Row after row, these lush green fields got off to a shaky start. The 2017 crop was first greeted with too much rain.
“Most farmers had a challenge with heavy rains that made us replant a lot of corn,” said Chris Webber, a farmer in Audrain County, Mo. “We've seen years where we had to replant a lot of beans, but not a year we had to replant corn like this.”
The Webbers weren't alone. Sixty miles to the northwest, Kurt Harvey was forced to replant nearly a third of his corn crop this year, and soybeans didn't escape replant either.
“The first planted [soybeans] look perfect, but the second half, it's anywhere from really good to spotty where the clay dried out real fast,” he said.
It’s those challenges from Mother Nature that create the need to buy reliable equipment. That’s why both operations opted to upgrade equipment the past few years.
“Most every year we try to do some upgrading,” Webber said. “It’s not always new, a lot of times it's slightly used.”
“The last six or seven years we've pretty much upgraded all of our tractors,” Harvey said. “Everything is ILS, front-wheel assist and GPS ready.”
The desire to buy equipment is creating surprising momentum for Sydenstricker, an equipment dealer with multiple locations across Missouri.
“It seemed like we moved some new planters kept the shop really busy,” said Brent Thomas, Sydenstricker Mexico, Mo., store manager.
“The used planter market has been exceptionally strong,” said Scott Brees, regional manager for Sydenstricker. “New planter sales were great. We took some trade in planters and moved all those really quickly. So, planting was really good this year.”
Machinery Pete’s Greg Peterson says it's not just planters that are seeing renewed sales momentum. He’s surprised at the strong prices hitting the books from mid-March through May.
“Usually we see a little softening, even really good condition stuff this time of year, but have not seen that so far in 2017,” he said.
It’s strong prices that are a product of strong demand.
“If you can get a lower houred baler tractor, that's hot property to have on the lot,” Thomas said.
“We didn't do a lot of hay equipment business last year, and business has been slow this year, but now we're starting to see some new balers,” Brees said.
It's the storyline of used inventory that's changing. What once flooded dealer lots now has these dealers singing a different tune.
“We could have more,“ Brees said. “It's not as much of a buyers' market as it was. The demand is high, and getting good quality trade in tractors has become a little bit tougher.”
Peterson says despite the impressive strength in prices, it's still a good time to upgrade. However, it's not just looking at finding the next great deal that has the attention of Harvey's father-in law, Kent Blades.
In 2022, their multi-generational farm will become a Century farm status, something Blades almost didn't see. In 2006, Blades was driving an open cab tractor, moving from one location to the next, when a semi driver nearly took his life.
“The semi ran over me just as I was getting ready to pull in where my mother lived,” said Blades.
It's that life-altering moment that put Blades on a different mission: to educate others about farm safety.
“When we got home, we put beacon lights on every tractor, if it didn't have it, we put something on it, when there's a grain cart or a combine, we follow along behind them,” Blades said.
After spending several months in the hospital, it was in 2006 Blades passed the torch onto the next generation.
“We don't need two bosses, and you're it,” Blades told Harvey after returning home. It was a sudden transition that wasn't easy.
“It was just you got to do what you got to do,” Harvey said.
Now, eleven years later, his son Kyle is the fifth generation to dig in these Missouri soils, and he’s thankful he still has his grandpa around.
“After his accident and Grandpa being as strong as he was, I was like I can't leave this all on my dad, I’ve got to come back and help do something, kind of bring back my tactics,” Kyle said.
Five generations strong, its Century farms like this one that paint the countryside in Missouri. The Webbers are also proud their roots run deep.
“I would have never dreamed that we would have expanded as much as we have since I was in high school, nor did I ever think we would have the equipment that we have today,” Webber said.
Expansion will make room for the next generation, shining light on the promise and hope that these farms will survive to see another season.