"Farmer friendly" is the term Randy Ecklund uses in talking about his Case IH equipment. Farming north of Wichita, on the edge of the Flint Hills area, Ecklund raises corn, soybeans and wheat on the farm that's been occupied by his family since the 1870s.

"I'm the fourth or fifth generation in my family to farm here," Ecklund said. "We have some good soils here and some marginal ones that range from silty loam to sandy loam. For the most part I've been using no-till practices, although I found I had to do some fall ripping in a few fields where hard pan was reducing yields."

Ecklund has two Case IH combines, two 12-row 3412 corn heads and two 35-foot 2162 flex draper heads for harvesting wheat and soybeans. He also has an SDX 40 air seeder with a 3380 air cart.

Ecklund recently purchased the Case IH True-Tandem Turbo Till to work in fields with hard pan issues. Case IH True-Tandem disk harrows provide true-tandem technology for straight, easy pulling and maximum pass coverage. Ideal for primary tillage, seedbed preparation or chemical incorporation, True-Tandem disks feature durability and low maintenance. Options include a rigid-frame or a flex-wing unit.

Ecklund's combines are the Axial-Flow 8120 series. Case IH launched the first single-rotor Axial Flow combine in 1977. They focused on maintaining a simple and reliable design. Over the past 30 years, their single-rotor technology still leads the industry.

"One of the things I appreciate most about Case IH is that they came to farmers to talk about how to improve their combines and tractors," Ecklund said. "They wanted to key in on what farmers needed when they developed new designs. The latest equipment is easy to maintain. It's not hard to get to the parts of the combines or tractors that need attention."

Case IH builds their Axial-Flow rotor design around six core principles: least possible moving parts for reliability and easy service; gentle grain handling to minimize grain damage; thorough threshing and efficient separation; adaptability to harvest more than 80 types of grain in a variety of conditions; matched systems to optimize crop flow and productivity; and impressive resale value to maximize investment.

"Their cab features put everything at your fingertips now," Ecklund said. "Farmers travel at higher speeds than ever and you don't want to have to be searching to find or push the right button. The GPS technology makes it so much easier to combine a field. You can set the GPS and know you're going through the field efficiently and then focus on watching for rocks or other hazards. At the end of the day it really reduces fatigue."

Through the generations, Ecklund's family typically used some Case IH equipment. However, in the last couple of years, Randy began to phase out other equipment brands and migrate more toward Case IH.

"A big part of that is the great service we find at our dealership in Salina," Ecklund said. "They are really great to work with. They arranged to have me go to the factory when they were building our combines. It was a very proud moment for me to see the finished product come down the assembly line. It was very interesting and helpful to see all the steps that lead to manufacturing a combine."

Ecklund's dealership in Salina is Straub International, a family-owned business that was established in 1944. The company owns seven Case IH dealerships in Kansas. The other locations include Great Bend, Larned, Hutchinson, Pratt, Wichita and Marion. Larry Straub, fourth generation dealership owner and CEO, said his company has always focused heavily on customer needs.

"It's always our goal to stay at the forefront of technology advances such as GPS," Straub said. "In doing so we're able to stay ahead of the curve in regard to customer demand. Our staff undergoes regular training and briefing so we can offer customers the best possible experience."

Ecklund appreciates the training available to customers when they purchase new equipment.

"I'm very satisfied with how the dealership approaches training classes for things like the combine headers," Ecklund said. "They have field days every year and have brought some equipment to the farm for demos. That's always helpful when you can see the equipment on your own farm and know how it operates. For the company as a whole, their focus on customer needs really shows."