LONDON, Ohio – Amid huge crop sprayers with 90-foot booms and tractors big enough to pull the heaviest implement, Farm Science Review visitors from small farms were treated to a more personalized display.
The Center for Small Farms, sponsored by “American Small Farm” magazine, made its Ohio debut at the Review. A similar exhibit has been displayed at the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Georgia since 1996.
“Small farms are the fastest growing segment of agriculture in this country,” said Marti Smith, magazine co-owner. After hearing the demand for smaller equipment, Smith helped organize the scaled-down exhibit.
“We had a phenomenal response to the display,” Smith said, adding that several farmers expressed their gratefulness for having a one-stop area with equipment targeted to small farmers.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, ‘This is exactly what I was looking for,’ this week,” she said.
Target audience. Most exhibit visitors who spoke with Smith farm less than 300 acres, she said. National surveys done by the magazine show more than a million small farms in existence across the nation. Data classifies any farm 300 acres or less as a small farm, Smith said.
“Many equipment manufacturers aren’t quite there yet in focusing on farmers with less acreage,” she said. Others, like John Deere, have already created a small farm line.
A goal of the exhibit was to reach a targeted audience and show manufacturers the regional and national demand for smaller products.
Some equipment distributors spoke with visitors at the center, while others included signs to direct visitors to the company’s larger display to get more information.
On display. Al Hettich, owner of Estate Manufacturing, spoke with hundreds of interested farmers who visited the center.
“We’ve had a lot of interest from those people with a large yard or a small farm,” he said. “The people I’ve spoken with are very interested and ready to buy.”
Based in South Dakota, Estate’s products displayed included rotary rakes, trimmers and deck mowers. The products are just beginning to be introduced to the Ohio market, but have been sold for more than 10 years in the Upper Midwest.
“Our products are dynamic because they allow people to do things they couldn’t do before,” Hettich said. For example, the mower and rake were designed to be pulled by an ATV.
“We’re really targeting the guy who just moved from the city to the country, or the guy with a few acres and some horses,” he said.
“He’s usually already got a four-wheeler, and we just show him how to use it for recreation and work,” Hettich said.
Small farmers have shown an interest in Estate’s products for raking hay for horses, dethatching lawns, orchard care, managing small acreage, and trimming around buildings and fences, he said.
“Everybody wants a little piece of the American dream, to move to the country, to be able to get their own little piece of the pie and take care of it,” Hettich said. “We’re just helping them do it.”
Some manufacturers and distributors had other reasons to participate in the new display.
For the little guy. “Everything in the industry is so huge,” said Larry Kann, district sales representative for H & S Manufacturing.
“Most manufacturers have forgotten about the little guy, and make their lines much too big for what the small farmer can afford and manage,” he said.
A specific product that H & S developed for the small farmer is a 25-bushel manure spreader. The spreader was on display in the small farm exhibit.
“So many people have told us at shows that the larger spreaders were too high to fork manure into, or too big to manage,” he said. The Wisconsin-based company gradually scaled their line down to include the small spreader.
“Not only does the 25-bushel model fit into the horse stall to make it a little easier on the farmer, it’s also ground-driven to make it safer, even for kids, since there’s no PTO,” he said.
The company also aims its utility trailers at smaller farmers.
“I guess what we’re really shooting at is that a lot of people can’t justify having larger equipment. They can’t manage it, and don’t have the space to store it,” Kann said.
Farmer interest. Russ and Barb Casper of Hillsboro, Ohio, visited the display. The couple farms approximately 185 acres in Highland County.
“In our area, we deal with a lot of change and farms breaking up. We visited the Small Farm Center to see what was available to us as small farmers, but also to see what might interest our neighbors,” said Barb Casper.
“It is important to have the downsized equipment, so the people can manage their 5 acres and not let it get grown up and out of control,” said Russ Casper.
The couple also noted the smaller equipment was more suitable and manageable for women, like Barb, who do a large portion of the farm work.
Exhibitors. Other companies that participated include Mahindra compact tractors; Cub Cadet mowers and tractors; Wingfield Distributors, makers of small tillage equipment, including a 3-point harrow; and New Holland compact tractors. Other products on display included zero-turn radius mowers and rototillers.
Exhibit planners had expected the display to be more inclusive, but last-minute conflicts and concerns stopped some companies from including their products, Smith said.
“We aren’t disappointed though,” said Smith, “because we know that some companies needed to see something tangible this first year before deciding to participate next year,” she said.
Planning for next year’s exhibit is already under way, with hopes to display seed information, more tillage tools, pickup trucks, and equipment targeting outdoor enthusiasts.
(You can contact Andrea Myers at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at email@example.com.)