Big Data Before It Was Cool

February 22, 2019 03:50 PM
 
Machinery Pete celebrates 30 years of tracking equipment values, bringing together buyers and sellers and sharing stories along the way

Farmers have a unique connection to the machinery they use on their farms. And for the past three decades, there’s been someone whose sole mission is to help farmers make the best machinery decisions.

“I’m a numbers guy,” says Greg Peterson, founder of Machinery Pete. “In high school study hall, I would doodle with Minnesota Vikings football stats.”

Yes, that’s right, the founder of Machinery Pete played with numbers—for fun. All these years later, he’s still having fun but his focus has been on farm machinery.

Peterson is the son and great grandson of farm equipment dealers. While farm machinery was in his blood, he charted his own path in the industry. After graduating from college with an accounting degree and working for a year, his father pitched him an opportunity to serve farm equipment dealers and farmers.

“My dad knew of a banker in Minnesota who started keeping track of auction results in 1986, and dealers couldn’t get enough of the hard cash values for equipment,” Peterson says. The banker wanted to sell his business, so on his father’s advice Peterson bought the business and started making phone calls to auction firms, collecting results and publishing the FACTS Report, a quarterly pamphlet. That was November 1989.

Over time, Peterson built his network of auction firms and sources (now more than 1,100) and expanded coverage across the U.S. and Canada.

“It’s funny to think about now, but it all started with buying the banker’s big, old, clunky desktop computer, an Acer, with a floppy disk drive and the small number of subscribers he had at the time,” Peterson says.

Today, the auction results database includes more than 130 categories of equipment. On MachineryPete.com, subscribers can access more than 600,000 auction prices.

“Everyone who has a stake in farm equipment—farmers, dealers, auctioneers, machinery jockeys and ag lenders—wants to know what equipment is worth,” Peterson says. “They want and need to know the value whether it’s rusty or like-new, an anvil or the latest high-tech tractor.”

To share trends and valuable insights with farmers, Peterson has written for ag publications for the past 27 years. He took the auction database online 19 years ago, and Machinery Pete.com went live in March 2000.

Such trends include the following takeaways on combine values during the past year:

“One- to 3-year-old models of combines are seeing competitive bidding,” Peterson says. “There was also huge demand for 8- to 10-year-old combines in nice condition toward the end of 2018, which I started to refer to as the ‘Year of the Combine.’”

This past year, Machinery Pete recorded the highest auction prices for combines ever. For example, a 2017 John Deere S680 4WD with 29 engine hours sold for $360,000 at an Aug. 15 auction in Michigan. A 2017 John Deere S680 4WD with 147 engine hours sold for $355,000 at an Illinois auction on Nov. 20.

To share such insights in an even more timely manner, Machinery Pete interacts with more than 100,000 social media followers every day.

“YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were perfect emerging platforms to share the heartwarming stories or the fun pictures from people who love machinery,” Peterson says.

In recognition of more stories to tell, “Machinery Pete TV” started six years ago. Every week, you can tag along as Peterson travels across the U.S., interviewing dealers and attending auctions. You can watch episodes on RFD-TV and more than 40 local affiliates, at MachineryPete.com/mptv and on-demand via the free Farm Journal TV app.

The Machinery Pete marketplace found on MachineryPete.com is the fastest-growing marketplace for buyers and sellers of ag equipment. Just as Machinery Pete has been a trusted name in your machinery decisions, farmers rely on the services provided by their equipment dealers.

It was a natural fit then in 2015 when Machinery Pete relaunched MachineryPete.com putting dealer equipment listings front and center. Prior to the launch, Farm Journal invested in the Machinery Pete business to bring this new service to farmers, providing an easier way to find their next piece of farm equipment.

That mantra has been carried forward as the site now also features the capability to list your own equipment for sale. Machinery Pete’s “Sell It Yourself” option lets farmers skip the hassles of eBay and Craigslist and protects against fraud by verifying buyers and sellers with ratings and reputation scoring. In addition, the service offers more than 700,000 retail and auction price points to help sellers price their equipment.

At the end of 2018, Machinery Pete hosted its first ever year-end unreserved online dealer auction. This event was hosted in conjunction with BigIron.com and featured hundreds of listings from dozens of dealers across the U.S. Look for future dates of similar events to be announced soon.

What started out as a one-man business has grown to 20 people with the mission to make the equipment buying and selling experience faster, easier and better for farmers.


The Day Social Media Changed Everything

Everything changed for me on March 6, 2009. That was the day of Wayne Crooks farm estate auction in Hamilton, Ill., hosted by Sullivan Auctioneers. Crooks had three 1982 John Deere 4440 tractors with crazy low hours: 47, 692 and 1,843 hours. That sale also had a 1982 John Deere 7720 combine with only 478 engine hours, which sold for $50,000.

At the time, social media, particularly Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, was just in its infancy. Instagram wasn’t even a thing. I wrote a blog in advance of this auction, sharing the story behind the low-hour John Deere equipment. Back in the day, oil was found on the Crooks land and he negotiated with the oil company from Texas to buy him a new line of farm equipment for the mineral rights. Crooks got his equipment and basically parked it. The reaction to my blog was off the charts. The interest in this sale was insane.

I got to Hamilton the day before the sale. The number of folks who came up and wanted to chat with me was mind-blowing. Everyone had a story, a question, an insight. Sale day came. There was so much speculation around what the tractors would sell for. As the auction truck rolled up to the three John Deere 4440s, the crowd became quiet—I’m talking church quiet. The tractors sold for $58,000, $51,000 and $43,000.

After the sale, I made the five-hour drive home to Rochester, Minn. My head was on fire with ideas. It seemed like the drive home took 45 min. tops. It was crystal clear what next steps I needed to take:

  • I needed my own “Machinery Pete TV” show, not just a four-minute segment, that wasn’t enough; I needed a full 30 min.
  • I had to start a Machinery Pete YouTube channel.
  • Facebook and Twitter ... here I come social media.

At that point in my career, I’d been writing my Machinery Pete auction price columns for 17 years. Folks felt like they knew me. They did. Now they wanted to talk. At the time, my two daughters were 18 and 15. They grew up alongside my Machinery Pete business. I was adamant about sticking close to home when they were growing up because being a dad was job No. 1. With help from my oldest daughter Meghan I created Machinery Pete YouTube, Facebook and Twitter accounts. She showed me how to edit video. And off I went, to tell stories and show auctions in order to reach out to a hungry farm audience, thirsting for more good info and content around machinery. It took me a few more years to pull together the half-hour “Machinery Pete TV” show. It debuted in November 2013. We’re wrapping up Season 6 right now.

March 6, 2009. It seems like yesterday.


Auction Data and a Whole Lot More

Keith Schroeder

As a Machinery Pete enthusiast, Ohio farmer Keith Schroeder stays in the know via Facebook and Twitter and frequents the website. “In 2018, I needed a wagon in a hurry. The first thing I did was go on Machinery Pete’s website,” he says. “That’s how I found a 900-bu. Parker 705.” Schroeder also likes to track what his equipment, such as his 585 Case IH with cab, is worth.

John Osenbaugh

As a subscriber to Machinery Pete auction price data (a $99 annual fee), John Osenbaugh, an Iowa farmer, uses the information to save money when buying equipment. “I’ve been using Machinery Pete for years. When I bought a JCB tractor, I looked at Machinery Pete data to see what it was selling for. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t paying a premium,” he says.

Matt Raasch

Recognizing the changing dynamics in how equipment is bought and sold, AgriVision partners with Machinery Pete to expand beyond Iowa and Nebraska. “We want to be part of Machinery Pete’s online and social media presence,” says Matt Raasch, used equipment manager. The dealership has seen a rise in calls about equipment and now sells coast to coast.


Top Tips to Maintain Equipment Value

After tracking machinery values for nearly 30 years, Greg Peterson regularly fields questions on how and where to sell machinery items. He shares the following tips on where to start:

  • Take lots of pictures, at least 15.
  • Take a video of the machine, in action if possible, with your smartphone. Interview the owner as well.
  • Personalize your listing by including all of the details possible.
  • Always include a price—if there’s no price, people might just skip over your listing thinking it’s too expensive.
  • You can list your item for sale on MachineryPete.com; click the “Sell Mine” link.

Where to Find Machinery Pete

AgriTalk
Mondays @ 10:30 a.m.

AgDay
Mondays

U.S. Farm Report
Introducing every week’s Tractor Tales

Machinery Pete TV

  • RFD-TV
  • Saturday at 1:30 p.m. EST & Tuesdays at 5 p.m. EST
  • More than 40 local affiliates
  • MachineryPete.com/mptv
  • Farm Journal TV app

YouTube
MachineryPete

Facebook
Machinery Pete

Twitter
@MachineryPete

Instagram
TheRealMachineryPete

Blogs
AgWeb.com
MachineryPete.com

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