At that point, neither grower had enough acreage to make the most profitable use of a full set of machinery, so it made sense for them to start working together on their farm operations, too. “It was forced on us, to some extent,” Jared says.

The two farmers pooled their equipment. Gaylen no longer needed a planter and combine. The Nordicks traded their older combine for a fuel-efficient 585R Lexion with tracks, which has been really helpful during the recent string of wet falls. The Nordicks also own two John Deere planters and two Cat tractors, plus a DMI tillage tool. Gaylen supplies a Cat tractor, grain cart, tractor-trailer rig “and my labor.”

Sharing machinery lowers each farmer’s total equipment investment. It also holds down their per-acre machinery costs, despite the loss of more than 1,000 acres between them. “This enables me to keep farming,” Gaylen says.

Machinery costs account for some of the biggest differences in farm profitability, Torgerson says. According to FinBin, a farm financial database of nearly 5,000 farms in Minnesota, North Dakota, Missouri and Nebraska, 2010 machinery costs for corn on the top 10% of farms were $60/acre lower than the group median of $122/acre. That’s largely a function of acreage, Torgerson says, which shows the importance of matching machinery investment and acres.

Today, Jared’s farm shop serves as operations headquarters for both the Affield and Nordick farms, which are seven miles apart, plus the team’s Precision Planting, excavating, and seed businesses.

Working together lets them specialize to a degree, spending more time doing what they like best. Gaylen generally does the planting and combining for both farms and runs the excavator.

Jared manages tillage and fertility, and handles logistics, delivering fuel, seed and fertilizer for both operations. “I see that everything is all set to go every morning. Efficiency is my No. 1 thing. I don’t want to see the tractor or combine idling.”

Each farmer buys his own inputs and fuel, does his own machinery repairs and maintenance, and keeps his own farm books.

But they don’t keep track of shared machinery hours or contributed labor and have no written agreements.

“We’re pretty loose,” Jared says. They feel their informal working arrangement is fair all around, and they don’t want to worry about “dividing up every penny,” Gaylen says. The two men confer daily and rarely disagree, they say. “We think a lot alike,” Gaylen says.

In some ways, Jared and Gaylen are quite a contrast. Jared, 33, is a young father beginning his career; Gaylen, nearing retirement age, has nearly 40 years of farming experience. Jared is intense and talkative; Gaylen is easy-going and quiet. Jared enjoys sales; Gaylen prefers running machinery.

Yet despite these differences, their goals, work habits and values are well matched, they say. “We’re compatible,” Gaylen says. “We get along.” Quips Jared: “It’s almost like being married.”