When outputs are not enough to offset inputs, or the number of families a farm needs to support increases, many farmers look for ways to diversify. Whether it be custom farming, trucking in the offseason, or growing a niche crop, most will do whatever it takes to make ends meet. Such is the story for Huisman Farms of Atwater, Minn.
In the mid-2000’s, Tim Huisman and his father, Jim, purchased an unassembled Salford brand vertical tillage implement from Haug Equipment — a local, family-owned dealership. It was delivered to their farm in crates and the Husimans went to work assembling it. “We’ve owned seven different models [of Salford vertical tillers] and we’ve set all of ours up,” said Tim. This has led to Huisman Farms assembling many pieces of Salford implements for Haug Equipment.
“A few years ago, farming was pretty tough. In 2019, 2020 and 2021 it was hard to make money,” recalled Rod Lothert, an employee of Huisman Farms. “By setting up our own equipment from the factory, we really learn how it’s built. Then, if we have to problem-solve something, we can,” Tim said. This has helped Huisman Farms to keep repair costs at a minimum.
What got Tim Huisman into assembling his own equipment was his desire to learn. “I just like to learn and figure things out, to see how it all works. I like a challenge and I like to play around in the shop,” Tim gleamed. Huisman said assembling equipment has also given him bonding time with his young sons who like to tag along and help out.
In 2015, Huisman Farms built a shop where they are now able to assemble Salford tillers for Haug Equipment year-around. “[Our shop] is what makes it possible. We’ve got room, everything can be laid out — which makes it efficient. It’s air conditioned and heated so it doesn’t matter if it’s 95 degrees outside, it’s 68 degrees in here,” Huisman said.
Over the years, Husimans have purchased a few extra pieces of equipment for assembling the Salfords; but most of the tools needed they already owned. Assembling Salford tillers also helps Huisman Farms use their workforce more efficiently and keep them employed all year, Tim said. In the past 18 months Huismans, along with Lothert, Tyler Slinden and Cole Weseman have put together over 30 implements. Each model has different attachments and variations and takes approximately 50 to 120 hours to assemble, Lothert added.
Each implement comes with a manual and Huisman Farms has developed their own marking system. Then, when everything is measured out and marked, they begin assembly. Tim said he likes to stage everything in the shop in groups in the order in which it is going to be used. “That way, if I find I’m missing something, I can get it shipped in right away,” he said.
Lothert and Huisman both said they are getting more and more efficient with each implement they assemble. “Everyone has their own job,” said Lothert. “It’s become easier and more efficient when the same person does the same job”
“Salford makes a product I would consider the Swiss army knife [of tillage implements]. There are so many options of how you can use their product. We’ve heard of people who use them completely for spring. This is their field cultivator, their field prep for spring before planting. And we have guys who this is all they use for fall. They’ve gone away from all rippers,” Husiman said.
Huisman Farms did not use their Salford this spring for tillage, but they used it a lot in the spring of 2021, Tim said. “For ourselves, we use the 2200 model for all of our cornstalks and bean ground behind the combine. We have a 5200 model we use on a third of our lighter, cornstalk tillage. It mixes trash very well,” Tim said.
“Our crop consultant has coached us on how to use [our vertical tiller] and when not to use it, and that's huge. Just like with any tillage tool, you need to use them correctly or you can make a mess!” mentioned Tim.
Lothert and Huisman both commented that with the Salford vertical tillers they use, the excellent job of breaking down trash and the fact that they can pull them at over ten miles per hour in the field makes vertical tillage desirable. “From what we’ve seen, our vertical tiller can be managed over any soil type — even severe rock conditions. Whenever someone thinks speed, they think, ‘I can’t use it because I have rocks.’ We’ve proven that rocks are not a problem for these things. They have been designed to handle rocks,” Huisman explained. Another advantage, Tim said, is that the Salford products have all individually-mounted discs rather than gangs.
Over the years, the team at Husiman Farms has gotten to know the ins and outs of each Salford they have assembled. “We are the ones that do the call backs for the dealer since we assembled it,” said Tim. “We go out and look at whatever the farmer is questioning.”
In the last 15 years, Huisman has only had two call backs. “We take pride in our work,” he said. When the tillers leave their shop, they leave looking neat and tidy.
Huisman Farms hasn’t limited themselves to only assembling Salford’s for Haug Equipment. “We’ve set up snowblowers, augers, planters — it’s not just Salford’s. We’ll try whatever!” Tim shared. “We want to be ready and available for whatever Haug Equipment needs us to do. We appreciate being able to deal with a hometown company. It’s challenging, it’s fun and it’s a lot of work,” Tim said with a smile.