Sunday Oct 01, 2023

Custom combine cleaning service is seed dealer’s perk | News

OLIVIA, Minn. — On the morning of Nov. 9, I motored north on Renville County Road 21 about for about five miles.  I was looking for combines. 

And there they were: red ones and green ones, parked conveniently at the edge of a large harvested soybean field waiting for their ‘dust down’ so to speak.  I was at the Brad and Julie Link farm, a veteran corn/soybean operation of about 1,000 acres. Brad is also a long-time Legend seed dealer. 

A few years ago, Brad hired a firm using high-pressure air hoses to clean up his combine after harvest. A neighbor stopped, asking Brad if he’d do the same for his rig?  Brad is a kindly, courteous guy. And he knows the value of being a good neighbor.

Yep, that neighbor’s combine showed up at Brad’s farm and it got cleaned spick and span. Then Brad wondered, ”Why not consider this as a custom service to my customers?” 

But wonder no longer. Fourteen combines were sitting there when I pulled up at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday morning; Brad said another dozen would be on deck Wednesday. 

And I’m certain I was viewing the first custom combine cleaning service in the state of Minnesota! We adjourned to Brad’s farm shop, a spacious layout with a generous table (coffee and sweet rolls conveniently accessible) for a Q & A session.  Also present was Kelsey Hansen, Legend Accounts Manager living at Gibbon. 

I asked Hansen what she thought of Brad’s unique customer service. “I think it’s absolutely amazing,” Hansen exclaimed. “I’ve never heard of such. It’s most impressive; undoubtedly Brad’s customers are thankful indeed. Looks to me he’s grandfathered something unique within our company.  This definitely jumps above and beyond the usual dealer chores.”

Corn and soybean seed are benchmarks of Legend Seeds; but Hanson stressed the company offers more. “We also have conventional seed products, silage products and assist with marketing outlets of the production from these conventional fields also.  These newer trends in seed offerings are showing up everywhere these days … generated I suspect by the ongoing consumers changes in their health and taste issues.”

As China hopefully continues to be a major buyer of U. S. corn and soybeans, production costs for farmers have ramped up considerably for the 2022 season. Hansen said Legend Seeds is adjusting to this new economy. “We, like other seed companies, had to make some adjustments,” she admitted. “Seed production costs are trending upwards. However, our sales also continue upwards. Quality dealers providing the best service and quality products is our future.  And Brad Link is a perfect example of such.”

So now a few words from Brad Link:  Said Brad, “Legend started about 31 years ago in DeSmet, S.D. by Glen and Janet Davis.  Today they are probably the third largest independent seed company in America … and 100 percent employee-owned (about 100 employees currently).”

Brad is also a seed grower for Legend.  Soybean seed is grown by Legend dealers and/or customers in Minnesota, North and South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Corn seed is processed at Platville, Wis. by Grower’s Alliance.  Market geography of Legend Seeds today is basically the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, plus northern Iowa and eastern Nebraska. 

A new addition is the recent startup of their own biological company called Yield Master Solutions. Yield Master offers seed treatment packages such as a nitrogen fixating product which portends lower rates of applied nitrogen and cheaper fertility expenses.  Hanson also mentioned a couple of soybean additives to further assist in reducing crop production expenses.  “Helping growers be more profitable is always the goal,” she stressed.

Back to this custom combine cleaning service, Brad related, “Each fall after harvest I would hire Norm’s Repair Service in Montevideo to come out clean my machine, adjust and make repairs as needed.  Soon a few of my customers where asking about this same service.  So that’s how it started. This three-man crew cleaning our combines does about 100 combines each season.”

“Then we started hearing feedback from machinery dealer mechanics saying, ‘Hey, we appreciate the cleanup work you are doing.  It’s a time and labor saver in our own shops. Our mechanics appreciate this service.’ I used to say, ‘Do you want your free jacket or your combine cleaned?’  I don’t bother with that question anymore,” smiled Brad.

In fact, now when harvest gets in gear, Brad’s customers are texting him — asking when does combine cleaning start and wanting to be on that list again.

This is a totally free service with even a few more treats too … like a customer appreciation supper in August.  “We do all the seed treatments right here at our farm shop. And in two weeks we’ll be having a big pancake breakfast feed out here too. Obviously customers are the bread and butter of my dealership.  So this is our thank you to them. Wives are welcome too and that’s why ‘seed talk’ is minimized. But I’m also aware some farm wives are tuning in to this genetic and biodiversity chatter too.  Perhaps they too want to better understand the turmoil of this exciting profession called farming.  And we are grateful indeed,” sums up Brad.

And despite the drought-related stress conditions of this 2021 growing season, is Brad satisfied — yes even surprised with his yields?  “Tremendously pleased how the Lord has favored us again this year. We had some timely rains and lots of growing degree days this season. I feel confident this was my best year ever with soybeans … and maybe so with our corn yields too. I am humbled … and blessed indeed.”

For Brad Link, that means lots of 70-plus bushel soybeans and even 250-plus yields on some corn. “We just yesterday hauled 10,000 bushels of seed beans to Finish Line Seeds (formerly Ziller Seeds) in Bird Island. Weights on corn have been amazing … lots of 60-plus pound corn. Sometimes when you market a bin, low test weight knocks you with fewer bushels than expected. Not so this year.”

So does Brad now get 100 percent of his customer’s total seed needs? One would think so in view of his tremendous services. But he’s also a realist. ”It’s only human nature to try a few bushels of Brand X. Well okay then, 90 percent with us and 10 percent something else.  We keep growing and that tells me field performance is still the determiner.” 

Brad starts seed deliveries in March — either bagged or boxed (50 units per box).  He and his wife Julie start seed treatments also in March. And bulk deliveries are definitely the trend with soybeans.

Brad turned 50 a few years back. “I don’t even want to slow down,” he claimed. “We’re having a good time. Despite the many political shenanigans in America these days, I’m a firm believer in the future of the U.S.A. And though not a doctor, a few words with God each day is always good medicine too!”

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