How to Winterize Your Spray Pump

hypro-pumpsIt’s getting to be that time of year when you should get your equipment ready for cold weather.

We carry a complete line of Hydro Pumps, and our friends at Hydro have provided information on how to winterize your spray pump.

Click on the link below for complete instructions. If you need assistance, we’re just a phone call away.

Winterizing Hypro Spray Pumps

Meet Mid-Atlantic Services Shop Foreman John Haase

Haase2013When John Haase is asked about what he’s building in the shop at Mid-Atlantic Services, his face lights up. He describes the specs of a new piece of spraying equipment and the high-tech electronics that make it perform. John clearly loves his work, and smiles easily as he recounts his history with the company.

A Cecil County native, John graduated from high school in 1984 and joined the Army National Guard. After basic training, John spent some time doing construction work. Building homes, doing roofing and siding, he was always putting things together, creating something new. His next stop was working at his father’s auto repair shop, a familiar setting, since he was quite used to repairing engines and making things run. After a few years, John was ready for the next challenge. In 1995, he joined Mid-Atlantic Services (MAS) where he began welding and fabricating equipment in the shop, building sprayers, and figuring out how to make the equipment do more in less time.

John fit right in to the “solving problems” culture at Mid-Atlantic Services, and quickly showed an affinity for custom work. Hand him a set of blueprints or even a concept of what the client wants to achieve, and he is off and running. Many times he suggests ways to improve on what he is given.

I often say that I give John 80% of what I want and he gives me back 110%.

In the early part of his career, John focused on small utility-type sprayers and repairing older John Blue sprayers. As the technology evolved, he spent more time on larger, more sophisticated sprayers and the electronic components monitoring them. John has become the resident expert on Raven controllers, as well as GPS guidance systems.

In addition to fabricating sprayer equipment, John said that MAS is known for having good technicians. “Many of the big companies don’t have the time, knowledge or experience to help customers on a one-on-one basis. We take the time to listen, hearing and understanding what they are trying to accomplish, and then we recommend the best solution for their situation.”

Now shop foreman, John eagerly accepts new assignments. He and his team build each sprayer, carefully fabricating parts, installing components and running quality assurance checks. When it’s time for delivery, John often meets with the customer to demonstrate the equipment, including the electronics. Teaching the owner how to operate the equipment is all part of the deal.

“I’ve spent 18 years at Mid-Atlantic Services because I work with a great bunch of people and we take a lot of pride in what we do.” John continued, saying, “Every day is different. We will build anything the customer needs. Sometimes we have to figure out how to create a custom piece that can do what they want it to do. When it all works and the customer is happy, that’s very satisfying.”

Getting the most out of your equipment investment

FP750BAs a manufacturer of precision liquid application equipment, one of my goals is to deliver equipment that makes a farmer’s job easier. Efficiency is key, as there are only so many hours of daylight to get the job done. Customers upgrade to equipment that does more work and saves time. Measuring that increased efficiency is not always easy.

Recently I read a blog post on FarmFutures.com about a farmer in Kenton, Ohio who gathered all the facts and figures pertaining to his farming operation so he could calculate an approximate return on investment. Brian Watkins and his family farm 7,000 acres, growing corn and soybeans.

Watkins uses equipment with the latest technology, and analyzed the data to get a more accurate picture of what was happening, and how to get the best results.

As William Thompson, mathematical physicist and engineer, said, “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.” Very true.

Watkins found that by using his equipment a little less in each field, it cut fuel and labor costs. By being more efficient, more ground could be covered in less time. You can read the analysis of his expenditures, savings and ROI here.

Do you have a good idea of what you are spending on your ag operation, and how it relates to the bottom line? In my own experience, I’ve noticed that small changes can have decent results, especially when it comes to improving efficiencies.

For example, I sold my neighbor a Field Pro 750 sprayer. It has an expanded capacity over standard 500 gallon tanks and still tracks behind the tractor, straddling two 30″ rows. That leaves one less set of tracks in the field. It has 60’ booms that cover 50% more area with the same pass than his old 400 gallon, 40’ boom sprayer. In addition, it is an affordable alternative over higher-priced self-propelled sprayers. FP750A

By taking a close look at each aspect of your operation, you can identify areas where you can make some improvements. Keep good records and review the data at the end of each season to make sure you are trending in the right direction.

 

 

Is This the Golden Age of Agriculture?

FarmingRecently I read with interest an article by Eric Sfiligoj, editor of Croplife magazine. He was trying to answer the “age-old question” as to what kind of year economically this was going to be for agriculture.  He quoted Dr. Jay Lehr, science director of The Heartland Institute who said, “We are in a golden age of agriculture right now and it isn’t going to end for decades.”  Pretty strong statement, I thought.  Now if he had said, “Not going to end for a year or two,” I might feel a little more comfortable.

To support his claim, the editor sites 2013 Nobel Prize winner for Economics Jim Rogers who singled out farming as the one bright spot in the economy.  He also mentions Ed Lopez of the investment firm Van Eck Global.  “Food, and the means to produce it, is becoming the new oil of the 21st century.”

With all this convincing proof of his positive outlook, I decided to do my own survey of industry leaders I knew personally.  Mind you, I don’t deal with huge companies in my business, but much larger than Mid-Atlantic Services.  I had an opportunity to speak with the presidents of Banjo Corporation and the CDS-John Blue Company and both were very optimistic for the coming year.  Both had talked to higher ups in John Deere and Case IH who felt this year was going to be at least as good as last year and maybe a little better, but would not show the growth of last year, which was a record year for most involved in farming.

Now, here is my less than scientific study for your consideration.  After 26 years of owning this business, I can usually gauge the coming year by how early we get busy after the first of the year.  An early January start bodes well for a great year and conversely, a late February beginning is indicative of a poor year.  Last year was the best year in our history, and sales got active in early December.  This year, I began quoting and actually selling in early November and continue to be very active.  Maybe we are just getting it right after 26 years or maybe it really is going to be a great year for ag. 

However, there is a contrarian side to me from years of investing at the top of the market and selling at the bottom of it.  Many sales this December were forced by the uncertainty of the upcoming tax law, depreciation, and capital gains changes.  So, I am cautiously optimistic, both as an equipment business owner, and as a farmer of my own little farm on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. 

Bottom line is this: the outlook at this time is as rosy as it ever has been.  As farmers, we are always optimistic in the spring.  Equipment is in short supply, so if you think you really need something to improve your bottom line, get it on order right away.  Side dressing equipment is practically sold out now.  Sprayers are still available, but running low.  Spray parts are in excellent supply at the moment.  Hopefully our suppliers will be able to resupply us in a timely manner.  Give us a call and let us help you now while we all can still react and plan ahead.

A Season of Gratitude

In this season of Thanksgiving, and in the spirit of one of our favorite holidays, we at Mid-Atlantic Services have so much to be thankful for. We have enjoyed the best market the ag industry has ever known. We see signs of the rest of the economy starting to recover. I have been so fortunate to work with the best group of people I’ve ever known and feel so thankful for the customers we have come to know and for their business over the years.

Whether this week is business as usual for you, or is spent around the table with family and friends, I hope you know that we at Mid-Atlantic Services are thinking about you and we’re thankful that you’re part of our family.

So, thank you. Thanks for your business, and for sharing us with your friends and colleagues. We appreciate your trust and confidence in us.

As always, please contact me if you need anything, want to provide feedback, have questions, etc. We are here to help you with your most challenging liquid handling equipment needs and look forward to serving you in 2013.

Dipping Crabs

Maryland summer weather leaves much to be desired, in my opinion. It is usually too hot, too humid, and too dry. Spring and fall here can be nothing short of amazing at times, but our summers sure get long. The one thing that keeps me here in the summer is the Blue Crab. I love to catch them and eat them, and summer is when we do that.

As soon as I was old enough to drive to the Chester River, I started crabbing. The Chester is the home of the finest crabs in the whole Bay area. The salinity in the river is just perfect for Mr. Crab and he grows big and delicious there. When I was first married, I crabbed on the weekends and sold my catch to make extra money for my many interests, which usually centered around some kind of boat. A commercial license was necessary to catch them in quantity and sell them. I have always caught crabs with a traditional trot line and dip net. In the heydays of the 70’s and 80’s, we would catch two to five bushels of these beautiful swimmers a day. My best day was an amazing catch of seven bushels.

Crabbing changed greatly with the invention of the patent dipper. This is a device with a large net which hangs in the water just under the trot line and catches every crab as it falls off the line trying to make its escape. It is very efficient and catches crabs you don’t even see that jump off the line before they reach the surface. When using a traditional net, you must see them to be able to dip them. With the patent dipper, no dipping is involved. You just drive the boat straight.

I have watched as more and more commercial crabbers have switched to the patent dipper. Now, most all commercial crabbers use them. This is progress. However, as I crab for the shear enjoyment of it, I have resisted the need to modernize. My trusty dip net and I still enjoy crabbing the old way, occasionally missing a crafty crab as he makes his getaway just ahead of my best effort to capture him. Crabbing has always seemed much more like hunting than fishing to me. He is there, but you still have to put him in the net and then in the boat.

The big reward of crabbing is the Maryland crab feast. These events occur every weekend of the summer on back porches and in backyards throughout the state. They are the social event of the summer and every topic from politics to this year’s crops is discussed during them. Crabs, sweet corn, and beer are the main ingredients. We even had a crab feast for the rehearsal dinner when my oldest daughter was married.

 

 

 

 

Occasionally, one finds a particularly large crab among the pile of seasoned red bodies on the table. We have always called these big guys Chester River hummers. They are indeed special and a treasure for the lucky person who gets to eat it. These big crabs are not found in the Bay as readily as the river. In Beautiful Swimmers, William W. Warner reports that the Eastern Bay complex produces the perfect salinity for these behemoths. The Chester is the most northern part of this complex of rivers.

The huge crabs seldom make it to the market. After all, the waterman’s motto is, “Keep the best and sell the rest.” By dipping my own crabs and serving them to my guests, we are assured of great crabs and the pleasure these truly fascinating crustaceans provide.

DUCKS OR DOLLARS?

I can hardly call myself a real farmer, though I do spend real dollars and real time in the endeavor.  My farming operation consists of 168 acres of which I till 79 acres and another leased 118 acres next door to my farm.  I grow corn, soybeans, and wheat like many of the other farm operations on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  Some would say that my real crops are ducks and deer.  Deer being very easy to attract here, but ducks are another story.

Commodity crop prices have been at record highs for the last three years which would seem to be a good thing.  Where my little farm lies has been a veritable desert during June and part of July for each of the last three years.  North of us, the top tier counties of Maryland and most of Pennsylvania have received quite adequate amounts of rain and have benefited greatly from the generous market.

As I write this, commodity prices have reached amazing levels due to an agonizing drought that has swept the grain-growing regions of the country.  Personally, I thought I was going to be given an exemption from the drought this year, due to that fact that I had experienced it in the preceding two years.  My neighbors and I experienced record wheat harvest and very good prices. However, had I held off harvesting and selling my wheat for two weeks, I could have realized a much higher profit.

My corn was the best stand I think I’ve ever planted with practically every plant coming up and germinating on almost the same day.  Things looked marvelous through much of June, but little to no rain in the last two weeks of June and almost all of July has taken its toll on the beautiful crop.

Full-season soybeans on my leased farm look excellent and have benefited from some recent rain.  Beans after wheat look quite good also and were fortunate to have been planted two weeks earlier than normal due to the wheat ripening early.

Now my dilemma; as I stated earlier: I have a mild interest in attracting ducks to my ponds and I accomplish this by draining the ponds and planting corn to be flooded in the fall for a legal smorgasbord served just for my feathered friends.  I have taken the luxury of irrigating these ponds to be sure there will be a banquet waiting when the ducks arrive.  Consequently, with the drought, the ponds are now the only place I have exceptional corn growing.  So here is the tough question: should I leave the corn in the ponds for the ducks, or should I harvest it to take advantage of the astronomical prices available now in the market?  The proceeds would pay for a fantastic hunting trip with a little something left over.

Fortunately, my family and I don’t rely strictly on the profits I make on my farm, but do totally depend on how well my mostly farm-oriented fabrication business produces.  I think that in my business area, there will be many growers who do deliver an excellent crop this fall.  Storms have been spotty, and some fields look beautiful.  With the run-up of prices, some growers are locking in very bullish prices for next year and that bodes well for another excellent season of selling spraying equipment, pumps and parts.

Perhaps I won’t hit it big on all three crops this year.  Two out of three isn’t bad at these prices.  Oh, yes, and the ducks will eat well on SweetBay farm this fall.

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