Thursday, January 8, 2015

Who Else Makes This All Possible? Meet Our Support Team!

By Farmer Andrea

There are many facets of expertise required to run a vegetable farm, and we certainly aren’t experts in all of these different areas. In the course of our work, we turn to many other very talented individuals who help us keep things running smoothly. It’s important to like the people you work with, and as we reflect on all the people who contribute to our farm we have quickly realized that we are blessed to work with many excellent individuals. We also feel that it’s important to support local businesses and as a result we’ve developed many longstanding relationships with many local businesses in our community. We value these relationships as they come to know what we need and understand that sometimes we have important, time-sensitive needs. They are often able to make suggestions that help us improve our farm and benefit us in the long run. We really appreciate being able to work with so many good people and want to take time this month to say thank you to as many of these people as we can and share a little glimpse of just who all these people are!

Mark and Al keep things "rolling"with tires for the farm!
Lets start with Mark & Al, two guys who have been with our farm for a long time. Mark & Al are our go-to tire experts. We have a lot of tires, specifically large tractor tires, rolling around our farm and it is inevitable that sometimes you’ll get a flat. Mark has been selling and repairing tires for us since Richard first started farming here in 1984. While he now works at our local Cenex station, Richard did business with him for about 10 years when Mark worked with a different company. About 20 years ago Mark decided to start working for Cenex. When Mark moved, we moved with him. We have committed to buying all of our tires through him. He also sources all of our batteries and makes hydraulic hoses for us. He knows more about tires, rims, tubes, stems, hoses, connectors and a whole host of things that, at the end of the day, allows him to source the best products & parts for our needs...and in a very timely manner. And then there is Al, the repair guy who actually comes to the farm to repair the tires. Al is a “get the job done” kind of guy. He never knows what situation he may be walking into, but he is easy to work with and always seems to get the job done. This past fall we were racing against time to try to get as many root crops harvested with our mechanical harvester (ASA Lift) before rain storms moved in. In the fall, it’s crucial to take advantage of every dry day possible to harvest or you risk falling behind. On this particular day, the crew called and said they had a flat tractor tire….at about 4 pm in the afternoon. Al likes to start early and call it a day around 4:30 pm, so I was afraid I might not be able to get him out to the farm until the next day. But the next day would be too late…it would be raining. To add another complication to the picture, the flat tire was in a very hard to access place and the ASA Lift had to be unhooked. However, since the tire was flat the ASA lift was not setting level and if they unhooked it they risked damaging the machine. As I looked at the situation, I wondered how they were ever going to accomplish this repair without causing damage. It seemed highly unlikely that we’d be harvesting anything else that day. Around 4:30, Al pulled onto the scene. I exclaimed “Al, if I weren’t so busy right now I’d give you a kiss!” Al responded with “I’ll pass on the kiss, but I would take some rutabagas and celeriac.” Ok, fair enough. I went to get the vegetables and Al got to work. Al became part of the ASA lift crew that day along with Juan Pablo & Rafael. In less than an hour these three guys had figured out how to get enough air into the tire to level the machine, unhook and pull the tractor forward enough so Al could fix the tire. Next thing I knew, Rafael was calling the rest of the crew back to the field to continue harvesting and Al was already half way home before I could say “Thank you!”

There are a lot of other people who help us keep our machines and equipment up-to-date and running well. When we need bearings, pulleys or shafts repaired or sourced we turn to Roger Tollefson, whom we’ve worked with for about 15 years. He’s isn’t afraid to work on some of our unusual requests for parts specific to our vegetable equipment. Dwight is our friend at Tractor Central. He works closely with Juan to help us source parts for our John Deere tractors and sometimes does deliveries to the farm. If we can get the right parts, we can usually do the repairs here and save an expensive repair bill and lost time spent transporting the tractor to town and back. Norm is our friendly Auto Value delivery driver, and also happens to be a CSA member! We have a lot of field vehicles to maintain and we appreciate Norm bringing the parts to us so we don’t have to spend time running to town to pick things up. When we call for parts, Norm is the friendly face bringing us what we need.

While we’re talking about repairing machines, we have to mention our friend Bill, the forklift repair guy. Bill has been working with us for well over 10 years. He’s helped us make purchasing decisions when we needed a new forklift and visits the farm for regular maintenance checks. He is also very quick to respond when I call him with a specific problem. He does his best to fix the problem and get us back in the game. And then there’s Marty, our electrician. Marty has answered many of my frantic electrical emergency phone calls. “Marty, the motor on the salad washer isn’t working and we have 1,000# of spinach to wash in the next 24 hours!!” “Marty, the motor on the bin dumper keeps tripping the breaker. We have over 200 cases of root vegetables to wash tomorrow!! That’s over 5,000# of vegetables. No way we can lift all that into the barrel washer by hand! Can you help us?” Marty does his best to fix any equipment breakdowns as fast as he can. Since his work usually involves disconnecting the electricity, he often works late after hours and comes in early to get the job done before the crew is ready to work so as to not disturb the work day. I really appreciate that he understands the importance of some of these pieces of equipment and does his best to repair things quickly to minimize downtime.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention Brad…The Phone Guy! Brad is the mastermind behind our phone system as well as maintaining our connection to the world via the internet. He is always very responsive whenever we have a problem and need to call in his expertise. If he isn’t able to troubleshoot the issue remotely, he doesn’t hesitate to just jump in his truck and come to check things out himself. He’s very good at problem solving and has helped us set up a system that is tailored to our needs. He is definitely an integral part of our team and we appreciate everything he does to keep our connection to the world running smoothly! If you ever have problems calling us, just wait a few minutes…Brad is probably working on it.

Whew, that’s a lot of people and I haven’t even mentioned Larry the refrigeration guy or Randy the copy machine repairman, Mary Beth, Troy, Robert, Peter, Mary Pat & Carl, John, Sonny, Eggit, Greg, Charlie, Aaron, Adam, Pandora, Clint...Stay tuned for the next newsletter and we’ll pick up where we left off with more stories about these wonderful people!

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