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/.
The beads of perspiration forming on Monte Innes’ forehead are swelling but not yet heavy enough to succumb to gravity. It is early August, a sunny 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and he’s leaning against a large square bale amid a 480-acre strip of land along the Ohio Creek in south-central Colorado.
“This is a real harsh area to work in,” says Monte, 43, who cuts and bales hay on nearly 6,000 acres tucked piecemeal into high, arid mountain valleys up to an hour-and-a-half apart. “The cold can settle into this valley here in the winter and it’ll be 35 below for days.
“Every valley has its own microclimate,” he continues, “and in the spring and summer, rainfall can vary tremendously from one hay field to the next all within a few miles of each other. You just kind of roll with the punches.”
On this particular day, however, the Ohio Creek Valley resembles paradise. Mountains rise up around us on three sides. Most grand are the Anthracites directly to the north.
Acres worth of grass have already been cut and laid down by Monte. In an adjacent field, his wife Julie is running the baler, dropping large rectangular blocks in her wake. Across the valley lush grasses—timothy, red top, brome and clover—fed by recent, unusually heavy rains, beg to be harvested.
Monte and Julie picked up an additional 900 acres worth of hay to farm this year, in large part because of their new Hesston® by Massey Ferguson WR9770 windrower. Their new customer had seen the clean, close cut the Inneses had achieved on a nearby property and realized his existing custom balers were leaving money in the fields.
“This is the third RazorBar disc header we’ve had, and we wouldn’t own anything else,” Monte says. “We get all the hay. It is a clean cut an inch from the ground.”
He also appreciates the speed with which the machine can travel. “It is awesome traveling down the road at 20 mph from one field to another,” he continues, noting how important that speed is when you’re working numerous scattered fields.
The windrower is quick in the field, too. “Today I cut 180 acres in six-and-a-half hours,” he says, “and I couldn’t have done that with any other machine.”
Their dealer, Luke Sharpe, of Sharpe Equipment and Irrigation in Salida, says that the care and ability of the operators also play a role in how well the couple do their jobs. “Monte and Julie work their butts off, and their hay quality is phenomenal,” he says.
Their new Hesston by Massey Ferguson 2170 XD baler, which is being pulled by an MF6495 tractor, is making and saving them money, too. “Our new baler is a home run for us,” Monte says.
The 2170 XD produces bales that are denser, heavier. Because of that, they can now get 26 to 27 tons of hay on a semi trailer truck for shipment, rather than 22 tons.
“That saves us about 50 loads per season,” says Monte, “which saves us about $25,000 in shipping costs.”
As for the tractor, “it is phenomenal on fuel running the baler,” Monte says. “I kept calling the dealership saying, ‘I think the fuel gauge is wrong.’
“It wasn’t broke; it was just getting that much better fuel economy.”
AGCO officials cut the ribbon Aug. 16, 2013, celebrating completion of a two-year, $40 million revitalization project to equip the Hesston, Kan., manufacturing facility with the latest finishing and paint technologies.
“We fully understand how important a high-quality finish is to our customers and dealers, and the impact it has on machine life and resale,” says Bob Crain, senior vice president and general manager for AGCO North America. “That is the reason we invested in this new E-coat and powder paint facility. It is the most advanced and extensive coatings application center in the North American agricultural equipment industry today, and we’re excited to start using it!”
The electrocoat (E-coat) and powder paint processes at AGCO are equivalent to those of the automotive industry and provide a thorough, consistent, durable finish on each part, enhancing the overall quality and longevity of the final piece of equipment.
The new 200,000-square-foot state-of-the-art dip and powder-coat paint facility consolidates AGCO Hesston Operations’ two paint stations into one streamlined, efficient building. Parts for all products manufactured in Hesston will be painted and finished there before being assembled into final products. Nearly 75 percent of parts will go through the 17-step E-coat process, which involves dipping parts in a series of solutions that remove all rust, scale and laser oxides, then applying a high-performance corrosion- and weather-resistant finish comparable to that used in the automotive industry. The E-coat primer is applied using a high-voltage and high-amperage charge for 180 seconds, ensuring thorough coverage. After curing in one of 10, 375-degree F ovens, parts receive a powder topcoat with one of five colors, then another final oven cure.
The remaining 25 percent of parts, including gearboxes and drives, components that cannot withstand heat, and parts that are best painted after they are assembled, will be painted using a liquid coating system.
Farm equipment has been built in Hesston, Kan., since 1947, and today, the Hesston manufacturing facility builds Hesston by Massey Ferguson hay harvesting equipment; Gleaner, Challenger and Massey Ferguson combines as well as White Planters; and its nine manufacturing lines produce as many as 45 pieces of farm equipment per day, depending on the season. Today, with more than 1,400 employees, AGCO is the largest employer in Harvey County and much of the surrounding area.
“There are only a few things we can control,” says hay grower Brett Bunker about farming. “So anything I can do to give me an advantage, I need to do it.”
Bunker says he gets the edge he needs with AGCO Buffered Acid Hay Preservative and his HayBoss G2™, a precision monitoring and automatic preservative application system. Both help guarantee his hay quality by dealing with moisture levels in his bales. They also help him maintain his growing cycle of four crops a year on the 1,000 acres near Delta, Utah, where he and his family grow alfalfa to sell to dairy farmers.
“If I get too much dew overnight, I can still bale and get my hay out of the field with a little higher moisture. Or if I need to bale before a rain and push it a little bit, I can do that instead of letting the storm hit, then letting it dry back down again.
“The quicker I can get hay off the field,” adds Bunker, “the better the hay and the quicker I can get growing on the next crop. [HayBoss] can save me anywhere from a half a day to even on the outside of five days.”
“Often, the producer can’t wait for things like the dew to dry, and we understand that,” says Jeff Roberts, president of Harvest Tec, the company that manufactures HayBoss and AGCO Buffered Acid Hay Preservative, and markets them through AGCO Parts. “The main benefit with HayBoss and the preservative is that extended operating window, by raising the level of moisture at which hay can be baled.”
Roberts adds that HayBoss provides the producer peace of mind. Its moisture monitoring and application offer accuracy unmatched in the industry, and they work seamlessly with Hesston balers.
“The AGCO Buffered Acid Hay Preservative is also made with the same care and consistency. That makes it far more reliable than other brands and totally safe for animals, the environment, the operators and their equipment.
“With HayBoss,” Roberts continues, “the grower gains confidence that their window is expanded into the upper ranges … as high as 27% moisture for large square balers and slightly higher for round and small square bales. That,” he adds, “has the potential to be a good contributor to overall profitability.”
In 1978, Hesston Corporation introduced the Model 4800, the industry’s first large square baler, revolutionizing hay production and feeding practices at a time when labor availability and fuel prices were driving a need for innovations on the farm. Big square balers have come a long way since then, and on May 16, 2013, a large crowd gathered at AGCO’s Hesston Operations to celebrate the 25,000th large square baler built in Hesston, Kan.
Credit for the big baler idea is generally given to Allen White, who spent more than 25 years as a company engineer. White started his research by building a giant bale chamber in the engineering lab and manually packing it with hay. When the 4-foot-by-4-foot bale did not get hot or spoil, engineers went on to build the first prototype baler. They quickly realized that the side-feed approach currently being used would not work, and in 1975, the first prototype that fed hay into the bottom of the bale chamber was built.
After extensive field-testing, the Model 4800 was perfected and released in 1978. Field testing and working with farmers to meet their needs have always been a hallmark of equipment development at Hesston. These productive balers proved to be a more labor-efficient and economical way to harvest, store and feed forages.
Today, balers built in Hesston are sold in as many as 39 countries and used to bale everything from alfalfa and grass hay to wheat straw, miscanthus for biofuel production, and even recyclables such as newspaper and aluminum cans.
“It is amazing to look back at all that has gone into today’s big baler models,” says Dean Morrell, product marketing manager, Hay and Forage. “Building the 25,000th baler is an invigorating milestone and a great tribute to everyone who has been involved in its development. I know there will be even more innovations in the future large square balers built in Hesston.”