While Lincoln County producers had the chance to get an up-close and personal look at a new line of agricultural equipment recently, a local business hopes the introduction will be the start of a beneficial partnership.
On July 7, Lincoln Farm Supply hosted a special event introducing customers to the Versatile product line of tractors, sprayers, combines and tillage equipment. Along with lunch, producers heard a presentation and had the opportunity to meet Versatile experts and ride and drive equipment during the “Hot Iron Event.” Free gifts and special introductory pricing on new Versatile products were also offered.
“I thought the attendance was good,” Craig Stertz, Lincoln Farm Supply owner, said. “The event was planned by a company in Winnipeg, and they thought we had a good showing as well.”
For years, Lincoln Farm Supply has served local farmers and ranchers, offering Massey Ferguson tractors and Hesston hay and forage equipment, along with a large inventory of used farm and construction equipment, full service on farm machinery and a full NAPA Auto Parts store. But after years of selling mostly small- and medium-sized tractors, officials decided to make the switch to large, four-wheel drive tractors, combines and sprayers.
“In a way, we have reached a point where it is getting to be a function of diminishing returns with the equipment we have been selling,” Stertz said. “We are in a mature market with a declining customer base. Meaning, there are few significant advances in equipment and a customer base that is being eroded by high equipment prices and fewer farmers. We sell a lot of equipment in areas where we receive very little parts and service after the sale because closer dealers can supply some of that, although we do stock more parts than most other dealers. Versatile is looking for dealers that can put a stronger focus on their products. And, Lincoln Farm Supply doesn’t have as much overlap in products as some of the dealers Versatile has recently terminated.”
Founded in 1966, Versatile was the first company to mass-produce four-wheel-drive tractors, starting with the D100 and G100. The tractors were primitive by modern standards, with a six-cylinder diesel or eight-cylinder gas engine producing 100 horsepower. Models sold for less than $10,000.
Buhler Industries purchased the company, which was sold to Combine Factory Rostselmash Ltd. in 2007. A year later, the Versatile name returned.
The strategy to offer a full line of Versatile-branded products started with the acquisition of a self-propelled sprayer line in 2009, precision seeding and tillage in 2011 and combines in 2012.
“Versatile, like most other companies, has taken advantage of opportunities to strengthen their product line through acquisitions in the industry,” Stertz said. “It’s a lot easier to purchase some existing products, distribution and technology than it is to create your own. When the Russian company purchased a large share of Versatile, it gave the immediate distribution of combines in North America and likewise, large farm tractors, for distribution in Russia. Versatile is in a dealership development plan to counteract being pushed out of multi-store operations as the majors, John Deere, Case I-H, New Holland, etc., are forcing these dealerships to become what the industry calls ‘pure’ or serving only one master.”
And while Lincoln Farm Supply’s product line has expanded, Stertz said the business will continue to service all product lines.
“We intend to service what we sell,” he said. “We will also work on the Legacy brands that Versatile supports.”
By Jennifer McDaniel, for the Lincoln Sentinel