In January 2012, when Ismaël and Sébastien Villeneuve moved to their new farm in Northeastern Quebec, the brothers were on their own. The 600 kilometers between the siblings’ new property and their family’s pig farm in Lanoraie, Quebec, made the remoteness even more pronounced.
So did their youth, or more accurately, that others perceived them to be inexperienced. Yet, Ismaël, 27, and Sébastien, 24, spent most of their childhood working around their family’s farm and those of their neighbors. They knew the ropes.
So, perhaps it was providence or just great luck that the brothers stumbled upon what has become their farm equipment dealer, as well as something of a welcome committee. Ismaël had been shopping for another brand of tractor at a dealership close to his farm. “I asked for prices and had to make a lot of phone calls,” says Ismaël. “It took way too long. They didn’t take us seriously because we were young and new to the region.”
Then, destiny intervened. On the way home from the other dealership, Ismaël got lost and ended up at Machinerie J.N.G. Thériault, the Massey Ferguson dealer in Amqui, Quebec. And while the visit was happenstance, it was time well spent.
The very next day, the brothers received pricing for an MF5450. Two days later, a representative from the dealership dropped off the tractor and demonstrated its use. Such a speedy response, says Ismaël, “really took me by surprise.”
The MF5450 has since been their go-to for numerous and far-ranging tasks around the farm. From spreading herbicides and fertilizer on the fields to pressing and moving hay bales, its maneuverability and exceptional visibility from the cab make it indispensable for farm work, says Ismaël.
“The versatility is the biggest advantage of the 5450. For its size, it is very strong and very powerful.” In addition, says Ismaël about Machinerie J.N.G. Thériault, “The service with these guys is five star.”
With such a positive experience, the brothers have since purchased an MF7616. “For the work we have to do at this specific farm, it’s perfect,” says Ismaël of the 150- engine HP tractor, which he and Sébastien use for sowing seeds, spreading manure and snowplowing. “Compared to other [tractors], the price is affordable and the fuel efficiency is better.”
“Farmers have a lot of data coming from many directions,” says Scott Shearer, professor and chair of food, agricultural and biological engineering at The Ohio State University. “We need to continue to make it easier for that data to be put to good use … to help producers make more informed decisions about their specific operation.”
What doesn’t make it easier to use that data are roadblocks put in place by proprietary software and extra steps required to download and translate the information. That’s why AGCO is developing its Fuse Technologies open-architecture platform, says Matt Rushing, of AGCO Advanced Technology Solutions (ATS).
“Fuse is an open approach to decision support software,” says Rushing, the vice president, product line at ATS. “That enables growers to seamlessly integrate their AGCO equipment with the trusted service providers and software partners they use.
“It’s all about making sure farmers have choices,” Rushing says, which is why AGCO is partnering with a variety of companies that provide decision agriculture software, such as computer-based applications and agronomy services. DuPont Pioneer is one such provider working with AGCO in the U.S.
The two companies reached an agreement earlier this year that allows growers to wirelessly transfer data collected through AGCO’s VarioDoc, TaskDoc™ and AGCOMMAND® systems to Pioneer Encirca (SM) services. Essentially Encirca, a data-driven, agronomy-based whole-farm solution available for corn and soybean farmers, can seamlessly use information from AGCO equipment provided by participating farmers.
“There is a great synergy between both the companies, AGCO and DuPont Pioneer,” says Michael Sharov, senior manager, Encirca services business development and planning. “There were a number of reasons we wanted to partner with them. No. 1, AGCO is one of the leaders in the farm machinery space … and AGCO is also pursuing an open approach. That’s very important to us that farmers be able to choose.
That, concludes Rushing, “will allow each farmer to get the most out of his operation in the most efficient way possible.”
Savdeep Sran was so impressed with the new MF4610LP utility tractor from Massey Ferguson that he bought eight of them. Used in the almond and pistachio operation Sran owns with his father and brother, the rugged, low-profile machines were purchased to replace several John Deere tractors.
According to Sran, the family had always run Deere in the past, but after experiencing a few frustrating problems, they decided it was time for a change at their Diamond West Farming Co. in Kerman, Calif. “One of the things we liked about the 4610LP was the simpler Tier 4i emissions control system,” he says.
“Some of the other brands have a lot more that can go wrong. The 4610LP meets emissions standards without a diesel particulate filter that has to be regenerated, and without the need for extra maintenance. We also considered the reputation for service from Quinn Company, which is the Massey Ferguson dealer in our area.
“We’ve had no complaints at all with the tractors,” Sran continues. “They’re pretty fuel efficient, have good lift capacity and are easy to operate.”
Based on the extremely popular MF4600 Series utility tractors, the MF4610LP features several unique alterations to help it achieve a lower overall profile. Among them is a new ROPS design with a lower folding point, which permits an overall tractor height of 69.8 inches when folded. New, smaller tire offerings also reduce the overall height of the tractor.
“Other unique features include steel rear fenders that hug the tires so branches and vegetation slide past without damage to trees … or the tires,” says Warren Morris, AGCO advanced product marketing manager for under-150-HP tractors. “The 4610LP also features a horizontal exhaust that emits to the side of the tractor and away from the operator. The controls for the PTO, hydraulic remotes and 3-point hitch have been relocated just below the fender to the right of the operator’s seat, still within easy reach, while reducing the overall height of the tractor.”
Available in a 4WD ROPS configuration only, the MF4610LP is rated at 99 engine HP and 80 PTO HP, which is the same as the standard MF4610. It also features the same 3.3-liter, 3-cylinder diesel engine and 12×12 power shuttle transmission with an optional creeper.
It’s tough being a pioneer, but John Fiscalini comes from a long line of them. Scale his family tree, and you’ll find innovation in the Fiscalini DNA going back centuries.
The dairy business is the taproot of that family tree. But the mountains around the Fiscalinis’ ancestral Swiss homeland—the tiny town of Lionza—often made the transport of fresh milk treacherous or impossible, particularly during the harsh winters. So the family turned to cheesemaking as more than added value; it was a way to avoid wasting the work of the family dairy.
“I have milk in my blood,” says John, who with son Brian runs the 1,500-cow Fiscalini Farms at Modesto, Calif., in the San Joaquin Valley. “Going generations back, it’s all dairy, dairy, dairy.” Still, John didn’t bring cheese back into the family business until the turn of the 21st century, this time less as necessity than as craft. At the suggestion of the California Milk Advisory Board, John began attending farmstead cheesemaking seminars and “got roped into the sexiness of it,” he says.
The execution was less than sexy. Cheesemaking was new to California, so even finding the equipment proved a challenge, as did finding the right cheesemaker, an essential partner in the process. But John had the dairy part down pat. Attention to cleanliness and comfort of his cows give John’s renowned cheesemaker, Mariano Gonzales, a blank canvas to “work magic,” as John puts it.
“The milk that John produces—it’s very, very clean,” says Gonzales. “There is nothing in there to interfere with the bacteria I use to create the cheese.” After a dozen years working with that clean milk—the blank canvas—the awards have piled up. Fiscalini’s cloth-bound cheddar has won best cheddar in the world twice at the World Cheese Awards in London—very rare for an American cheesemaker. The dairy’s signature San Joaquin Gold, a smoky, Italian-style cheese aged 16 months, took gold at the World Cheese Awards as well.
Keeping It Genuine
To run their award-winning and innovative dairy, the Fiscalinis rely heavily on their tractors. “Well, we don’t baby these things,” John says of his Massey Ferguson® equipment—all utility tractors in the 80- to 90-hp range. From the newest, the MF491, to the vintage MF285, these are tractors already known for longevity and durability; but John and his dealer Rick Gray from Stanislaus Implement and Hardware still offer tips to keeping hard-working equipment up and running:
Genuine AGCO Parts. “Our guys [at the dairy] do a lot of the maintenance and service, but if something breaks down, we don’t want to put an aftermarket part on there or something that’s gonna be defective or not the high quality we expect from AGCO,” says John.
Good relationship with the dealer. “I’ve known John and his family for more than 30 years,” says Rick. “He is more than a customer. He is part of the family.”
John says the relationship with Stanislaus Implement is generational. “Rick’s father took care of my father,” he says. “They take care of you. The value of these tractors is the support behind them, end of conversation.”
Biltmore offers what is arguably the finest view of 19th-century American grandeur. The crowning achievement of George W. Vanderbilt—a grandson of 19th-century railroad and shipping magnate Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt—the French Renaissance chateau-style mansion was completed in 1895 just outside Asheville, N.C. It is the largest privately owned home in the U.S. and annually attracts more than 1 million visitors.
A growing number of those visitors, however, come to experience Biltmore’s farming operations. The estate’s winery is the most visited in the U.S., while a demonstration farm pays homage to Biltmore’s past, when the property, which was originally 125,000 acres, was self-sustaining.
What’s not as well known is that Biltmore, which today encompasses 8,000 acres, is home to a variety of other farming enterprises, including cattle and sheep operations totaling some 1,500 animals. Though most of the estate’s acres are forested, crops such as corn, soybeans, canola, sunflowers and sudangrass are grown in any given year.
This is the realm overseen by Kevin Payne, Biltmore’s farm manager, who has worked on the property for 35 years. He understands the need to work the farm—but do it knowing that tens of thousands of paying guests are watching.
This attention to visual detail, though, doesn’t shortchange their efforts to farm with an eye toward a cutting-edge, sustainable ethos. For example, this spring and summer, 50 acres along hiking and biking trails were planted to canola, then sunflower crops. No doubt the bright yellow blooms of both were a treat for guests.
The plantings, though, were not all for show. The canola is processed on the farm (in a renovated 100-plus-year-old barn) into biodiesel used to fuel the businesses’ pickups and farm equipment. Livestock raised on the grounds—including some 700 head of Angus cattle and 800 White Dorper sheep—are used in the estate’s highly regarded restaurants.
Payne and his wife, Becky, have had the privilege of living on the estate for nearly 30 years. Their 100-year-old house is tucked just off a hilly road near the barn where livestock feed is stored. Becky homeschooled their three sons here, while their dad would have the boys measure out feed as part of their math lessons.
“It’s not so much work as it is a lifestyle to us,” says Payne. “The boys grew up here, staying in the woods all day.” One son, Carson, now works full time with Kevin—and lives on the property as well. “He’s never really left Biltmore,” says Payne. “We’ve been blessed.” Millions of visitors here would be inclined to agree.
Guess which brand of tractor is used to help care for this national treasure. Read why Massey Ferguson gets the nod at http://www.myfarmlife.com/features/biltmore-ritzy-home-real-farm/. You can also see the entire Winter issue of FarmLife by browsing the digital edition at http://www.myfarmlife.com/inside-the-magazine/browse-the-winter-2014-issue-of-farmlife/.