The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • White County business and farms affected

  • WHITE COUNTY - Mark Hillyard, owner of Hillyard Farm Services just west of Carmi, cited the diversification of his business, which includes lawn mower sales and repairs, as the big reason for his business getting through the drought of 2012.
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  • Mark Hillyard, owner of Hillyard Farm Services just west of Carmi, cited the diversification of his business, which includes lawn mower sales and repairs, as the big reason for his business getting through the drought of 2012.
    Hillyard started the business in 1999 with himself and two employees. The business has since grown to employ more than 10 people, including one full-time and two part-time office staffers.
    Hillyard and his wife, Myra, have two girls, Katie, 20, and Krisie, 16. He is a 1975 graduate of Enfield High School and, while still in school, went to work for the former Carmi farm implement dealership owned by Ray Renshaw where he worked on lawnmowers, chain saws, tractors and combines.
    He has also been a mechanic at M&S Implement and for Emerick Brothers. In 1994, he built his own building on the family farm at 1373 County Road 800 E., Carmi, which is just west of Carmi and a little south of state Route 14.
    Hillyard's business offers sales, parts and service (he will service any brand) on SCAG, Cub Cadet, Kohler, Kawasaki, Briggs & Stratton and Ecko lawn equipment, including chainsaws, tillers, blowers, trimmers and compact tractors.
    But the business is also diversified into farm equipment repair and oilfield equipment repair.
    This year's drought slowed the lawnmower sales side of his business.
    "The season started really early," he said, noting the wet spring. "But, it quit raining and the grass quit growing."
    He said many of his customers simply mowed a few high spots and relied on weed whackers to trim around their homes and buildings.
    "The repair and service work never really slowed down on weed trimmers and blowers," he observed. "Since the rain came around mid-August, the lawnmower sales have really picked back up."
    The diversification into farm and oilfield equipment repair helped take up the slack in the slow months over the summer.
    "That certainly never slowed down - the oilfield - thank goodness," he said.
    The high temperatures coupled with the lack of rain may have kept a lot of people out of their lawns this summer, but he also noted a steady business in chainsaw sales.
    "A lot of people cut firewood in the summer for the fall," he said. "Some cut wood in the fall for the fall and winter.
    Others cut it in the fall for next fall. Then, there were some storms this year that knocked some trees down, causing still others to need a chainsaw. Whatever the case, it keeps my sales, service and repair work steady as far as chainsaws."
    Now, with the recent rains and cooler temps, Hillyard noted, some people are mowing twice or more a week.
    Now, that's good for business.
    Importance of irrigation
    Page 2 of 3 - Sailer Farms in southern White County were affected by the drought just as everyone else has been. However, they, along with several other farming operations in that area, weathered some of the issues better than others with the assistance of the irrigation systems in the fields. The systems kept the crops from burning up compared to fields that had no assistance. They will be able to harvest those fields as usual this fall.
    "We turned on our irrigation systems May 16 of this year and finished up August 27," said Jack Sailer. "We are fortunate to live in an area where there is an underground water supply. It's accessible by drilling down 70 to 90 feet to get to it."
    Irrigation systems are plentiful in southern White County. Sailer Farms alone have 27 units, but other operations have upwards of 50 installed in their fields. The systems were first implemented in the late 60s and early 70's as "traveling guns," where a device would maneuver through a field dragging a hose behind it. The water was brought in by laying a pipe across the middle of a field and there are some still in use today. However, the sophistication of the latest irrigation systems has passed up the old models, making them an almost "must have" device to any farming operation that can access underground water today.
    Scates Valley is one of the local operations that process systems and maintain them in the area. And, the systems are progressing into the computerized world. The systems can now be monitored by a computer at a home base, such as the case at Sailer Farms, and can be turned off, turned on, or can alert the operation of any issues with the system.
    "It's been well worth it to install the computerized system for the irrigation towers," said Sailer. "Before we installed the computerized model, we had to go to each one of them and turn them on and off and we were spending a lot of time and pickup miles and gas. Now, we have one guy that is in charge of troubleshooting and we aren't tied down."
    Sailer can bring up all 27 locations on one screen in the farm office and see how the systems are functioning. The computerized system also provides spreadsheets of when the individual towers were turned on and what direction they are moving in. The devices are operated on a radio frequency and pivot at the center. They are galvanized so they do not rust and move slowly. The end tower controls the speed and as the first one moves, the second tower catches up with it. But Sailer says it moves faster than it appears and, "you never want to park your truck over a wheel track."
    There is no limit to how many towers can be attached to one system. They are attached depending on the size of the field. Also, the towers are moveable by raising the wheels. Each system lasts on average about 25 to 30 years and then they can be rebuilt, making the initial investment even wiser for those who can utilize them.
    Page 3 of 3 - Sailer says the biggest issue with the systems right now is the theft of people trying to take wiring off the systems and several operations have begun rigging anti-theft devices to catch those who are attempting to steal wire. Sailer said the wire that is being taken isn't worth the risk of being caught and prosecuted.
    "We are very fortunate that we have an adequate supply to underground water," said Sailer. "We pumped about two years' worth of water this year versus the amount of water we used last year. It has made all the difference in saving the fields. In the non-irrigated corners that our systems didn't reach, we drop down to 0-20 bushels of beans or corn. We are in sand down here in Emma Township and it's a high risk if there are no irrigation systems in place. But, every field is different."
    To install a new irrigation system, Scates Valley is one company locally that provides the service from start to finish. They are called to drill the wells permitted by the state. The closer to the pivot in a field, the better so less piping and fitting is required. Towers displaying the "Valley" logo are those set up and purchased through Scates Valley. Another popular brand in this area is Zimmatic.
    Irrigation systems are utilized at various places across the United States. Idaho and Nebraska are just two locations that have been operating irrigation systems for years and are also connecting to computer systems in beating the drought of 2012.
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