Precision farming dealers often seek to be partners with their farm customers, working with them to get the most out of technology investments. But sometimes those partnerships can evolve into mutually beneficial business relationships.
This was the case for Rush City, Minn., farmer Lance Petersen, who works part-time as a precision subdealer for L&D Ag Service, in Hartland, Minn.
In early 2000, Petersen’s relationship with the dealership started when he had a yield monitor installed in his combine. Petersen farms 750 acres with his father, Chuck, about 2 hours north of L&D. A few years later, as Petersen started branching into steering and product control applications, the dealership decided to see if they could work together.
“At the time, I was also working with a local seed dealer on helping to set up yield monitors,” says Petersen. “Locally, there aren’t too many precision dealers up here unless you're going through Deere or Case IH, but a lot of the farmers like the Ag Leader setups more and they run a few different brands of equipment. As we were doing more and more business, L&D decided to just set me up as an outside sales guy or precision subdealer for my area.”
Although Petersen says Ag Leader products account for 90% of his sales, he also sells and services Raven and Trimble equipment as well.
“We do a lot of steering and planter control set-ups and also a lot of liquid fertilizer system installs on planters,” says Petersen. “We also have quite a few guys running on the Department of Transportation CORS (Continuously Operating Reference Station) RTK network so we do some troubleshooting with that as well.”
Five years into the arrangement, Petersen says that it works very well for both parties and he doesn’t foresee any changes. The dealer has been able to increase his sales and broaden his sales territory while not taking on the added liability of adding staff or opening a new location. Petersen, on the other hand, benefits by being able to supplement his farming income and stay on the cutting edge of precision technology while not having to commit to the dealer full time.
“It’s a nice advantage to not have to carry a full blown inventory. If a customer needs something and I don’t have it, I can call and have it sent up the next day,” says Petersen. “It’s also nice to not worry about maintaining a certain sales volume. As a subdealer, I’m piggybacking on what L&D does already. I can really only add to their sales pool. It doesn’t hurt to have me aboard and it wouldn’t necessarily hurt if I wasn’t with them either.”
As a subdealer Petersen doesn’t find himself falling behind on training either, as he’s able to regularly attend online courses through Ag Leader’s Website. His real knowledge comes from personal experience.
Petersen’s background as a farmer is helpful to him and the dealership in a few different ways. Being able to use the products he sells firsthand on his own farm rather than just through training has made repairs, calibrations and other service issues significantly easier to address. It’s also had a significant impact on sales. Petersen finds that farmers he’s dealt with often seek out his personal opinion more than they might otherwise.
“Most of the farmers around here come to me wanting to know what I think about certain equipment as a fellow farmer rather than just a precision specialist,” says Petersen. “They trust that I might have a better idea what would work for them than someone who’s purely sales or purely on the tech side might. It’s also a bit easier to not only talk about how to use the equipment, but how to pay for it too. Guys always want to know what the equipment is going to save them, and it’s nice to have real life examples.”
Of course, the busy seasons do pose a challenge because Petersen finds himself the busiest on his own farm at the same time the demand for assistance from his clients is also at its greatest. But the amount of acreage he covers and the division of labor make that a manageable challenge.
“Everyone else’s busy time is my busy time so it can be a little hectic,” he says. “But, my dad does work full time on the farm and we don’t have 3,000 acres. I just make sure that my customers come first, then I get back to my own work when I have the time. Realistically though, it’s sort of always been that way.”