While every phase of the growing cycle is important, harvest often gets the most attention – and is the most stressful. With tight windows of time and money on the line, growers can’t afford downtime or lost productivity.
After the fall 2018 harvest started out relatively well, many believed it would be one of the easiest on record. Not long after it got underway, unexpected and unfavorable weather quickly changed the outlook and the reality was that last fall’s harvest ended up being one of the toughest, for many growers in several parts of the country. Gary Wipf of Doland, South Dakota was one of them.
First, Weather Downtime
A longtime grower of corn, soybeans, and sunflowers in the small farming town in the northeastern part of the state, Gary has seen a lot of ups and downs, gone through challenges, and weathered many a storm throughout his nearly five decades of farming.
In early October 2018, when bad weather forced him to shut down soybean harvest less than halfway through his acreage, Gary wasn’t worried that he’d be able to get back at it and get the job done.
“There are always going to be challenges with farming; that’s actually one of the reasons I love it so much,” Gary said. “But you work through them and, at the end of the day, it always works out.”
His mentality kept him optimistic through a full two weeks of being shut down. When the weather allowed him to get back into the field and finish the remaining 1,800 acres of soybeans, he was eager to work until the job was complete. But soon after starting, things hit a snag.
Next, Machine Downtime
Gary was combining into the evening hours on, what would have been a typical Thursday, when his combine unexpectedly shut down. As he was in the middle of trying a few troubleshooting methods, Gary called Justin Binger, Service Manager at RDO Equipment Co. in the adjacent town of Redfield.
Justin and Gary talked around 8:00 that evening and attempted to diagnose the machine over the phone. While they were unsuccessful, Justin assured Gary one of his service technicians would come out the next morning.
Early the next morning, Nathan Marlow, Service Technician, headed out to the field. He determined there was a problem inside the engine and it would have to be repaired – meaning the combine wouldn’t be up and running until the engine could be fixed. But for Gary, stopping wasn’t an option.
“We had already lost 14 days of harvest to bad weather,” he said. “I needed to get back into the field immediately, I couldn’t wait even a few days for the combine to be fixed.”
Delivering a Solution
That same morning, Gary called his RDO Equipment Co. account manager and longtime friend, Joe Jandel. He quickly explained that he needed a replacement combine, something pre-owned and similar to what he had.
Joe was already working that morning on two other customer issues in the area. Because he was unable to get out to Gary’s farm right away, Jake Dawson, Store Manager, and Brook Stephens, Regional General Manager, headed out to take photos and find hours on the combine so Joe could get it valued and see what he needed to find in a replacement.
To find the new combine, Joe went straight to the source – the RDO Equipment Co. website – and searched for used combines, looking for one with similar features and parameters of what Gary’s had.
“I know Gary well,” he said. “I know what he likes and what his current combine had, so I knew what he’d want in a replacement one. I set out to find it and get it to him as quickly as I could.”
His search yielded a win, as he found a similar combine – except, it wasn’t at the local RDO Equipment Co. store in Redfield. The combine was at the store in Casselton, North Dakota…more than 200 miles away.
Just as fortunate as Joe was to have the RDO Equipment Co. network to find the specific combine he was looking for, RDO Equipment Co.’s trucking division stepped in on the delivery and was able to get the machine to Gary by noon on Saturday. He was back in the field later that afternoon.
Because the process came together so quickly, Gary didn’t actually know what was going to show up at his farm that day. He agreed to purchase the combine, sight unseen, based on his relationship with Joe.
“It doesn’t take you long to figure out who you can trust,” he said. “I’ve known Joe since we were kids, so when he gave me his word that he’d find what I was looking for and make a fair deal for me, I knew he would.”
His machine went down on Thursday night. By Saturday afternoon, Gary was back in the field. Pausing now to look back on that, he says he still can’t believe it all happened so quickly.
“I couldn’t have asked for better help from RDO,” he said. “From the time it went down to getting back into the field, I had half a dozen people step in and help. A lot of things had to come together to make that happen so quickly.”
Gary’s quick to credit RDO Equipment Co.’s customer service and the team’s willingness to help. But, for the RDO team, it was never a question that it was the right thing to do.
“We all just did our jobs,” Joe said. A farmer himself, Joe especially understood the urgency of Gary’s situation and really wanted to get him back up and running. “Technically, yes, I’m Gary’s ‘account manager’ and he’s my ‘customer’. But it’s more than that. It’s a partnership and we’re friends.”
Gary agrees the relationship goes far beyond a business one, saying, “To me, Joe’s family.” That’s something most people don’t get to say about those they do business with.
Fun and Family
These days, Gary continues to navigate the ups and downs of farming life, with no signs of slowing down. In his spare time, he also pursues his longtime passion of tractor pull competitions. Gary has competed in and won several tractor pulling competitions in various states and even Canada.
But his heart always comes back to farming, something he knew he always wanted to do and still enjoys today – challenges and all. Even better, two of Gary’s children have entered the farming business with him, his son, Brandon, and daughter, Leanne.
“They’ve each found their niche, their area of focus,” he said. “They grew up helping on the farm and, even though it’s not an easy business, it’s a good one to be in. It makes me proud to see they’ve chosen it now as their career.”
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