of visibility. Another feature they really love is that the cab has its own suspension. “It makes a big difference when you spend 8 or 10 hours riding in something that’s comfortable,” says Tommy.
With one hand, they can move smoothly through the gears of the clutchless Dyna 4, 16-speed transmission. And because the environment, and quite frankly the economy, are so important to the Porters, the AGCO Power engine, with exceptional fuel economy and low emissions, makes a great deal of sense.
Because in the past there were no large Massey Ferguson dealers near the Porters, their farm has used John Deere equipment. But this honeymoon period with the MF5465 has made a believer of Derek, who uses it the most.
“Every time he uses it,” says Tommy, “he makes a point to say, ‘I really like that tractor. I like it better than the John Deere.’”
For 65 years, this rural burg on the eastern edge of the Great Prairie has been home to a brand that shares its name and is fertile ground for the development of game-changing agricultural machines.
During the Dust Bowl years, a “hill” on an otherwise flat stretch of the Great Prairie was often a piece of farm machinery buried by the era’s black blizzards of blowing topsoil, then deserted due to a hole in the social fabric called the Great Depression. Folks did what they could to survive, and a young Kansan named Lyle Yost helped make ends meet by scouring the countryside around his family’s farm for these mounds of dirt and steel.
“He was as young as 14,” says his daughter Susan, “and as soon as Dad learned how to drive, he would take the truck out into the countryside and look for [abandoned] farm equipment.” Yost, who passed away last year, would excavate what he found and bring it home, where he and his father would use it for spare parts or repair it for sale. “Not only did Dad learn how to build and rebuild [farm equipment], but he got acquainted with farmers,” Susan says. “He learned from them and found out what they needed. The idea of Hesston Corp. was planted when he was a teenager. I don’t think he knew the direction, but he knew that he had a calling, which was to help farmers.”
That direction became clear years later when he took on a problem that afflicted practically every farmer and harvester who owned a combine back in the day. Unloading just took too much time. Yost’s contemporaries used shovels and gravity to get the grain out of the bin, losing valuable time to get the grain up and out of harm’s way.
Yost, however, had an idea for a better way to move that grain, and after a particularly difficult harvest in 1947 and with memories of Dust Bowl storms still fresh, he and blacksmith Adin Holdeman went to work developing his unloading auger design. They made five of them in about a month, Susan recalls, and sent Yost’s cousin Earl Burner out to sell them. “He got back in 3 hours and said he needed 10 more.”
When they returned to the harvest the next summer using their new machine, others witnessed the speed at which the augers unloaded grain, and orders began arriving from as far as Texas and North Dakota. Buoyed by that success, the three men set up an assembly line near their homes in Hesston, and Hesston Manufacturing was born.
More than a half-century later, Yost’s focus on farmer-oriented solutions lives on today. Still located in the small, rural town where it all started, the Hesston facility has gone on to develop some of the most productive machines in agriculture, with the harvesting equipment made there now being sold worldwide.
Read the full story at http://www.myfarmlife.com/advantage/uncovering-the-hesston-story/.
“Designed with comfort and versatility in mind, the new Massey Ferguson® 6600 Series tractors are an ideal fit for loader work, hay production, planting and tillage, livestock and dairy applications, and general on-the-farm use in any operation,” says Matt McDonald, advanced product marketing manager for under-150-hp Massey Ferguson tractors.
“Each model features a standard-powered front axle, as well as a new six-post cab that is identical in size to the larger Massey Ferguson 7600 Series tractors.
“They also feature a newly refined 4.9-liter, 4-cylinder AGCO Power engine that meets the stringent Tier 4i emissions requirements for North America.”
Available in three models from 130 to 150 engine hp (100 to 125 PTO-hp), McDonald adds, “this engine is the newest rendition of a proven power plant featuring AGCO’s advanced e3 clean air technology. The benefits include exceptional power and performance with greater fuel economy.”
Making them all the more versatile, the new 6600 Series tractors, which include the MF6614, MF6615 and MF6616, can be tailored with multiple configurations and features to fit the exact needs and specifications of the customer. The options begin with three different transmissions, depending on the model: the Dyna-VT™ (continuously variable), Dyna-6 (24-speed, semi-powershift) or Dyna-4 (16-speed, semi-powershift). All three transmissions provide efficient power transfer under any field condition.
The 6600 Series tractors are available in a choice of Classic, Deluxe or Premium editions for the desired amount of comfort and control. The Premium version, for example, features everything from electric mirrors to advanced Control Center Displays and a multipad joystick control. Other advanced options—seldom available on a midsize tractor—include a suspended front axle (standard on Deluxe and Premium editions), front 3-point hitch and Auto-Guide satellite-assisted steering.
“Customers also have a choice when it comes to the type of hydraulic system, flow rate and remote valve controls,” says McDonald, noting that three different systems are available. “The most basic package provides 15 gallons per minute (gpm), while a high-performing closed-center, load-sensing system delivers up to 29 gpm of flow to the implements and remotes.”
The quality of machinery—the iron, its design and functionality—will always be important. More often in the years ahead, though, customers will want to know what the machinery can deliver in the way of precision farming capabilities.
“Even with the exceptional productivity gains farmers have made in recent years,” says Bruce Hart, AGCO’s director, ATS Global Marketing, “there will continue to be expectations of greater gains to come. Things like uptime will need to be increased, so will in-field efficiency, yield per acre—even in less-than-perfect conditions. One of the biggest differentiators in the future to help with this will be electronics.”
In some ways, that future has already arrived. Ken Salsman considers that nearly every time he cuts hay using his Hesston® by Massey Ferguson WR9770 windrower equipped with autosteering. “I really like the accuracy,” says Salsman, who farms about 500 acres near Macon, Mo. “Each swath is the same as the one before. The bales can get lopsided if you don’t get the same cut every time you go through the field. Plus, I can cut for six to 12 hours and not feel nearly as tired as when I’d run four hours before we had this system. I save fuel because I’m not overlapping.”
Now, even more revolutionary and helpful tools are being incorporated into farming operations. The latest advancement allows the machines to recognize and communicate their own maintenance needs, while also helping make real-time adjustments in the field.
Much of that can be accomplished through AGCO’s new AgCommand™, a telemetry system that tracks the location and activity of machinery either via computers in the office or through a portable tablet or computer.
AgCommand has already gained traction with agricultural businesses such as cooperatives and agronomy service companies.
“Technology like AgCommand has shown us how inefficient we can be,” says Terry Schmidt, an agronomy manager with CHS, Inc., in southern Minnesota. “As a result of using the program, we went from having eight fertilization units to seven and yet covered more acres the very next year.”
Schmidt is working with AGCO toward the day when all 29 of the application units he now manages for CHS in the region can be dispatched through AgCommand. That, he says, would allow for even more efficiency in terms of getting the right machine in the right location without any confusion or delay.
The ability to monitor and control machinery remotely will also make it easier for farms to employ machinery operators who don’t necessarily have to understand what every screen in the cab is doing. That’s an important factor in an era where farmers can struggle finding qualified employees.
AGCO is also working to make sure AgCommand remains easy to learn and compatible with a variety of equipment, even with other brands.
Now that these pathways for the technology are being paved, the emphasis is shifting to working with the data that’s being collected. For example, readouts from the planter or cultivator might show that field conditions are actually still too wet to be worked—and may advise a two-day wait. Or the suite of technologies built into the system will have the ability to advise the best hybrids to use in changing conditions.
Missouri farmer Ken Salsman, 65, doesn’t doubt the potential of the technology. He recalls writing a paper in college on the future of agriculture that suggested tractors will drive themselves one day.
“I didn’t think I’d live to see that actually happen,” says Salsman. “But with autosteering, we’re seeing it now.”
Read the full story at http://www.myfarmlife.com/advantage/ground-control/.
As a U.S. Navy fighter pilot, David Garfrerick jockeyed a rocket while helping to protect his country. He broke the sound barrier and mastered the art of aircraft carrier takeoffs and landings, piloting a 20-plus-ton jet loaded with ordnance and fuel on and off a football-field-size runway.
“It was a thrill, a challenge,” Garfrerick says, after a little cajoling on the subject. “It’s like being thrown off into the wild, out of control, but it’s a lot of fun.”
Even while flying high, Garfrerick says he’s always been fascinated by something decidedly more down to earth: gardening. While still in the Navy, he raised a variety of vegetables and other plants. “I’ve just always loved growing things and wanted some land to retire on, and bought this land, and just started growing things. It got bigger and bigger,” continues Garfrerick about the property near Alpine, Ala., “and at some point, I guess, I just had to start calling it a farm.”
All told, he and wife Dede own about 200 acres of rolling hills, including 80 acres of timber, 80 acres of pasture for his cattle, and about 5 acres of crops and orchard, from which he grows fruits and vegetables.
His produce and meat have a starring role in his latest “adventure,” a restaurant he owns and runs in Oxford, Ala., about a 45-minute drive from his home and farm. Opened in 2008, the philosophy behind the restaurant, Garfrerick says, is that “fresh, healthy food can be delicious.”
With so many responsibilities, Garfrerick counts on his MF275 to help him get the job done. The MF275 performs a multitude of chores on the 200-acre farm. It’s used to operate a vertical tiller, move hay for cattle, maintain the roads on his land, work a front-end loader, pull a wagon—and that’s just a sampling.
“The Massey is the only thing I’ve ever used, and I find it very convenient,” says Garfrerick. “It’s easy to change out implements and maintain. It just saves a whole lot of physical labor, having a good-size tractor like that.”
It’s also reliable, he says. “We don’t have to do a lot of repair work on it, which is a surprise because it’s old.” Garfrerick, who bought the tractor used, hazards a guess it’s at least 30 years old.
Because of the tractor’s age, maintenance is all the more important. “It’s the only one we own, so it’s critical we keep it running,” he says, adding that his dealer, Bannister Tractor Co., in Oxford, Ala., “keeps me advised on what to do.”
“They’re familiar with the parts and the typical things that will solve issues when I need maintenance and repair. And they’re familiar with the preventative maintenance I need to keep up with. They’re just knowledgeable about the tractor itself.
“That’s a huge help for me,” says Garfrerick, noting that, with running a restaurant and farm, he’s got a lot going on. “Taking care of the tractor is one less thing I have to worry about.”