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Ohio Farm Relies on DuraTech Grinder

Varied farm operations include grinding bark into mulch, grinding cattle Feed

By Diane Calabrese
Date Posted: 10/1/2004

MILLERSBURG, Ohio — John Hipp has been farming in east-central Ohio since 1951. For the last 18 years he has also been producing bark mulch, which he sells wholesale to big retailers based in the Cleveland area and also to local landscapers.

      Hipp Mulch and Bark Farms is a division of Hipp Farms, which owns about 1,800 acres on which it raises cattle, soybeans and corn. “We rent another few hundred acres,” added John.

      Hipp Farms has about 1,000 head of cattle. “We sell cattle every couple of weeks,” he said. Soybeans go to market. The corn is used on the farm to feed the cattle in winter.

      When John decided to start a business to produce bark mulch, he chose a grinder from a company that got its start on the farms of North Dakota. He bought a machine from Haybuster Mfg. Co., now DuraTech Industries of Jamestown, N.D., which manufactures the DuraTech and Haybuster brand of equipment.

      The Haybuster name reflected the role the company’s equipment took in easing the work of farmers. Haybuster machines, which could be powered by a farm tractor, were designed for grinding hay for livestock. Haybuster also developed other products, such as rock pickers and no-till drills.

      John was so happy with the performance of his Haybuster equipment that he stayed with DuraTech when he later bought his first wood grinder. Since then he has owned several DuraTech grinders.

      “We trade about every three or four years,” said John, explaining his series of DuraTech grinders. “It’s what we always used.” With his last few new purchases, he explained, he has sold his used DuraTech machines to a nearby waste recycler that collects junk pallets and other scrap wood and processes them into colored mulch. The machines have plenty of service left in them, he said.

      Late last year, Hipp Mulch and Bark Farms bought its newest DuraTech machine, a DuraTech model 3010 tub grinder. The DuraTech model 3010 industrial tub grinder was introduced to the market in late 2002 at the Solid Waste Expo in Toronto. It has an oscillating stacking conveyor, a wet clutch, and a self-cleaning radiator screen.

      “The first thing I did with it,” said John, pointing to the new DuraTech 3010, “I ground 60,000 bushels of corn through it for cattle…to silo.” John’s employee built a special insert for the DuraTech 3010 so that he could “drop corn in right down on the hammers,” he explained.

      It takes 15 to 20 minutes for the DuraTech 3010 to churn out a “semi-load, 90 yards” of split corn, said John, and “20 to 30 minutes for bark” in the same proportion. If the bark is wet, it will take a bit longer, he said.

      Corn and bark are not the only things that have filled the DuraTech 3010. “We grind a little hay,” said John.

      April, May and June are the busiest months for grinding bark waste. Four
employees work full time to keep up with demand.

      The DuraTech 3010 tub grinder is loaded with a Komatsu 450. The conveyor off-feed goes directly into a waiting truck.

      The DuraTech 3010 is fed mixed hardwood bark that is retrieved from mills as far away as Clay, W.V. some 250 miles south of Millersburg. However, most of the bark comes from small sawmills run by Amish proprietors within a short distance Millers­burg.

      Approximately 3,500 people live in Millersburg, the seat of Holmes County.

      In 1945, John’s brother, who has since passed away, started a sawmill in Millers­burg. When the mill began accumulating bark waste, John decided to start grinding it and selling it. That led him to purchase his first piece of equipment in the long line of DuraTech machines he has owned.

      The sawmill no longer is in operation. John purchased the site and uses it as a feedlot, and it is where the mulch business is based.

      Both John’s son, John Dr., and his son-in-law, Mike Fair, work with him in his businesses. His son is more focused on trucking and Mike is more focused on farming, but there is a lot of cross-over. “It’s a family business,” explained John. “The operator of the mulch business, Robert Henry, has worked for us for over 30 years.”

      During the peak season for making mulch, the DuraTech 3010 ran eight to 10 hours each day and performed well, said John. He estimates the DuraTech 3010 has accumulated 800 hours since it was put in service last fall.

      After mulch grinding operations conclude for the year, the DuraTech 3010 machine, like others that came before it, will be washed out and converted to grinder cattle feed. The flexibility that the DuraTech 3010 tub grinder has to serve two roles is important to John’s business.

       “We haven’t had much in the way of problems” with DuraTech, said John. “That’s why we keep buying” them. “We’ve just always been pretty satisfied with them.”

      The DuraTech 3010 was purchased from Baker & Sons Equipment Co. in Lewisville, which is about 90 miles southeast of Millersburg.

      John values the good working relationship with Baker & Sons Equipment Co. “We get along real good with Vaughn Christy,” said John. Vaughn is a sales representative for the equipment dealer.

      The rapport begins with good understanding, said Vaughn. “Being able to sit down with customers and find out what fits their needs” is one of the pleasures of his job, he explained.

      Vaughn frequently stops by the Hipp operation if he is the area, said John. And if the DuraTech 3010 at Hipp Mulch and Bark Farms needs a part, Vaughn sees that it is delivered, usually dropping it off himself, in less than a day.

      “We have on-call technicians,” said Vaughn. So if anything develops with a piece of equipment that requires more than a simple part replacement, the experts stand ready to help.

      “Service is a big thing to people that we sell to,” said Vaughn. He explained that taking a piece of equipment out of service is costly for small businesses, so dependability of equipment and good service must be tightly linked.

      Baker & Sons Equipment Co. has been doing business for 40 years. It sells DuraTech grinders in Ohio and portions of West Virginia and Pennsylvania. It also sells other equipment that it distributes as far south as Florida and many other states. “We have 75-plus years experience in parts,” said Vaughn.

      John likes to travel when he gets free time. “I’m 73 years old,” he said. “I should retire, but I enjoy what I do too much. I did drive to Alaska this summer. Alaska was some place I always wanted to see.”

            Last year, John went on a farm tour of Australia and New Zealand. “I took my grandson,” he said. “We stayed with farm families in Australia.” The fires that spread across Australia in the summer of 2003 clouded that part of the trip a bit. But New Zealand proved as beautiful as books and videos promise, said John. Differences between farming in the United States and farming in Australia and New Zealand seemed not to exist, he said.


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