Instead of farming more land to solve this challenge, Ron Miller, Towanda, IL, shared equipment with an old friend. When his son Ben returned from college, they had plenty of labor, but Miller had lost two-thirds of his ground to estate sales. “I was doing some trucking on the side, but farming is what I really wanted to do more of,” Miller says.
“I needed a new combine and sprayer, so an old friend and I traded in what we both had and got better guidance and technology than we could each afford separately,” he says.
The two bought a Deere 4720 sprayer, and that worked so well that they also jointly bought a Deere 9770 combine.
“We both strip-till our corn and no-till our beans, and our ground adjoins each other in most cases. At most,15 miles separate our two most distant fields,” he says.
Miller and his equipment partner prorate their combined equipment expenses proportionally by the number of acres each farms. “We sit down twice a year and even things up. A few years ago, a third party went in on the sprayer, lowering those costs further,” he says.
“We haven’t had any problems. All the equipment leaves each farm with a full tank of fuel. The trickiest part might be sharing the sprayer since it’s so windy around here that it narrows down when you can spray. But we just roll with it.”
The teamwork has extended to accommodate varying circumstances.
“Two springs ago, my friend was still planting beans and we were able to sidedress his corn for him. He paid us for the labor and we were glad to do it,” Miller says.
“Our partnership is kind of like a marriage where you have to know who you’re involved with before you get too far,” Miller says. “We have a contract, but most of it’s done on a handshake.”