Row By Row / February 2018

Tough times make you better

With 45 years on his family’s Century Farm near the northern Iowa town of Fenton, Denny Bollig has seen his share of economic cycles in agriculture. His experience working through those cycles not only influenced how he farms today, but eventually put him on the path of becoming president of Dragotec USA, the North American distributor for Drago corn heads.

“The economic cycle we are going through today isn’t much different from when I started farming in 1974,” Bollig begins. “That year, the price of corn reached nearly $4 per bushel, but dropped to less than half that just three years later. By then we had purchased land that was worth a third of the price after the markets went down.”

A Search For Efficiencies

“We lost all of the equity we had built, but my wife Darlene and I managed to pay our debts,” Bollig remembers. “The experience changed how I looked at farming. Tough times can make you better at what you do.”

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Bollig says he began look for more efficient ways of doing things, whether a new practice could reduce trips or save fertilizer, for example, and if it would pay for itself. “If you do the same thing as everyone else, it’s hard to be profitable.”

That search for efficiency led him to work with Concord, of Fargo, ND. “They had an air system that could plant soybeans with a field cultivator and precision-band fertilizer with a corn planter.

Along with running the Concord system on his own farm, Bollig did custom work and began selling the system to other farmers.

“I always liked working on equipment, building and making things,” Bollig says. “And I enjoyed helping people become more efficient.” He set up demonstrations and met farmers and dealers across the country while selling the value of the Concord system.

Concord worked with DMI, which was purchased by Case IH. With Case IH, Bollig used his skills and knowledge to help design, test and build equipment, including air-planter prototypes.

A European Connection

It was a like-minded farmer in South Dakota who introduced Bollig to Horsch, a German farm equipment maker in Germany. It was Horsch that connected Bollig with Olimac, a family-owned equipment manufacturer in Margarita, Italy, that was focused solely on building corn heads for the European market.

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“They started building corn heads in 1954, same as Deere, but the Olimac corn heads were different from the U.S. majors,” Bollig says. “It was a real eye opener in how they handled corn more gently, left less corn in the field and had a chopping option, which was new at the time. “

“They matched my need for efficiency,” he says.

In 2001, Bollig shipped his first two Olimac corn heads to the U.S. “This was a changing time for corn genetics,” he says. “Rapid dry down was one that, without the right harvest equipment, could result in tremendous grain loss.”

Bollig sold 12 of the new corn heads that next year. “Those buyers were bold to buy a brand they had never heard of before,” Bollig says, “But with so many unique features, it captured people’s attention. For them to say, ‘That’s really smart,’ was a big step forward.”

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“Those who purchase Drago corn heads today are just as bold,” Bollig says. “We connect with people who want to be more efficient, who understand how durability translates to fewer trade cycles and are looking for ways to harvest more corn.”

A Family Business

Olimac has an advantage, compared to the big companies, Bollig says, because they can be quicker and more innovative. “It doesn’t take long to see their depth of knowledge and passion – not just to keep up, but to lead.”

He says that the Carboni family, which owns Olimac, wanted to work with a family business in the U.S., rather than a large brand, according to Bollig. “They have had offers to sell, but the grandfather, Giuseppe Carboni, once told me that would be like ‘selling my son.’” Bollig, who has three sons, Dustin, Derek and Devin working with him, notes that many of the dealers they sell through are family owned and that most of his customers operate family farms. “We’re a family business that wants to stay a family business, too.

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Denny credits Kevin Anderson, a farmer from South Dakota who worked with Horsch, and Joseph Baumann from Olimac in making the key connections that led him to become the Drago Distributor for North America. He also acknowledges the work and sacrifice of his wife, Darlene, who helped manage both family and farm during the early development of their business and all his employees and dealers who support Drago and their customers.