Planting season has arrived in the northwest corner of Illinois. Chad Baker hits the road for last-minute planter inspections and agrees to give us a peek behind the curtain during one of the busiest times of the year. The co-owner of Baker Precision Planter Works, an independent Precision Planting dealer in Orangeville, Ill., shoots me a Warren, Ill., address and says, “Meet me here at 9 a.m.,” for another edition of Day in the Cab.

8:42 a.m. 

I’m reaching the tail end of a 102-mile drive from Precision Farming Dealer headquarters in Brookfield, Wis., to our Warren destination. While it’s a beautiful drive, I can’t help but think back to the pre-GPS, MapQuest printout days, and how a directionally challenged person like me would’ve been in big trouble with one wrong turn because I haven’t seen a gas station in nearly 20 miles.

It’s probably the nicest morning of the year so far. 70 and sunny in early April? We’ll take that any day of the week up here. It must be the calm before the storm because I don’t see any planters running as I drive past several farms. In between sports radio segments, I keep myself entertained by trying to guess whether the fields I’m driving by are conventionally tilled, no-tilled or strip-tilled. Bonus points for identifying a cover crop.    

8:55 a.m.

I pull into the driveway of Beyer Family Grain, where first-generation farmer Andy Beyer gives me a warm welcome. Chad beat me here even though I’m 5 minutes early. A college football coach once told me if you’re not 5 minutes early, then you’re late. I get the scoop on Andy’s operation while we wait for Chad to wrap up a phone call. 

“We no-till most of our 1,100 acres,” Andy says. “I do some vertical tillage in the fall as well, apply anhydrous and plant on those strips in the spring. We were dry this winter, but it’s rained the past few days. I’m just trying to be patient and wait for the soil conditions to dry up before we start planting.” 

“If I have a problem in season, I know I can always call Chad, and he’ll talk me through it…”

Andy tweaks his John Deere 1770 NT planter every year. It’s equipped with vDrive, hydraulic downforce, 2-by-2 fertilizer and CleanSweep row cleaners. A FurrowForce closing system is next on his wish list. Andy started using precision technology several years ago, and Chad has been his go-to-guy ever since. 

“If I have a problem in season, I know I can always call Chad, and he’ll talk me through the problem,” Andy says.

9:01 a.m.

Chad gets out of his truck, which doubles as a workshop on wheels with a small trailer attached. Andy grabs a box of parts out of the trunk while Chad fills me in on the morning itinerary. 

“See those grain bins down there? That’s where we’re going next,” Chad says as he points to a neighboring farm in the distance. “I like to schedule my visits in the same area.”

This first visit counts as a full planter inspection, which every customer gets when they sign up for a Baker Precision Planter Works annual service contract. These maintenance checks keep Chad busy, taking him all over the region from southern Wisconsin to northern Illinois, where most of his customer base resides. 

“There isn’t another Precision Planting dealer from here to the Mississippi,” he says.

“Are you a one-man band?” I ask.

“I’ve got another full-time guy now, Eric, on the road in a service truck,” Chad says. “My dad and I are partners but he’s usually in the shop. The last couple years I’ve been on my own on the road, so it’s nice to have another full-time guy now.” 

Chad says he got lucky with this hire. Eric, who’s dad is one of Chad’s customers, was previously working on combine R&D for John Deere in Moline, Ill. The recruitment process began when Eric attended one of Chad’s preseason monitor clinics in March 2023.

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The camera was rolling as we tagged along with Chad Baker for this edition of Day in the Cab. Head to to watch the Day in the Cab video series and click here for an inside look at how Baker puts his customer service skills to the test during spring madness.

“I didn’t know it at the time, but he had just quit his John Deere job,” Chad says. “Without knowing that, I nonchalantly said to him at the clinic, ‘If you’re ever looking for a job, I’m looking to hire a tech.’ He goes, ‘It’s funny you say that because I just quit Deere.’ He started with us last June. He went to school for ag engineering, and I can trust him to get the job done. Even if he’s not familiar with a product, I can point him in the right direction, and he just goes and figures it out.” 

9:12 a.m.

Chad and Andy climb into the cab of his Case IH 310 tractor and fire up the monitors to see if everything looks OK. 

“Was there anything out of whack that you’re concerned about?” Chad asks.

“No, I just want another set of eyes on everything to see if there’s something I missed,” Andy says.

They eventually decide to fill the planter with seed and take it to a neighboring field to see if any gremlins are lurking. 

“We go beyond what most people do, but I just have to make the customer happy…”

“We’re going to put some seed in the ground so we can check the downforce, the clutch timing and make sure there aren’t any bugs in the system,” Chad says.

These pre-season inspections help Chad preemptively cut down on service stress because every defused timebomb means one less blowup during busy season. It also helps showing the customer what to look for when a problem arises, so if something goes wrong in season, they’ll hopefully reach for a wrench before the phone.

9:43 a.m. 

After a quick test run on the neighboring field, Andy’s planter appears to be in good shape minus a “very minor” leak. Chad leaves Andy with a parting gift. It’s a new Precision Planting tool that helps check seed depth. I wish Andy good luck this growing season and thank him for letting me intrude before hopping in Chad’s truck to head down the road to our next stop. 

“Another one in the books,” Chad says as he crosses Andy’s name off his pre-season checklist. “These are all the customers who signed up for our service contracts.”

“How many do you have left to go?” I ask.

“I don’t even know,” Chad says. “My wife keeps us organized and takes care of everything in the office. We had 50 when we started, and that didn’t include all the installs we’re trying to finish up, too. It’s different this year because in the past, it’s just been me doing these pre-season checks. Now that Eric is on board, we have a schedule for him and a schedule for me.”  

10:06 a.m. 

Chad talks another customer through a problem over the phone as we arrive at Brinkmeier Farms. Something tells me this stop is going to be more of a marathon than the first one. Chad’s customer, Don Brinkmeier, has his hands full with a used, but new to him, 24-row, high-speed planter.

“It’s a dual-liquid planter with in-furrow, 2-by-2 pumps and vApply HD on every row,” Chad says. “We’re going to go through everything, calibrate the liquids, check for leaks and basically get them ready to go so next week they have the confidence to use it. If time allows, we’ll come back next week and help them get started with planting. It’s a big project.” 


Chad Baker spends most of his morning inspecting Don Brinkmeier’s high-speed planter, which he’s using to plant corn for the first time this spring. Photo by: Noah Newman

Don is very happy to see Chad because this planter has apparently been keeping him up at night. 

“I was ready to kill myself,” Don says, jokingly, when Chad asks him about his most recent inspection of the planter. “I shut it off, put it away and grabbed 2 beers out of the fridge.”

Just like Andy, Don is the kind of guy who would give a stranger the shirt off his back if they asked for it. He’s also more than willing to answer all my questions about his strip-till operation while Chad begins the inspection process.   

“We’ve been 100% strip-till for a while,” Don says. “We have a 16-row Kuhn Krause Gladiator. And we picked up a few more acres recently, so we decided to buy this 24-row planter. Thank God for Chad. He’s patient with me. My previous dealer didn’t want to talk on Sundays. He was religious, and I completely understand that. I switched over to Chad because he’ll answer my calls whenever and talk me through my problems. I always apologize when I call him on a Sunday, but I only get 10-14 days to plant corn.” 

“We’re farmers too, so we’re out there just the same as they are,” says Chad, who farms 1,700 acres with his family. “My in-season philosophy is if the customer’s planter is down on a Sunday, then we’ll go out on a service call. Our customers are pretty respectful of not bothering us too much on a Sunday, but it makes Monday’s workload even bigger, as they wait and bring all their questions to us then.”

I wonder how Chad juggles the workload of running a large family farm and a precision farming business at the same time. 

“Good people, good help, good workers, good family,” he says. “We all work together very well, everybody knows their role, so I’d say having a good support group is the key to it all.”  

10:31 a.m.

An initial walkthrough of the planter reveals a hole in one of the hoses. Lucky for Don, Baker Precision Planter Works has a portable hose maker back in the shop. Chad calls his dad, Mark, to see if he can drive it over and fix the problem. 

10:59 a.m.

Mark arrives in his truck with the portable hose maker. He also brings his warm personality and sense of humor. 

“Chad lied to me, he said there was going to be a good-looking blonde here,” Mark says to me with a laugh after introducing himself. 

“Our customers are pretty respectful of not bothering us too much on a Sunday, but it makes Monday’s workload even bigger…”

Mark has his hands full back in the shop, but he’s willing to drop everything to help a loyal customer like Don in crunch time. 

“I think we go beyond what most people do, but I just have to make the customer happy. That’s what it’s all about. He wore a hole right through the hose,” Mark says while holding up the damaged hose. “All we have to do is cut out the piece with the hole, splice a new piece of hose in with the hose maker and voila, he’s on his way. By doing this, we can save him a lot of time and a lot of labor.” 

11:33 a.m.

As Mark fixes one problem, Chad discovers an even bigger one. The starter fertilizer pump isn’t working. He suspects something is wrong with one of the adapters. Chad heads to his truck, pulls out a toolbox and starts building what looks like some kind of wiring mechanism. 

“With the precision system, it will run 4 liquids,” Chad says. “But the first liquid harness is black, and then as you jump up to 2, 3 and 4, they change colors because they put different resisters in the plug. I think the one on the planter is bad, and I don’t have another one in the truck. Their plugs are male-female, and I only have male-male, so I’m just making a short jumper harness.”

“Were you anticipating spending this much time on this planter?” I ask.

“Yes because it’s brand new to them, and I don’t know anything about it,” he says. “I figured there were going to be some gremlins. For all we know, this planter has been sitting for 2 seasons in the previous owner’s shed and hasn’t done a thing. We just don’t know.” 

Chad says this is one of the more complex planters he’ll deal with this spring. There’s another planter he’s going to inspect tomorrow that’s like this one, only he’s more familiar with it because he custom-built it for the customer. But Chad always enjoys the challenge of solving a problem. 

“You’ve got to like what you do,” Chad says. “As long as my phone’s not ringing constantly and driving me insane, I’m OK.” 


Chad Baker’s truck doubles as a precision workspace on wheels. He opens the toolbox and starts building a short jumper harness. Photo by: Noah Newman

Right on cue, Chad’s phone starts ringing before he can even finish that thought. What are the chances of that?

“It’s spam, it’s not even a customer,” Chad says. It’s one of the few times he doesn’t have to answer his phone, as he fields multiple calls from customers throughout the morning. 

12:05 p.m. 

Unfortunately, Chad ends up building the jumper harness “just for fun,” as the problem with the starter fertilizer pump remains a mystery into lunch. Shortly after Mark leaves, Don’s dad arrives with 3 pizzas. We down about 3 slices each before getting back to work. Don is confident it’s only a matter of time until Chad gets to the bottom of the starter fertilizer mystery.

“He’ll figure it out,” he says. “He’s very good at this, better than he knows.” 

12:43 p.m. 

“Alright, let’s try this again,” Chad says, showcasing a sense of urgency as he walks from the planter to the cab of Don’s New Holland tractor. 

On top of the starter fertilizer pump problem, he’s also trying to calibrate the pumps to Don’s preferred speeds. It requires multiple trips back and forth from the tractor to the planter. Chad’s getting his steps in today. 


Mark Baker, Chad’s dad and co-owner of Baker Precision Planter Works, comes to the rescue with a portable hose maker to replace a damaged hose on Don Brinkmeier’s planter. Photo by: Noah Newman

“On the low side, it’s 5 mph and on the high side, he’s hoping to do up to 9.5 mph,” Chad says. “I’m trying to calibrate the pumps to those speed ranges but to do that I have to adjust the bypass valves so that when you lift and shut off, you’re not over-pressuring the system and blowing things apart. I think the one bypass valve is either sticky or won’t open because when I shut off it wants to spike pressure, so I’m working on that as well.” 

1:07 p.m. 

“There we go, it’s working!” Don says, as water starts shooting out from the starter fertilizer tubes. It appears Chad has MacGyvered his way to a solution. 


Chad Baker goes to work on Don Brinkmeier’s high-speed planter after discovering multiple issues with the fertilizer pumps during the inspection. Photo by: Noah Newman

“Honestly, all I did was swap the harnesses between the rate control modules and it brought it to life,” Chad says. “I don’t know, maybe it was just a sticky valve and it finally opened up.”

“Crisis averted?” I ask.

“I think so.”

1:30 p.m. 

As Chad continues the inspection from inside the cab, meticulously checking monitors to make sure everything is working as it should, I catch up with Don for some quick postgame reaction.

“I wouldn’t have gone the route of buying this high-speed planter if I didn’t have Chad around for support,” he says. “I wouldn’t have even thought about it. That’s how much trust I have in him.”