Roy Garmin and the team of technicians at Linn Benton Tractor stay busy all winter, maintaining harvest equipment that ranges from hay balers to the choppers used to cut hemp, one of the hottest crops in Oregon.
Last year they overhauled nearly 100 balers, most of which had been bought from Linn Benton over the years, said Garmin, who has been service manager at the company in Tangent, Ore., for 18 years.
“…They’re still running,” Garmin said. “I’ve got 12 guys who do nothing but work on harvesting equipment all winter long.”
Linn Benton’s inventory is rich in specialized equipment and the machinery ranges from residential mowers to 750 horsepower forest harvesters (choppers), now sought by hemp growers.
“Hemp has become a big thing in the valley; it takes a lot of horsepower to get through a field in a reasonable amount time,” Garmin said. “It grows anywhere from 3 to 6 feet high and the stems can be as big around as 3 or 4 inches; it’s like wood. A chopper cuts 20 feet at a time.
“There’s a lot of maintenance in them,” Garmin said. “You’ve got bearings and rollers; tires, fluid and metal detectors and all the computer systems. It can be 80 to 100 hours to do a complete overhaul on a chopper, and it’s really got to be done every year. It can run anywhere from $15,000 to $40,000 but you’re talking about a half-million-dollar machine.
“The thing that’s kicking our tails on a lot of this stuff is emissions,” Garmin said. “The (Environmental Protection Agency) is requiring lower emissions for engines on any equipment over 25 horsepower.
“Because of the heat the regeneration system creates, you’ve really got to keep the chaff and things off the exhaust system,” Garmin said. “It gets so hot when it runs through its regeneration system that fire burning equipment down has been a huge issue the last few years. Whether it’s choppers, tractors or combines, anything over 25 horsepower has to run the emissionized equipment.
“They come from the factory like that and we have to keep the systems running and you can’t modify them in any way or it’s a huge fine,” Garmin said. “You’ll see companies like Kubota and others offering tractors right at the 25-horsepower mark to avoid the emission requirements.”
Don Kropf worked at other ag dealerships before starting Linn Benton Tractor 29 years ago. Under the ownership of Don and his wife, Vivian, it has grown into a full-range dealership of 40-45 employees.
“The late ’80s was a tough time for agriculture and we wanted to be here to take care of people,” Kropf said. “Our goal is to provide customers a personal feel and to work hard for them, and we’re small enough that we can make decisions pretty quickly and respond to things that change.”