Recently named the oldest John Deere Dealership in the world, the Gilsinger Family has had a front row seat to observe the evolution of farm technology. They are now mixing the new machines with electronic brains with the farming brawn.
“The big driver is technology, that enables you to do a lot more,” says President Paul Gilsinger. “Size of equipment is one thing but the technology is what makes it more efficient.”
Farming has always been about efficiency, and it has changed a lot since the Gilsinger's started selling John Deere equipment back in 1899.
“You started off with the horse drawn equipment and then of course the 1920 and 1930, the tractor came into play, and that was a very big deal,” says Paul.
In the 1920’s and 1930’s the John Deere model D, was about as good as it got. You got steel wheels, 27 horse power for a price tag of about $1,000. Compare it to, today's machines and about the only thing they have in common is the name and the color.
“It is not just in the tractor,” says Matt Gilsinger the Integrated Solutions Manager. “Turn it on, and throttle it up and go pull something through the field that is about as productive as I can be with that tractor.”
Integrated Solutions Manager, Matt Gilsinger, helps farmers maximize productivity, through digital technology.
“You have two pieces of the precision agriculture,” explains Matt. “You have the guidance technology that will steer a tractor in the field and you also have the data activities.”
GPS guidance, with accuracy that is measured in inches, takes complete control of the tractor once it is in the field.
“So the only time that they would have their hands on the wheel would be to avoid some sort of obstacle, or just driving it up and down the road,” says Matt. “In the field it could actually do everything that it needed on its own.”
“You can focus more on operating the tool, whether it is a planter or a vertical till or anything like that,” says Farmer Josh Brown. “You can focus more on doing that, than just driving and that is the big thing. You are an operator now, not just a driver.”
While releasing control of an age old task might be difficult for some, there are rewards for those who go hands free.
“You are not tired at the end of the day, you are not steering the tractor, staring at that hood ornament,” says Paul. “You are more refreshed and actually there is proven data that you can get more done in a day. You can drive at a higher speed, because you do not have to ride the steering wheel.”
The second part of precision farming has to do with data.
“You also have all of this data that they need to collect for regulations, crop insurance, and then to automate some of their field functions,” explains Matt.
All of this data allows the grower to be more efficient in the field, and to keep the tractor running efficient, it also sends data to the dealership.
“So it is a lot like an On-Star system in a vehicle,” explains Paul. “It sends us diagnostic information, location information, and performance data. Here at the dealership we can actually diagnose the problem before the customer even knows there is a problem and that is really exciting because it is all about up time.”
From steel seats to in air conditioned cabs, Bluetooth and satellite radio, tractors have evolved and the dealership has done the same.
“It means that they have been able to adapt to the changes through the years,” explains Barry Nelson from John Deere. “There have been quite a few changes in agriculture, so for them to do that it is quite an accomplishment. They haven't sat back, they have adapted to new technology and I think that is one of the reasons they have been so successful.”
“It is kind of amazing that a business, that started as a general store and has made changes over the years to adapt to its market is still around,” says Paul. “That is unusual, very unusual.”
Unusual or not, it has worked for 114 years, and the Gilsingers aren't stopping anytime soon.
Just to give you an idea of how much things have changed over the years, Paul said that often when farmers bought their first tractor from his grandfather, that they would trade in their horses, and that the dealership then had to care for the animals until they could be sold.