Final Report for FNC98-222
We are a family farm in Kingman Co. Kansas where I have moved less than 4 miles in my lifetime of 40 years. Along with my wife Sheila, we have 4 children Katie 9, Anna 7, Amelia 5, and Joseph 10 mo. We operate a diversified farm and ranch, which include about 3000 total acres of cropland and grass on which we produce wheat, milo, soybeans, feed crops and we are experimenting with Canola. We also run an Angus cowherd and buy other calves that we background through the winter on wheat pasture. In addition to our farm we also have helped a younger farmer start his own farming operation in an adjoining Co., and we continue to work together between the two operations with our cattle program and harvesting needs. We are involved in 4-H, Kansas Farm Management and church activities. I have served for 10 years as a Co. committee member for Farm Service Agency and on the local Extension board along with being the township clerk. I presently am the chairman of the Ag fiber committee of 21st Century Alliance which is an organization of 750 farmers looking for value added opportunities.
PROJECT DESCRIPTOIN AND RESULTS
Machinery Link Co. was started after Kansas farmer David Govert discovered a need for a way to search for other farmers that might consider joint ownership of seasonal farm machinery. The main criteria for developing the search company would evolve into two main areas. #1 the search would have to be along term business decision, #2 the people in the database would have to be screened for credibility. Machinery Link Co. was founded in 1996 and the idea was marketed through articles in several farm publications.
In 1997 Machinery Link Co. was successful at winning a SARE grant to help build the idea. There are now almost 600 listings in the Machinery Link database coming from 20 different states and Canada. Our application fee has bee paid by the first 100 @ $49, for the next 100 @ $95. struggling to pay the phone bills and postage to keep the services business in tact we elected to start charging $95 annual fee or offer a lifetime membership of $195. This amount of money along with the SARE grant monies were needed to maintain the database properly. Since we have acquired the grant money we have been focused on two main objectives:
1) Put the Machinery Link database on the internet at our domain site www.machinerylink.com which is easy for farmers to remember and also offer a free service for farmers to search for each other.
2) Sponsor an annual conference for members and guests to attend to get to know each other and discuss opportunities and ways of accomplishing the goals of working together to co/own or lease farm machinery between each other.
We have spent many hours building machinerlink.com on the internet; phase 1 was completed on April 1st 1998. Phase 2 in April of 1999. This site offers a place for farmers to go search for possibilities available to lease seasonal equipment or look for a partner to co/own the equipment with. In October of 1999 we were approached by Brookside Capital of Kansas City to buy part of our business. Over the past 4 years Sheila and I took little if any money out of Machinery Link for out time so we elected to sign a sale agreement which will help us move Machinery Link into the next level of business. Over the past four years and with the help of the SARE program we built the foundation of a service company that has proven value to many farmers. We continued to operate the business as sole proprietors until April 7th 2000. On April 7th we incorporated the business and became stock holders in the new company. The new company is being funded by October Capital of Kansas City. This truly is a success story for the SARE program. As the business grows and becomes more visible in the next few months as a valuable service company to help farmers manage capitol expenses through internet equipment auctions, equipment sharing networks and other services many farmers will be able to benefit from our work of building the foundation the past four years. With out the SARE program we could not have reached this goal!
In January of 2000 Sheila and I hosted our third Machinery Link Conference in Manhattan Kansas. It was attended by farmers coming from 8 different states. We had great discussion and laid out the preview of the new business to almost 40 people. I have also done several presentations in several states and for extension programs in the last few months. One of the most interesting presentations I had the privilege to do was at the Top Farmer Conference at Purdue University in July of 1999. Because of this presentation I am also invited to attend the conference this year in July 2000.
Being a farmer has helped me to build this business because I understand how things work on the farm. Our new company will be producer focused and I will continue to help lead the company into the future. We have built a very exciting new business for agriculture in a time when most of production agriculture is very negative. We are being received very positively by producer groups, farm equipment dealers and more and more farmers everyday. The internet will be a great new tool for production agriculture! Today farmers are just beginning to see what this tool can do for them in the future. Machinery Link will bring many new services to the farm.
Every year Sheila and I are rewarded several times from the people that make the connections and find great people to work with through out efforts in building the foundation of Machinery Link Co.
We share all of our information with members of Machinery Link via 800 phone service, fax, or email we also will sponsor another conference.