Jeff Barnes, Greenway Equipment’s Precision Ag Manager who oversees a group of 41 staffers in Field Teams, Support Center and data analysts, was asked about how the Arkansas-based dealership, the 14th largest farm machinery dealer (and 10th largest John Deere dealer) and its precision business evolved since his arrival 14 years ago. In short, he’s seen a great deal of change in the classic “then vs. now” reflection.

  • 2010: 20 locations … 4 precision ag employees companywide … a team of 5 in-the-field staff.
  • 2024: 30 locations … 30 field team staff … 4 data analysts handling recordkeeping and reports … dedicated Support Center staffed by 6 experts … 5 on-staff Certified Dealer Instructors (CDI) to fast-track John Deere training … 200 technicians receive more than 5,000 hours of training annually … 12,000 square foot Training Center … 500-acre Technology Farm.

After a brand new facility was built along the Newport, Ark., expressway in 2023, the dealership was repurposed as a dedicated Training Center with a 4-bay shop. Photo by: Mike Lessiter

This article covers developments that have led Greenway Equipment to the best-in-class status that is evident from its participation at the annual Precision Farming Dealer Summits.

Certified Dealer Instructors 

The emphasis that Greenway placed on its own formalized “train the trainer” program set the tone for all that followed. Known as John Deere Certified Dealer Instructors (or CDIs), the certified staffers are approved to teach technicians and customers on their own schedules. Common training includes core certifications, 8R tractor tech overview, AMS operations/adjustments and technical systems courses for sprayers, tractors and combines.

Prior to having CDIs, (and the Training Center that followed), Greenway followed what most dealers do — send their techs with bags packed to the regional training events where they’d be out of pocket for up to 5 days. While increasingly essential with advanced technologies, the off-site element is disruptive, and brings significant revenue losses in billable hours as well as the cost of travel, hotels and meals, not to mention employee wear and tear.

Jeremy Bullington, the Precision Ag Support Center manager who handles all day-to-day operations in the call center, was the first at Greenway to earn the certification. Today, 5 staffers hold the certification. 

“With the CDI program, we can do all this training locally,” says Bullington, “And our staff knows their instructors. They’re more open and honest with somebody they know vs. a Deere trainer they might see every other year.”

Not only does it save on all costs associated with disrupting operations and travel, it’s also a benefit to tech recruitment. Dealers with their own CDIs can promise more training and quicker advancements — and rewards — than dealers relying on Mother Deere for all their training.

Dedicated Training Center

Barnes says the roots for a dedicated training department came in 2018, which coincided with the CDI initiative. With the insistence that CEO Marshall Stewart placed on being among the best in the business, a dedicated training center was only a matter of time. The dealership was investing and building talent that would eventually demand a spot of its own.

Greenway Equipment, Weiner, Ark.

Founded: 1988

Major Line: John Deere

Shortlines: Stihl, Honda Power, Frontier, Orthman, A&I Products, Major, Kelley Manufacturing, House Industries, T3rra, Rome, J&M, Amadas, Kuhn, Monosem, Hagie, Kelly, Brent, 360 Yield Center, LMC Ag, Tri-L and Blue Diamond

Locations: 30. (14th largest equipment dealer group in the nation and 10th largest within John Deere). AOR consists of Arkansas and Southeast Missouri.

Ownership: Holden Conner Family and Stewart Family. Managed by Dynasty Management Group.

Key Staff: Bill Midkiff, CEO; Steve Shepard, Senior Vice President; Tommy Hall, Vice President-Service; Stan Vardell, Vice President-Parts; Jeff Barnes, Manager-Precision Ag; Todd Thompson, Controller; Taylor Joyner, General Sales Manager; Brad Nash, Regional Vice President; Jake Haralson, Regional Vice President; Mike Osier, Regional Vice President and Ryan Pace, Regional Vice President.

Precision Operations: RTKA Network Subscription (72 RTK base stations across AOR), T3RRA Cutta, CropX, FieldPro  monitoring, Davis Weather, & Agronomy Data Services, UAV Imagery and UAV Elevation Services.

When the decision was made to build an all-new facility in Newport, Ark. in 2023, the original site across town was up for grabs. “We repurposed that building for the Training Center; a place where we could do the classroom training indoors — all year round — while also having a shop area,” says Barnes.

The showroom was repurposed for classrooms and the service shop area became a “teaching shop.”

While training for technicians and service support staff is paramount, it’s also used for parts training, sales, precision ag and general onboarding. “New employees are going to be in here within their first 45 days on the job,” says Barnes, “in a setting conducive to asking and answering questions.”


“A lot of farmers do something because of culture or just because the neighbors are doing it,” says Jeremy Bullington, Precision Ag Support Center manager. “We’ll push that envelope to base a decision on facts. Take irrigation. We’ll base our trials on the rain, the soil moisture in the profile, and the how and when of starting an irrigation event. They’ll see it proven out in local soil conditions and practices customers are accustomed to." Photo by: Mike Lessiter

Last spring, the company even enrolled its administrative assistants for first-ever training to better understand how they support the overall business.

“The vision was a facility where we can do our own internal training on our own schedules,” says Barnes. “One of the beauties of the CDI program is that we can teach it at any time that fits our schedule vs. having to work off of Deere’s.”

Bullington adds that “the CDI program opened up the door for us to dictate some training content and localize it for our AOR.” Rather than the broad brush strokes of mass-produced training, he says the group can now “zero in on the things that are applicable to us, to tailor it for specific programs and specific personnel.”

A tour of the facility started in the in the former showroom that echoes of many equipment sales in the building’s long history. Converted into a modern classroom setting, up to 80 can be comfortably seated in view of the projection screen. The room is easily transitioned to smaller group settings for more person-to-person interaction when the training requires it.

“We can bring in hydraulic boards and electrical boards and cover highly technical information, and/or deliver it in the best learning format,” says Bullington.

Just across the hall from the classroom is the shop area. Its 4 service bays — used only for training and no billable work — allows highly technical training without battling the weather or competing with precious floor space for the billable hour repair or set-up work— a balancing act that dealers without dedicated training space must weigh.


The Technology Farm has a wide array of implements on site and carries its guests via pull-behind bleachers. Because Greenway's entire AOR is too large to move equipment around the dealership instead bring its customers and prospects to Technology Farm for education and demonstrations. Photo by: Mike Lessiter

“We must do our training in winter,” says Barnes, noting that farmers start much earlier than most of the country. “This environment is heated, so we can effectively do the training year-round, including the hands-on work associated with certain teaching. And then we can progress through the early certifications faster than they need to become fully certified as a technician.”

Full-Time Trainers

The training department consists of a training manager, two full-time technical trainers, a full-time parts trainer and a third who handles both sales and precision ag due to the close tie-in between the two functions. As the business grows, there’ll likely be split apart.

Though a CDI, Bullington is no longer officially on the training team. But he, like other members of the Support Center team, are often called to help.

“We bring in other staff to help with certain topics and classes,” says Barnes. “The Support Center staff sees a lot of things that help keep the training fresh and up to date.”

If farmers, especially on the new product introductions, are calling in with problems, Greenway gets an early look at the issues, explains Bullington. “We’ll then train on that issue to make sure we know how it’ll be fixed, and what the possible solutions are, and in turn, communicate and relay those solutions quickly.” The training center’s web broadcasting abilities help speed that immediate knowledge transfer, when critical problems can’t wait.

While some dealers are reluctant to jump into areas outside of iron-peddling, Greenway dove head-first. Barnes says that it was part of his background when he arrived. “I’m not the world’s strongest technical person from a precision ag standpoint. I approach a lot of things from more of an agronomy background.”

Barnes points to the solutions that have come out in the last half-dozen years. “Look at ExactApply, ExactEmerge or Individual Row Hydraulic Downforce,” he says. “They’re all rooted in agronomic performance. It’s hard to understand the technology, position it correctly with our customers and help them understand the benefits if we don’t understand the agronomy behind why it’s being offered.”

Learn More Online

  • What does a Greenway Equipment Precision Ag Product Specialist Do? – TO COME
  • Overview of the New Newport Facility – TO COME
  • How Greenway Evaluates New Technologies – TO COME

He also cites ExactEmerge. “Sure, it can be sold as planting faster, but it’s also planting more accurately, with better seed spacing and seed depth. These things all feed into a bigger picture than just planting faster. See & Spray is another example of an agronomic reason to want to adopt the technology.”

Support Center & Customers

Bullington and his staff of 5 in the Support Center are co-located in the corporate headquarters, in what the team refers to as the “war room.” 

When the phone rings, it’s promptly picked up by one of the 5 and the problem-solving begins. Other than originating as a landline-based center, it functions the same as it did 12 years ago. 

Greenway quickly realized a need to leverage telecom tools as it couldn’t staff everyone up for 24/7 coverage. “We needed a mobile solution,” Bullington says, noting that Greenway was one of the first adopters of AgriSync (now known as ExpertConnect) and was influential in the system’s development. “Once we helped develop that solution, we realized we could accept phone calls, texts, video conferences and even opening a ticket within the app. There are many ways for us and our customers to share information from an omnichannel standpoint, and we want them to reach out however they prefer.”

Bullington notes that as soon as he and his team hear from a customer, they’ll draw from myriad resources to identify the issue and fix it. The technical help extends to service advisors, technical manuals and through general troubleshooting procedures that provide sequential steps to find the fix — until it’s solved or Greenway realizes “it’s time to put boots on the ground.”


“A true dedication to customer uptime also brought a dedication to the staff, that they’d have the resources and capacity to help farmers adopt technology and utilize, not just see, the data,” says Precision Ag Manager Jeff Barnes, who serves on the leadership team and oversees a staff of 41. Photo by: Drew Lessiter

“Through that same ExpertConnect system, we’re able to deploy the service department, a precision ag person, parts person or whomever is needed to help solve that problem,” Bullington says.

He says the whole dealership has bought into what can be accomplished via the Support Center. “If it’s a parts or service problem, we’ll loop them in. Or if it’s a startup issue and we need a precision ag advisor, we’ve got the ability to do all those things within the same system. Each person along the way gets to own that problem until it’s solved with the customer. That’s our biggest hallmark — that we at Greenway will own the problem from the beginning all the way to the resolution.”

Paying for the Resources

Bullington explains that the expenses of the Support Center are recouped primarily via customers’ paid service agreements. It may be part of an RTK agreement, purchased a la carte or woven into another service package. “It’s sold specifically as a whole farm service. We don’t charge by the phone call or the minute. It’s easier to have one flat-rate charge that covers everybody on that same farm, no matter how many acres or how many employees. And we’ll talk to everybody.”

While some dealers quote programs based on farm size, Barnes doesn’t believe size is a good predictor of the amount of the service need or the degree of technology adoption. The flat-rate model has worked since its inception in 2012, he says. “And as farmers invest in more machinery, the access to the Support Center is built in as well.”

A la carte services have worked fine too, says Bullington. “It’s more pleasant to say, ‘it’s included with what you’re already doing.’ And that’s a good way to put it. Everyone needs support. No matter how many years a customer has been doing something and regardless of whether it’s old or new iron, they’ll hit a wall where they don’t know what to do. There’s no reason for anyone to sit idle for 2-3 hours when a 3-minute phone call can solve it. We tell customers to make sure they enroll in the service programs we need to get them going as fast as possible.”

But of course, renewal rates tell the story. Barnes admits it’s hard to isolate because so much of their service is now interwoven with various programs. But he estimates renewals at 90%. “Our services have steadily grown. So even if there was a 5-10% drop off, other customers have been steadily purchasing our programs.” 

He adds that the growth has been consistent since the beginning of 2012 when the Support Center access was offered. “We have guys who’ve been with us the whole 12 years because it came with a service they purchased that first year and continued it ever since.”

Bullington adds that an important piece of the call center is how it frees up the field team staff to focus on the task at hand at the farmer’s site. “Of course, farmers have favorites field techs but the Support Center gives them something to fall back on. A tech can say, ‘It’ll be a while before I can get back to you. Can you first call the Support Center and see if they can help? And if they can’t I’ll be on my way.’ 

Greenway got its start with the Technology Farm in 2018. “The Tech Farm gives us the ability to prove a piece of technology in an environment that is exactly like our customers will see,” Bullington says. “We are growing things the exact same way our customers are; we aren’t providing recommendations based on a different geography or something different than how they farm. The technologies we’re putting in front of them apply to their same cultural practices."

Lesson Learned on Precision vs. Field Team

Precision Ag Manager Jeff Barnes said Greenway the need to balance Support Center staffing vs. in-field staff. From 2016-2018, the dealership went with a smaller field team. “We didn't like the experience we were providing from a precision ag standpoint. To drive a lot of the new technologies or to help customers adopt a lot of the new technologies that dealers were beginning to offer, we had to ramp that team back up. So, in 2019, we expanded the department from 5 guys in the field to 18.”

“We know a product works because we’ve seen it. It’s more than us reading a book or watching something demoed elsewhere in the country. We’ve seen it perform on our own ground.” 

The other important thing with the Tech Farm is the convenience, especially when Greenway receives just 1-2 preproduction units. “Moving that piece around through our entire AOR is nearly impossible,” Bullington says. “But we can bring people by the busload to the equipment and show them and their peers what it does in this environment.”

He adds that the Tech Farm adds another dimension to the training programs and how they can head right out of the classroom to the field. “Say we’re at the Training Center and talking about a planter and its functionality. We can take the meter apart and examine all those key functionalities and then go right out here to the farm, put seed in and watch it place the seed in the ground. We can look at the seeds in the soil and explain an adjustment we just made. Or make a change to the populations and seed more, and then come back 3 months later and see what that stand looks like. And then come in at harvest and see how a small change made 180 days ago affected yield. It’s all very much a hands-on approach.”

A perfect example, says Barnes, was the work done on the Deere’s See & Spray technology on the Tech Farm over the last several years. “Obviously we are farming, so we bear the cost of the chemicals and applications. We showed an 81% chemical savings. 


The implement inventory of the Technology Farm included the Kelly Diamond Harrows, from Austrailia, which Precision Ag Manager Jeremy Bullington says "changed how the South does tillage." Photo by: Mike Lessiter

“Our pre-emergence program worked very well last year. We didn’t see many weeds out here. The See & Spray technology obviously saved us from not only the time in putting the chemical out, but myriad economics. We look at economics and technologies just as our customers do. We’re responsible for the per-field profit that we can generate off of the Technology Farm. When we evaluate the technologies, we are looking at the economics behind it as well.

Bullington adds that there’s a P&L report for the farm at the end of the year. “We report on yields, what we spent per acre, per equipment piece and per crop. We’re not just tracking those inputs we can control, but we’re also tracking rainfall as it relates to irrigation, as irrigation is a must-have in these parts to produce a crop. We can track soil moisture. So, we have a good idea how our irrigation is performing, as well as over- or under-irrigation.”

What it Takes

Barnes and Bullington agree that the Tech Farm is a big commitment. Barnes says a dedicated farm manager oversees all the work, making the applications when they’re needed and coordinating the equipment onsite. And he’s also handling the details when the farm is used for training.

Directive from the Top

Jeff Barnes, Precision Ag Manager, believes Greenway is unique in its dedication to bringing technology to its customer base, a mindset made clear on his first day on the job 14 years ago.

“Marshall Stewart (now CEO of the firm’s parent company, Dynasty Management Group) had a deep passion for helping customers integrate technology into their operation.”

He wanted the entire Greenway staff to be knowledgeable, and knew true specialists were needed to help customers with a deeper dive into technology.

Another core value, says Barnes, is the notion that “When our customers work, so must we.” Whether it's on the row-crop side or in cattle country, he says Mother Nature doesn’t keep track of a workweek calendar. “If it’s dry on a Saturday when our customers need to be planting, harvesting, spraying, and customers have an issue, we need to be there. We must make sure we can manage their downtime because having to wait for us to respond will mean a missed opportunity in the narrow window they’re afforded to work.”

This mindset led to the development of the Support Center in 2012. That commitment to customers also required a commitment to employees, which is evident in the Support Center, the Training Center and the CDIs.

Bullington adds the staff understands the key role they play. “Passion is needed to keep our customers productive. We ask ourselves what we accomplished each day. It might be helping 6 farmers get back into the field faster, taking and starting up 3 pieces of equipment and educating them on how it works and to maintain productivity.

“We won’t be dropping off a piece of equipment, tossing the keys and wishing them good luck. Someone will be there with them; that’s what we do. We want to make sure that the customer experience is as best as humanly possible. And if there is an issue, let's fix the issue, move on and make sure we can prevent that issue in the future.”

Barnes adds that the farm leaves about 30 acres per year open for demoing which may include things like a university’s precision ag class. “Assuming the field conditions are right, the students will be using the equipment too. They’ll experience things firsthand. That requires a dedicated manager who is responsible for safety, who understands agronomy and who’ll speak up if he needs more hands in the field. When he needs help, we work people free from my group or from Bullington’s group and even some of our data team. It’s good for everyone to get out and see some of this equipment in action as well.”

Onboarding the Team

Bullington adds how the Tech Farm is also instrumental for quickly bringing employees of varied backgrounds up to speed. “I’ve got people that have 5-6 years of experience and people that are about to graduate. We’ll bring them in with a fresh start doing it ‘our way.’ The Tech Farm gives us the ability to show them a PowerPoint, and then go to the field and put them in the seat. If I expect someone to troubleshoot with a customer about an issue with AutoTrac or with a planter or seeder, I need to know the person has done it.”

This gives them the ability to experience the same issues as their customers. “You want them to understand that when you start this planter, it’s going to make this sound and in 20 seconds it’ll go away. A classroom session alone can’t do those things. These things happen every time, and they need to experience that, too.”

Bullington stresses this is also a functional farm. “If a customer is going to have an issue because the humidity is too high, we’re going to have the exact same issue out there. Things aren’t perfect out here either, but we can go right into problem-solving mode. It then becomes a teachable moment for our people, too — to see that problem and what we did to fix it.”