- DTN Headline News
IA Farmer Raises the Toolbar
Wednesday, May 23, 2018 12:01PM CDT
By Des Keller
Progressive Farmer Contributing Editor

There is scant activity on an early-spring morning on the streets of tiny Paton, in central Iowa. What movement there is on this sunny, chilly day seems to be occurring at the Paton Pit Stop convenience store, on the east edge of town. The Pit Stop is across the street from a John Deere plant that makes planters and disk rippers.

Behind the Pit Stop, several hundred yards to the north, is a second, newer facility, Bauer Built Manufacturing. Founder Vaughn Bauer, the farmer and entrepreneur who began modifying farm equipment 41 years ago, is responsible for the presence of both the John Deere plant (120 employees) as well as his own (60-plus employees) in a town of 230 people.

Bauer and his wife, Lori, built their original manufacturing facility in the garage behind their first house in the middle of town. He started modifying planters and cultivators there and, within a few years, moved to a larger machine shed adjacent to the garage.

In the early 1980s, Bauer first adapted a John Deere planter so a 12-row 30-inch unit could be folded up and transported more easily. He did it first for himself then for other area farmers. Word spread, and eventually, he was adapting planters for dealers and producers around the Midwest. He handled all brands of equipment, generally using his planter units installed on his wider-than-usual planters.

In 1989, Bauer built his own planter from scratch. Six years later, he redesigned the front side of the Bauer Built toolbar to configure any row width. In 2002, he began working exclusively with John Deere on cobranded planters. Eventually, in 2013, John Deere bought out the Bauers. Vaughn Bauer continues to collaborate and work on specialty order projects for Deere from his newer factory down the road.

DIVERSIFIED PRESENCE

Meanwhile, at the convenience store, it occurs to me a stool might come in handy on which to seat one, or both, of the Bauers for some photography. Back inside the Pit Stop, I ask the women at the counter if I can borrow one of their sturdy, metal-frame stools for a half-hour, explaining the purpose.

"Sure, you can borrow them," she says with matter-of-fact obviousness. "The Bauers own those stools." Not just the stools, as it turns out. Vaughn and Lori co-own the entire Pit Stop as well as 209 Main, the nice restaurant/bar two blocks away. The couple opened both as their machinery business thrived. Paton had no convenience store/gas station prior, and the restaurant came in handy to feed customers and vendors visiting Bauer Built.

"We were just doing whatever we could to make a living," Vaughn says of the beginning of the business, originally called Paton Machine and Welding. "There wasn't enough farming for all of us," he says of the family operation on which he worked part-time with his father, Verne Bauer. Vaughn started in the business after finishing a year at Iowa Central Community College, where he earned a machine shop certificate. He and Lori, who had been dating since high school, were married in 1980.

"Vaughn was always making something," Lori says. "We spent many weekends back when we were first dating going to antique tractor pulls, where Vaughn and his brother [Kevin] ran the sled." That would be the only pulling sled Vaughn ever purchased, as he has built many of his own design—one used not only across the U.S. but overseas.

"My mom thought we were crazy," Lori laughs. "Two young kids going to tractor pulls on dates."

TOWN RECOGNITION

It would be a mistake to assume Vaughn and Lori have slowed down in the wake of the buyout. Today, Bauer Built Manufacturing not only handles special orders for farm equipment, it has opened its doors to manufacturing heavy equipment and builds the aforementioned tractor-pulling sleds.

"He's put Paton back on the map," says John McCormick, who farms at nearby Churdan and is president of the Greene County Farm Bureau. "They've created a restaurant and a nice truck stop. And, to get a John Deere plant in a town of 230 people is unheard of," he added.

In 2015, Bauer was recognized with the Greene County Farm Bureau Distinguished Service to Ag Award. "The Deere Bauer Toolbar is used on all 60-foot to 96-foot John Deere planters, which are sold worldwide," the official release reads.

Greene County engineer Wade Weiss moved to the area in 1993 and had occasion to use the Bauers for fabrication work on county equipment.

"They are very community-minded people," says Weiss, "they give back. They are the same people I met in 1993, and they don't act any differently today."

As for the Bauer products, "they are ever-evolving," Weiss continues. "They didn't just have one planter design, make money from it and never change it. It is constantly evolving. Vaughn actually farms, so the products he's using, he's also researching."

ALWAYS IMPROVING

Bauer farms an 8,000-acre operation with his son, Adam, and son-in-law Scott Walker. He's most comfortable in the cab of a tractor but is equally at home walking the factory floor interacting with his workers, doing as much listening as he does talking.

"I don't do an office very well," he says by way of understatement.

One afternoon, we caught up with Vaughn planting corn. He'd added a row cleaner unit along with the fertilizer discs. "We're putting 15 gallons of nitrogen 4 inches from the seedbed," Bauer says. "We've never done that before."

This new setup is working well, but the rig is heavy. "If we continue to put nitrogen on like this, the tractor is going to get bigger," Bauer says. As the planting continues, he talks about how the exclusive agreement with Deere in 2002, "put our planters in multiple markets everywhere overnight. In return, I put them in a market of planters [wider] that they wouldn't have gotten into for another five or seven years."

The respect Bauer has from Deere is clear. The Deere Bauer toolbars are the only cobranding John Deere has ever done on equipment in the U.S.

"Vaughn had a customer's understanding of what is needed and designed an innovative toolbar to do that," says Kristi Christensen, who, as factory manager for John Deere in Paton, worked with Bauer. "He built things of quality and ran a really good business -- those are things that made him an enticing partner. Vaughn continues to innovate for us and work on new designs to grow the Deere Bauer brand."

LABOR OF LOVE

When we left Bauer at the end of the workday, he was still in discussions with coworkers at Bauer Built Manufacturing, and wife, Lori, was still on the job in the factory's office. She often assists in the daily operations of the facility. She gets teary-eyed recalling how she used to make dinners years ago for workers at their first factory, now owned by Deere.

"They would be working late to get toolbar orders finished," Lori says. "I think I get too attached to everyone." Their new factory is equipped with a nice commercial-sized kitchen, but the availability of their nearby restaurant, 209 Main, has reduced the need.

Speaking of 209 Main, we stopped there for dinner at the end of the day. The fried pork tenderloin sandwich, a thin-pounded, breaded piece of meat twice the size of its bun, is a must-eat. Your beer stays cold on a "frost rail," like a mini-frozen river around the edge of what is fittingly named "The Tool Bar." Seems everyone likes a really cleverly designed toolbar.

(ES/)


blog iconDTN Blogs & Forums
DTN Market Matters Blog
Editorial Staff
Friday, May 25, 2018 9:46AM CDT
Monday, May 21, 2018 10:43AM CDT
Monday, May 14, 2018 11:26AM CDT
Technically Speaking
Darin Newsom
DTN Senior Analyst
Sunday, May 20, 2018 11:57AM CDT
Sunday, May 20, 2018 11:55AM CDT
Sunday, May 20, 2018 11:53AM CDT
Fundamentally Speaking
Joel Karlin
DTN Contributing Analyst
Thursday, May 24, 2018 9:52AM CDT
Friday, May 18, 2018 7:34AM CDT
Wednesday, May 16, 2018 9:46AM CDT
DTN Ag Policy Blog
Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor
Tuesday, May 22, 2018 2:19PM CDT
Tuesday, May 22, 2018 7:57AM CDT
Monday, May 21, 2018 10:55AM CDT
Minding Ag's Business
Editorial Staff
Friday, May 25, 2018 7:03AM CDT
Monday, May 14, 2018 1:16PM CDT
Thursday, May 3, 2018 2:33PM CDT
DTN Ag Weather Forum
Bryce Anderson
DTN Ag Meteorologist and DTN Analyst
Friday, May 25, 2018 2:31PM CDT
Friday, May 25, 2018 8:27AM CDT
Thursday, May 24, 2018 1:12PM CDT
DTN Production Blog
Pam Smith
Crops Technology Editor
Friday, May 18, 2018 10:58AM CDT
Friday, May 4, 2018 4:29PM CDT
Wednesday, May 2, 2018 3:58PM CDT
Harrington's Sort & Cull
John Harrington
DTN Livestock Analyst
Friday, May 25, 2018 5:44PM CDT
Friday, May 18, 2018 6:40PM CDT
Friday, May 11, 2018 2:58PM CDT
South America Calling
Alastair Stewart
South America Correspondent
Thursday, May 24, 2018 6:44AM CDT
Tuesday, May 22, 2018 10:54AM CDT
Friday, May 18, 2018 2:09PM CDT
An Urban’s Rural View
Urban Lehner
Editor Emeritus
Tuesday, May 22, 2018 3:21PM CDT
Tuesday, May 15, 2018 2:51PM CDT
Monday, May 7, 2018 5:32PM CDT
Machinery Chatter
Jim Patrico
Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
Wednesday, May 9, 2018 1:48PM CDT
Tuesday, May 1, 2018 4:36PM CDT
Tuesday, April 17, 2018 3:01PM CDT
Canadian Markets
Cliff Jamieson
Canadian Grains Analyst
Friday, May 25, 2018 4:22PM CDT
Thursday, May 24, 2018 4:16PM CDT
Wednesday, May 23, 2018 5:03PM CDT
Editor’s Notebook
Greg D. Horstmeier
DTN Editor-in-Chief
Wednesday, April 25, 2018 1:24PM CDT
Thursday, March 29, 2018 4:58PM CDT
Friday, January 19, 2018 5:45PM CDT
 
Copyright DTN. All rights reserved. Disclaimer.
Powered By DTN