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Using older machinery to turn a profit

Linda Nielsen believes keeping an older line of equipment running is helping
to keep her farm in the black

Three miles east of Star-
buck, Man., you’ll
 find Linda Nielsen (47) farming just under 1,000 acres of grains and oilseeds.


Before venturing into farming, Nielsen was a stay-at-home mom, a part-time educational assistant at Starbuck School, picking up other part-time work and volunteering on the side. 


Growing up, Nielsen recalls always having helped out on the family farm. When she and her husband (also from a farming background) were married, they built a house next to her parents. 


In 2004, Nielsen’s father was struck with cancer. Before he died the following year, he asked Linda if she wanted to get more involved in the farm. Nielsen says, “I had one year (in 2004) of farming with him and my brother. It was a disaster year. My dad said in his 40 years of farming, he’d never seen it that bad.” 


In 2006, Nielsen and her brother and put their first crop on their own. Her brother owned about 1,000 acres, while she and their mother shared about 500 acres. 


In 2011, Nielsen’s brother quit farming, so she now manages the farm on her own. “My husband has a full-time job, and helps when he can on weekends. My son helps too.”


Repairs


As a general rule, the Nielsens enjoy using older farm equipment. “With the computer stuff, it just seems like if something goes wrong you have no choice but to call in the big guns to fix it. With the older stuff, you can more easily take it apart and see how it works.”


The Nielsens try to do all their equipment repairs themselves, only calling in “the big guns” when the need arises. 


“The way we see it is you can’t put a price on your time,” said Nielsen. “It takes the local dealer only an hour to fix something that might take me four.” 


Cost, too, factors into why the Nielsens choose to stick with their older equipment. “We aren’t going to buy anything new, because we don’t have the money for it,” said Nielsen. “We fix things as they come up, and that’s still cheaper.”


The Nielsens have one small 1967 tractor that they use for jobs like loading canola seed. Although they find it a fairly straightforward machine to fix, finding parts for an older machine can be challenging. Still, Nielsen said, “The dealer for it is in Ellie, Man., which still carries a lot of its parts. 


“Parts being harder to come by are one of the bigger issues with using older machines. Safety concerns are also an issue, especially with kids around. You can jump off an old tractor, but there’s no cab, roll bar, or seatbelt.”


Neilson has an old Massey tractor that she was fortunate enough to have come across at an auction, getting it at a great price for its value. The Nielsens use it for everything from grain carting to harrowing, fertilizer spreading, and fall ditching.


Overall Nielsen says the benefits outweigh the risks of sticking with older equipment. “By using the machinery we have, we’re better able to turn a profit. You don’t need to go big to make money.” † 


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