IF YOU want to know what products are good, ask the people who buy them. So we did.

Farm Industry News went straight to Team FIN, our savvy group of product testers, to learn what products they bought in the last year that they would recommend to other farmers. Here's what they said.

kent lock avon, il
John Deere 6120 tractor with JD 640 loader
Honda Rancher 400
Sandidge Manufacturing cement feed bunks
Collective Soul's Youth

Kent Lock says his top buy in 2005 was a John Deere 6120 tractor with JD 640 loader. “A mighty fine tractor in the $40,000 range. The loader has lots of lifting capacity,” Lock says. “We love the left-hand reverser.”

The open-station tractor replaced a John Deere 6110, which Lock says was not a bad tractor. “But the 6120 is better,” he says. Lock uses the tractor every day on his cattle operation.

For more information, go to www.JohnDeere.com/Ag or contact your local John Deere dealer.

In a tie for second place are the Honda Rancher 400 with automatic transmission and cement feed bunks from Sandidge Manufacturing. Lock uses the Honda Rancher to check livestock and crops. “ATVs are all work and no play around here,” Lock says. “I bought it from www.abernathycycles.com for $4,900 before the price increase.”

For more information, contact Honda Motor Co., Dept. FIN, 1919 Torrance Blvd., Torrance, CA 90501, 310/783-2000, visit www.honda.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 200.

The Deep Silage cement feed bunks replaced wooden bunks that Lock says “might last 10 years if you do not hit them with the feed wagon.” He bought the cement bunks because their design would make them easy to move with a tractor-mounted 3-pt.-hitch bale fork. “These bunks should last decades,” he says.

The suggested list price is $143/bunk. For more information, contact Sandidge Mfg., Dept FIN, 58948 Molly Branch Rd., Russellville, MO 65074, 888/333-7066, visit www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 201.

In third place is the new CD from Collective Soul called Youth. “The band Collective Soul has just enough repetition mixed with musical talent to keep my corn rows crooked,” Lock says. Visit www.collectivesoul.com or www.collectivesoulblvd.com.

daryl bridenbaugh pandora, oh
Woods Batwing rotary cutter, model BW 180

“I didn't buy anything this year but did lease a Woods Batwing rotary cutter,” says Daryl Bridenbaugh, an Ohio State graduate who farms 1,000 acres of row crops. The model was a BW 180, which is 15 ft. wide. The lease price was $4.25/acre covered. Bridenbaugh read ads and talked to dealers about the product before leasing it.

Bridenbaugh used the chopper on his CRP ground, wheat stubble, grass waterways and ditch banks. “I have an older 12-ft. chopper that has no wings and does not flex, so it gouges the ground a lot on uneven ground,” he says. “The Batwing flexes up or down depending on the terrain. That helps to keep the blades sharp since it is not biting into the ground.”

One of the features he liked most about the Woods Batwing is that the top deck has a forward slope. Straw and other cuttings that pile up on top slide off with the normal vibration of the machine. “When I was done, there were only a couple buckets of debris on the deck,” he says. “On my other chopper I have to take a pitchfork to the field to clean off the deck, sometimes several times a day.” Because the debris is a fire hazard, Bridenbaugh says having a chopper that cleans itself is a big advantage.

Cleaning time was cut by at least 15 minutes every day. The added width also meant that he could finish mowing sooner. “The product is excellent for mowing rough ground like ditch banks and CRP ground,” Bridenbaugh says.

For more information, contact Woods Equipment Co., Dept. FIN, Communications Dept., Box 1000, Oregon, IL 61061, 866/869-6637, visit www.WoodsEquipment.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 202.

gary and jack appleby tuscola, il
DeWalt 2-gal. cordless or corded wet/dry vac, model DC500
Case IH MRX 690 chisel plow

Gary and Jack Appleby, who farm more than 3,200 acres of row crops, says this 2-gal. DeWalt cordless vac was well worth the investment. This wet or dry vac operates off of a 12 to 18v DeWalt battery pack or a 120v AC electrical outlet. Gary says that, because the vac is cordless, he can easily carry it in his truck to vacuum the combines, tractors and other farm equipment.

“We don't have to return whatever is being vacuumed to an electric outlet,” he says. “It can be done in a field.” The Applebys bought the product on sale for $140. They say it is small, handy and would be a good fit for anyone. Other FIN readers have agreed with the Applebys' assessment. The DC500 won our 2005 FinOvation Award in the Best Tool category.

For more information, contact DeWalt Tools, Dept. FIN, 701 E. Joppa Rd., Baltimore, MD 21286, 800/433-9258, visit www.dewalt.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 203.

Another tool the Applebys purchased was a Case IH MRX 690 chisel plow. They bought the chisel plow for $22,000 after seeing it demonstrated by their local Case IH dealer. “We needed a chisel plow because the one we had, an M&W model, was worn out,” Gary says. “It is the same size as the old one but built much heavier, so it does an excellent job of leveling the ground.”

The rear disk of the MRX 690 is hydraulically operated, which speeds up fall tillage, according to the Applebys. “You can raise and lower the disk on the go depending on how level you want the ground and how much residue you want covered,” Gary says.

For more information, contact Case IH, Dept. FIN, 700 State St., Racine, WI 53404, 262/636-6011, visit www.caseih.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 204.

chuck myers lyons, ne
60- × 90-ft. Morton machine shed

Chuck Myers, who farms about 1,700 acres, says his best buy was a 60- × 90-ft. Morton machine shed. “I had another Morton building that served as both a shop and machinery storage,” Myers says. “But it was a hassle getting machinery in and out and finding enough room to work on things. So now I have machinery storage in one building and a shop in the other.”

The new building has two 30-ft.-wide doors, one on the end that is 16½ ft. high and the other on the side that is 15 ft. high to allow room for his combine, headers, grain cart, trucks and planter. The doors create a J-shaped travel path that makes it easier to get machinery in and out of storage.

“They are AlumaSteel doors, which makes them lightweight yet very strong,” Myers says. The shed also has two walk-in doors, two 4- × 3-ft. windows, and six skylights that allow for natural light.

Because the shed is several miles from his farm shop, Myers added a small work area in the new storage shed. “I had an electrician wire the building, and I poured a small slab of concrete and put in a workbench,” he says.

Myers says the shed preserves the condition and value of his farm equipment by protecting it from the elements and also frees up his shop, making his machinery repairs more efficient.

The list price at the time Myers contracted was $47,000, which he says would be higher now because of increased fuel and steel prices. Myers also got quotes from two other builders. He says Morton offered the best quality at a price that was 10% lower than that of the closest competitor. “I'm very satisfied with what I got,” he says.

For more information, contact Morton Buildings, Dept. FIN, Box 399, Morton, IL 61550, 800/447-7436, visit www.mortonbuildings.com or freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 205.

paul gervais tracy, mn
DeWalt heavy-duty XRP 18v cordless combo kit

Paul Gervais of Tracy, MN, says his best buy in 2005 was a six-piece set of DeWalt 18v cordless tools. He found them online at www.MaxTools.com after typing in “cordless drill.”

“They're good-quality tools, and they are really handy,” says Gervais, who farms 1,500 acres of corn and soybeans and custom feeds 900 feeder pigs per year. “I wouldn't be exaggerating to say I use them every day.”

Priced at $599, the combination kit includes a ½-in. hammerdrill/drill/driver, reciprocating saw, circular saw, impact driver, cut-off tool and flexible floodlight. Included as a bonus were a 12v portable car starter and a rebate for a free tool.

Gervais uses the tools for everything from taking off truck tires to drilling panels on a combine whenever he is away from a power source. Powered by two 18v XRP batteries and a charger, the tools have more power and more options than the cordless drill that he had before. “The only drawback is they are heavier because they have bigger batteries,” he says.

For more information, contact DeWalt Tools, Dept. FIN, 701 E. Joppa Rd., Baltimore, MD 21286, 800/433-9258, visit www.dewalt.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 206.

jeff ryan cresco, ia
iPod Nano and a VIP pass to the Bob & Tom Show

“My nomination for a Team FIN Best Buy is an iPod nano (www.apple.com/ipodnano) and a VIP pass to the Bob & Tom Show (www.bobandtom.com),” Jeff Ryan says. “For $29.95, I can get a six-month subscription [to the show], or for $54.95 I can get a one-year subscription that allows me access to the archives where I can download the daily four-hour program without commercials.

“It only took a few minutes in the combine to find out that I absolutely love this device, this capability, and this show in particular,” Ryan continues. “Some sharp wit in a conversation tends to keep my brain a bit more focused than random tunes playing in the background.

“I simply plug in my iPod to the cigarette lighter, tune the dial down to the lower end of the FM dial, search the menu to load the show and then hilarity ensues. Given enough time, I may discover other things to take with me on the iPod, but for now, the crew from WFBK in Indianapolis is far and away the best thing out there.”

erik petry rochelle, il
Agri-Business Solutions

Erik Petry, who farms as a partner with his father on 4,000 acres, says his best on-farm investment was a risk management consulting service from Agri-Business Solutions, based in Peoria, IL. “The firm not only consults on marketing but also looks at your farming operation as a whole, tying in your crop insurance plan, yearly cash flow, inputs and personal goals,” Petry says. “It then constructs a plan that will result in the business obtaining its financial goal.”

Each Monday at 6:15 a.m., Petry joins a conference call with various experts who say what they think the market is going to do and why. Petry also consults individually with Chip Nellinger, one of the firm's marketing advisors.

Other services include financial analysis, business restructuring, estate planning, transition planning and tax preparation. The annual consulting fee is $0.03 per bushel on corn, $0.07 per bushel on soybeans and $0.05 per bushel on wheat.

For more information, contact Agri-Business Solutions, Dept. FIN, 1615A W. Candletree Dr., Peoria, IL 61614, 309/691-5706, visit absreport.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 207.