PHOTO ABOVE: Faber's Farm Equipment has expanded its Inwood, Iowa, location 5 times to fit its increased wholegoods and parts inventories as the dealership has added new lines of machinery.

When Wilmer Faber opened Faber’s Farm Equipment 20 years ago, it was a one-man show buying, repairing and selling used farm equipment he purchased at local auctions. Wilmer purchased the dealership after his father Ron, owner of Ron’s Machinery, passed away unexpectedly. “The bank came up to me and offered me a loan to get started,” he recalls. “We stayed in the same building but renamed the dealership Faber’s Farm Equipment.”

As the small, Inwood, Iowa, business grew, Wilmer brought on more staff, including his son-in-law, Dean Bonestroo, and his son, Dan Faber, both of whom are now part owners of the business, along with his wife, Jan. The dealership quickly outgrew its facility and moved to its current location a few miles down the road.

In 2001, when McCormick purchased the local Case IH tractor plant, Wilmer found his source of used tractors drying up, prompting him to break into selling new equipment as a shortline machinery dealer.  “I had been buying used equipment from area auctions and reselling it. Some of our best sellers were the Case IH 5240 and MX 120 Maxxum tractors,” he says. “But when McCormick purchased the Case IH plant, our source of those tractors started drying up and we began taking a serious look at adding a line of new equipment to satisfy our tractor customers.”

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

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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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Faber’s Farm Equipment’s customer base is made up almost entirely of hay and forage, livestock producers and dairy farms, and Wilmer says keeping his customers satisfied with rugged, durable equipment for high-use work has been the impetus for many of the changes the dealership has undergone over the years. Today, Faber’s Farm Equipment sells and services new Versatile, McCormick, Krone and Vermeer machinery, as well as Bridon Cordage, Farm King, Harvestec, Koyker, Miller Farm Loaders, Parker, PhiBer, Rowse, Taylor Pittsburgh, Westendorf, Raven, Anderson and Great Plains. 

Faber’s also found a niche market with new and used tires and rims for a variety of tractors and combines. “We’ve got dealers from all over who don’t want to carry the oldest tires and wheels, so we will trade them in and set them up with the right sizes. This has become a big part of our business,” Wilmer says.

While 50% of Faber’s sales are still from used equipment, Wilmer says today’s used inventory is mostly supplied through trade-ins when customers come in to buy a new piece of machinery.

Becoming a Shortline Dealer

The first line of new equipment Faber’s Farm Equipment took on shortly after McCormick purchased the Case IH plant was the McCormick line of tractors. “It was a good fit with what we were already doing and we’ve ended up selling a lot of McCormick tractors over the years,” Wilmer says.  

Faber's Farm Equipment

Founded: 1981 (then called Ron’s Machinery), renamed Faber’s Farm Equipment in 1997

Location: Inwood, Iowa, and Watertown, S.D.

Owners: Wilmer Faber, Jan Faber, Dan Faber and Dean Bonestroo

Employees: 15

Primary Lines: Versatile, McCormick, Krone and Vermeer

Secondary Lines:

Bridon Cordage
Farm King
Miller Farm Loaders
Taylor Pittsburgh
Great Plains

Next, the dealership added the Krone line, starting with smaller equipment like rakes and mowers before eventually deciding to sell the complete line of Krone machinery. “We initially added Krone because of its reputation. We’d heard they were good products and after initially selling their smaller equipment, we found that they are a pretty good company to work with and we decided to pursue the bigger equipment as well,” he says.

Later, the dealership added Vermeer and most recently has taken on Versatile’s line of tractors in order to provide a higher horsepower tractor offering to its customers. The dealership has only been working with Versatile for the past year, but Wilmer says he’s optimistic the line will prove to be another success for the dealership.

Wilmer says the biggest benefit he’s seen working with shortlines is the flexibility it gives him. “No one is forcing us into being a big company with 10 stores or anything like that,” he says. “Our shortline manufacturers don’t tell us what our building needs to look like or how much inventory we need to have. That’s been a real advantage of working with shortlines.

“Being a shortline dealer is all about being able to service your customers to the best of your ability and being personable,” he adds. “Having a dealership where the owners are active in the business and they’re there every day makes a big difference, just in the personality of the business. You have to be able to deliver the same quality service as the bigger dealerships, but with a shortline dealership, you have the flexibility to take a more personal approach with customers.”

Growing Pains

While taking on new equipment has turned out to be a successful business model for Faber’s, Wilmer says that success didn’t come without its share of growing pains. “It was a big change for us when we went from only selling used equipment to selling both new and used because suddenly we had to have trained techs to service the equipment and someplace to store all of the parts,” he explains.

Fabers Farm Equipment 02

McCormick was the first line of new equipment Faber’s Farm Equipment took on to make up for its decreasing supply of used tractors.

Fabers Farm Equipment 03

Before Faber's Farm Equipment began selling Krone choppers and balers, Wilmer Faber says it was important to meet with the service department staff to make sure they were ready for the time commitment required to service this line.

This involved sending all of the dealership’s current techs to training and service schools and programs to allow the dealership to offer service on the new lines of equipment. Faber’s now has 5 trained techs who, Wilmer says, spend significant time each year going to school to keep up on their service training. 

Investing in an extensive parts inventory to meet service demands has also pushed the dealership to expand. “As we’ve added lines, we’ve built onto our present facility each step of the way,” Wilmer says. “We’ve built additions onto our present facility 5 times just to accommodate all of the different parts and wholegoods we’ve added and to have room to service everything.”

The additions and training have all been necessary for Faber’s success, though, and Wilmer says it all comes back to providing high quality service. “When we were only selling used equipment, service wasn’t a big portion of our business,” he says. “We tried to always sell quality equipment, of course, but when you start selling new equipment service becomes much more important.”

Taking on New Lines

When Faber’s Farm Equipment was considering adding Krone’s large equipment to its product offering, Wilmer says it was an important step to talk to the techs first and make sure they were ready for the time commitment necessary to service choppers and balers.

“Getting into the bigger choppers and balers takes a tremendous amount of commitment,” he says. “The choppers have a short season, but the techs need to be well trained and it can take some crazy hours during the busy season to keep customers up and running. Before we got started with the big Krone equipment, we asked our techs first if this was something they wanted to do because we needed their support to make it work.”

In addition to considering the time investment involved in adding a new line of equipment, Wilmer says it’s also important to do thorough research on the company and to have contracts screened by a third party.

Dealer Takeaways

• When considering taking on a new line, consult with the service department to make sure they’re on board with the added time commitment for a smooth transition.

• Be prepared to expand both the facility and staff when taking on a new line of equipment.

• Retain quality employees by trusting them with more responsibility and giving them the opportunity to advance in the dealership.

“We’re pretty cautious on what we take on,” he says. “If a manufacturer isn’t willing to stick their neck out on us, we probably won’t stick our neck out on them. We’ve been burned by a manufacturer before, so now we send any contracts to the Iowa-Nebraska Equipment Dealers Assn. to look through and make sure there’s nothing in there that would be a surprise.”

The association offers this as a free service to its members and Wilmer says this has been a big asset for them when considering taking on new shortlines. “They also do an annual member survey to see how different companies are doing on parts and service. In addition to calling around to other dealers to see how they’re doing with different product lines, the survey is a big part of our research when considering new lines,” he says.

Planning for the Future

Faber’s Farm Equipment recently purchased land in Watertown, S.D., to build a second facility. Wilmer says the decision was all about providing the best service possible to all the dealership’s customers.

“The driving force for building the new location has been the Krone line and the number of Krone customers we have in South Dakota,” he says. “We felt we needed to be able to better service our customers there than we can from our current location in Iowa.”

Fabers Farm Equipment 04

Faber’s Farm Equipment staff: l to r, first row: Dean Bonestroo, Dan Faber, Jan Faber and Wilmer Faber. Second row: Lucas Bowman, Brian Stearns, Chris Ranschau, Stacie Peterson and Jami Feikema. Third row: Gary Blom, Ryan Harms, Ryan Wynia and Russ Hoogendoorn. Fourth row: Johny Gardner, Travis Nagel and Marshall Pick.

Another factor facilitating the addition of a second location has been planning for the future of the dealership. “I’m old enough that I don’t really know why I’m doing it, other than for my boys,” Wilmer says. “My son and son-in-law are both partners in the dealership and it’s an important part of their future to have the business growing.”

The dealership is currently working on a buy-sell agreement for Dan and Dean to buy out Wilmer and his wife Jan. Wilmer says growing the business beyond 2 locations will be up to the next generation. “For my future, I don’t need another location. But for their future, I think it’s a good way to grow by adding more locations. It goes by the old saying, ‘If you don’t grow, you’re probably going backward.’ Those two young guys aren’t ready to go backward and I don’t want them to go backward.”

When the South Dakota facility is completed in August, Wilmer and Jan will be relocating to the new store to manage the new operation. “Adding this location is not just a big change for the business, but also for my wife and I. We’re going to move to Watertown and be the general managers there, at least at first,” he says.

Other employees were given the opportunity to relocate and help start the South Dakota dealership, but Wilmer says it was a hard sell. “Most of our employees have family in Iowa and farms they help out with. Everyone is established in their homes and their lives and it can be hard to uproot a whole family.”

With the new facility, Faber’s will be adding a salesman to Inwood, Iowa, as Wilmer currently handles some sales there, and will be hiring an entirely new staff for the Watertown dealership. Faber’s is advertising for new employees in area newspapers, working with the Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, S.D., and has also seen success advertising through Craigslist.

“We hired almost our entire Inwood staff through ads in local newspapers,” he says. “We’ve had a couple people already incquiring about the sales position for the Watertown location and after we break ground in South Dakota, we’ll put ads out for other positions there. Our hope is someone we hire now will eventually move into the general manager position so my wife and I can move back to Iowa, but finding good help and someone who wants to stay with the dealership for a number of years can be a challenge.”

Wilmer isn’t worried about the Iowa location continuing to function normally when he and his wife leave for South Dakota because the dealership already has a dependable staff. “Having a great group of employees makes it much easier for me to move and transition out,” he says. “Not that I won’t still be active in the business, but I’ll be able to leave a little easier. I know that if I just disappear, the dealership will take care of itself.”

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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