For generations, the Woodford family had farmed in Redwood Falls, Minn. By the early 2000s, Eric Woodford had 6 round balers and was doing custom baling all across Minnesota. The operation had grown so much that while Woodford wanted to increase its output, he wasn’t interested in adding a seventh baler. “Instead of having more balers, I needed my balers to be more productive and get more done in a day,” he says. After 3 years spent thinking about ways to improve the equipment he already owned, one winter Woodford began working on the solution and building prototypes.

The result was the Powered Wind Guard, a device Woodford calls “a turbo charger for a baler.” It is designed for baling corn stalks and it force feeds the baler making it kick in twice as much biomass as a baler without it. “It doubles the productivity, which made it so I could get more done, make more money and do it in less time,” he says.

After building several prototypes and getting the product patented, he approached Vermeer about licensing the Powered Wind Guard in 2008. He worked directly with Vermeer engineers to get the design fitting with the manufacturing process. Woodford’s relationship with Vermeer didn’t end there though.

Making a Change

In the winter of 2009-10, Vermeer approached him about an opportunity to open a dealership in Emmetsburg, Iowa, where ethanol producer POET Energy built its Project Liberty facility. The facility produces cellulosic ethanol, which is made from cellulose, a non-grain material/feedstock that provides the cellular structure for all plants. The end product is the same as ethanol produced from corn. Woodford and his wife, Mary, were faced with a big decision: pick up and move 2 hours south to Iowa, uprooting generations of farming in the Redwood Falls, Minn., area to take a risk on a new business venture. “We had deep roots, and typically farmers with deep roots don’t move. But we did and it was because of our deep commitment to renewable energy,” he says.

Dealer Takeaways

Be selective of the shortlines you take on. Make sure there’s enough support at the manufacturer to provide adequate service to both your dealership and your customers. Tweet It!

Before adding any product lines to your lineup, be sure there’s a big enough market to sell into to support taking on the line as well as the parts and service investment. Tweet It!

Carrying so many shortlines requires a dedicated and organized individual to handle the administrative side of the business. Tweet It!

Woodford says 2009 was a huge year for them. “We farmed, we had 6 round balers that we did custom baling all across the state of Minnesota with, plus we did some custom combining too. We just felt like at that point we reached the roof of what we could physically do for ag production. We had hit the top. It was enjoyable and successful, but we had a desire to find and experience something else out there.”

And with that the couple moved to Iowa to open a Vermeer dealership in Emmetsburg. In addition to Vermeer, Woodford Equipment opened its doors selling Gehl, Manitou, Geringhoff, ProAg and Anderson products. “We wanted to tailor our dealership to suit the needs of our customers. We knew precisely what would be the very best tools for harvesting biomass. So those were the first shortline companies we went after to get those specific tools,” he explains.

Woodford Equipment customers take a look at a number of the lines offered at the dealership during an open house and customer appreciation event.

Diversified Offering

While Woodford opened the dealer ship specifically to serve the biomass industry, it didn’t take long for him to start diversifying. “With the baling equipment, there was a natural fit to serve the beef cattle customers. And there was some overlap for row crops too,” he explains. Today, the dealership carries 49 shortlines (see list below).

Success in Shortline Machinery is a feature in E-Watch, our bi-weekly e-newsletter. It is brought to you by Versatile.

Versatile, celebrating 50 years of 4WD production, is a full-line equipment manufacturer known for building products that are simple, reliable and easy to service and maintain. Versatile is seeking independent-minded dealers capable of selling and servicing equipment for large scale farming operations. If you want to add more horsepower to your bottom line, contact Alan Graff at or (920) 819-9039.

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With so many lines, it might seem like Woodford Equipment accepts any manufacturer that walks in their doors. But, that’s not the case, Woodford says. “It has to be about more than the product. If there’s not enough people behind the product, or enough quality people who care, if they’re just order takers, I’m not doing business with them. They have to be part of my team,” he says.

Woodford is constantly doing research on new product lines for the dealership’s customers, trying to figure out what will improve their bottom line. “All of their decisions are based on return on investment,” he says. “If it doesn’t make a real impact on their bottom line, there’s no reason for me to carry it because the only way they make payments is by making a profit.

“When a new customer comes in or calls, the first thing we do is learn about their operation. And the better we know their operation the better we can tailor our product offering to what it is they need or what can make their operation better. We make it our business to know their business.”

More Products = More Challenges

While Woodford has many lines that will benefit his customers, he acknowledges there are some added challenges. “With so many shortlines, it’s really a lot of work for me to stay current on all the different sales programs. Every company has a different discount structure, floorplanning and quarterly or monthly programs and pop-up programs. Just staying on top of those is really challenging,” he says.

Woodford Equipment Shortlines
CE Attachments
Endura Plas
Farm King
Harvest Int.
Hustler Turf
La Forge
May Wes
SB Select
Sioux Steel
Art's Way
Cliffs Welding
Hitch Doc
K & M
Stoney Point

Forecasting inventory levels is a challenge as well because each company has different ordering periods during different times of the year. “It’s something that I need to do more frequently than just once a year. And then making use of co-op advertising dollars and trying to stay up on that for so many different lines is challenging,” he says.

Woodford says having a true understanding of their customers’ operations helps them stay on top of ordering parts for so many different lines as well. “If we understand who our customers are, then we can stock the right parts and keep them on hand so when they need them, we have them.”

The dealership keeps a comprehensive supply of parts stocked for its core lines, which include Vermeer, Geringhoff, Unverferth, Gehl, Manitou, Hustler, Lemken, ProAg and Anderson. For the other lines, Woodford says they stock parts per the manufacturers’ recommendations and based on the dealership’s previous sales.

Keeping up on the latest service training is a big challenge for Woodford Equipment, too. “Every shortline has their own training, so I could have my service techs away for training a third of the year if I wanted to,” Woodford says. “But we try to do as much as we can.” While he says in-person, hands-on training is always best, being able to take advantage of online training has worked well for the dealership. “Online training teaches them to navigate around the computer and forces them to be patient and sit down and take time to read. It works into our schedule a lot better.”

From an administrative perspective, co-owner Mary Woodford, says organization is extremely important in managing all the different accounts associated with the dealership — from its 49 vendors to all of its customers. In addition to using QuickBooks and QuickBooks Point of Sale, she keeps electronic, searchable files on every manufacturer and customer. “I’ve had to become very good at checking and double checking every single invoice because there’s no possible way I can remember every single manufacturer’s processes and the length of time that I have to pay. I have to look closely at every invoice. It’s a whole lot of checking and double checking.”

While Mary handles the accounts payable and receivable as well as floorplanning, Colin Hoppe, assistant manager, files the warranties. “He can do everything from sales to parts to shop work, but he also handles all the warranty filing for me,” Mary says. “I tried doing that too, and the problem was I don’t have a mechanical mind and I don’t work in the shop. I don’t see the equipment when it comes in, I don’t have a strong understanding of it and I cant explain it.”

Despite the challenges, Woodford has embraced the benefits of carrying so many lines. “With shortlines, some dealerships would look at it as a headache having so many different sales reps. But I look at having 49 different shortlines as I have 49 sales reps who have focused product knowledge. Basically with a phone call, those people are a part of my salesforce. It’s like having 49 employees for free,” he says.

Freedom to Choose

One of the great benefits of only selling shortline machinery, Woodford says, is the freedom to choose whatever products he wants to sell. “We aren’t forced into selling what one mainline has to offer. We can be very selective and choose the best of the best. It’s pretty awesome,” he says.

There’s another big benefit to working with shortlines, Woodford says. “You have better access to product development. When you understand what your customers’ needs are and the direction they’re going with their business, if you can influence future product development that’s great because then you can have the perfect product for your customer. I don’t know if that would be quite as easy if you’re working with the large mainlines,” he says.

In addition, since most shortline manufacturers still tend to be family owned, Woodford says, there’s more accountability. “If a customer calls Woodford Equipment and wants to talk to the owner, he can visit with me or Mary directly. And the same goes for shortlines. If I want that accountability, with most of the shortlines I work with I can get right to the top without being stopped. We have much better communication with the shortlines than I feel there would be with larger companies,” Woodford says.

Woodford Equipment opened its doors after Vermeer approached Eric Woodford about opening a dealership. From left to right, Jason Andringa, president and CEO of Vermeer; Mary Woodford; Eric Woodford; Mary Andringa, chair of the board Vermeer; and Bob Vermeer, chairman emeritus Vermeer.

Factoring in Used

While the nature of Woodford Equipment’s business has somewhat protected it from the used equipment glut many dealers are experiencing, the dealership isn’t completely immune to it. “We’re still experiencing it but with our products all being less than $100,000, we don’t have the type of capital tied up as we would if we had combines and 4WD tractors,” Woodford says.

The dealership does take trade-ins, but it will only trade like for like. So, if a customer is buying a round baler, they can only trade in another round baler. “Since our product line is so diverse, we get fewer trades because not everybody has that piece of equipment that they can trade like for like. If they have a piece that doesn’t match up, we will take it on consignment,” he explains.

Growth & Diversification

If there’s anything that keeps Woodford up at night, it’s what’s ahead for the dealership in the future. “We’ve looked at expanding our business, and we’re continually finding ways to expand and streamline it,” he says.

Last year the Woodfords diversified the business by adding a car wash. “It’s not totally related, but it’s just another thing to help keep us stable,” he says. And this spring the dealership will be diversifying again with the addition of a rental business. Woodford says rental items will include farm equipment, trailers, skid loaders and some homeowner equipment. All the equipment that will be available for rental are lines the dealership sells. “That’s the exciting part to me because most the equipment we’re going to have for rent we already own. If the customer comes in and rents a skid loader and a grapple bucket and he absolutely enjoys it while he’s renting it and decides to buy it, then we’ve got the rental income and we’ve got the sale. That’s great. Basically the customer paid for his own demonstration.”

The risk the Woodfords took back in 2010 is proving to have been worth it, and Woodford continues to put his farming background to use in selling equipment and helping his customers. “Having a history of using the equipment and inventing some of it really puts me in a good position to be able to help make sure our customers have the exact equipment that will give them the best return on their investment.”

Success in Shortline Machinery is a regular feature in E-Watch, our bi-weekly e-newsletter. It is brought to you by Versatile.

Versatile, celebrating 50 years of 4WD production, is a full-line equipment manufacturer known for building products that are simple, reliable and easy to service and maintain. Versatile is seeking independent-minded dealers capable of selling and servicing equipment for large scale farming operations. If you want to add more horsepower to your bottom line, contact Alan Graff at or (920) 819-9039.

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April 2016 Issue Contents