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Farmer helps modify equipment

Joe Bata is a third-generation farmer in Adams, N.D., and has been given the opportunity many others wish they had -- to test and improve equipment technology that will benefit the farmers and ranchers in the area.

Joe Bata is a third-generation farmer in Adams, N.D., and has been given the opportunity many others wish they had - to test and improve equipment technology that will benefit the farmers and ranchers in the area.“We always said we’d like to find the engineer that put the hose on a tractor that you can’t get at until you tear the tractor apart,” Bata says as he laughs.Bata’s son, Joey, works for John Deere, and has been able to incorporate Joe’s experience and advice into helping engineers better understand the needs of local farmers and ranchers. Engineers and technicians usually give Bata a call and schedule a visit to discuss the bells and whistles, making adjustments here and there, and then taking some test runs.“We’re really involved in engineering,” Bata says. “My boys and me kind of eat that up. When the guys come out to do it, that really gets you fired up.”  GenerationsFirst homesteaded in 1919, Bata’s grandfather received the land with help from the Homestead Acts, which allowed the Czechoslovakian immigrant to apply for quarters of land. The family still has the original patent from President Woodrow Wilson.“All the family pulled together to send him over to the New Frontier,” Bata says. “That’s where the farm started.”As a young immigrant with very little money to his name, Bata’s grandfather started the farm with just a few cows and some grain.The farm then went on to Joe’s father who maintained it, but never expanded. By that time, the family had expanded the farm from cows and grain to pigs, as well.After his father became ill, Bata and his brother handled everything on the farm, from milking cows, taking care of the pigs, planting and harvesting. And after a few years in college, Bata came home to take on the ag industry full time, first working at Pete Bjerke’s hog operation in Northwood, N.D., and later starting his own hog complex on the family farm. “I started the hog complex because grain farming wasn’t the greatest interest in my life,” he says. “I was more into livestock. So we started stock cows and a purebred hog operation and sold them all over the U.S., Mexico, Taiwan.”The Bata brothers had nothing to start a farm and their father had no extra equity, so the pair borrowed $30,000 and utilized the four quarters of land to build on after their dad’s retirement in 1986.During the 1980s, Bata moved into purebred Simmental cattle and continued to sell across the world, all while still maintaining a constant seed stock operation. He then expanded when land prices dropped, which was a first for the operation since its inception.Shortly after acquiring new land and expanding, Bata decided it was time to let go of the hog operation when the corporate world began mudling with the business.“I didn’t want to be a part of that corporate world, so our complex shut down,” he says. “That was the year pigs went down to 17 cents, when everything really got hit. We had the ideal hog situation, because of our seed stock business and because of the isolation out here.”He thinks the corporate world is here to stay unless young farmers are looking into a niche market such as organic, free-range hogs.“No, we’ll never get back into hogs,” Bata says. “We’re converting my buildings and have no interest in getting into the corporate world. We’ll never go back into that, and now I don’t see that possibility rising in this area - more in the Corn Belt.”After cutting hogs out of the business, the family slowly added more grain with the help of his sons Mark and Chris. Both took over for retiring farmers near Adams, but they continue to help their mom and dad on the family farm.Bata’s wife, Patty, also works to keep the operation moving by maintaining the books, picking up parts and keeping the business side of things moving.“I need her to keep the farm going,” Bata says.Now, the Batas seed nearly 8,500 acres and maintain about five quarters of Conservation Reserve Program land, which helps preserve area wildlife.Together, Joe and Patty earned the award for Outstanding Agriculturalists of Walsh County in 2013, and are outspoken in the community for their support of agriculture. Keeping upThe family has worked tirelessly to expand the business and keep up with technological advancements throughout the years, which has been a key to the Bata’s success.“We’ve always stayed up-to-date in the leading, cutting-edge technology, especially in the hog business when we were in it,” Bata says. “We had some of the first confinement units in the state of North Dakota. We had quite a bit of firsts in that area.”Currently, the combines and other machinery have all the latest updated technology, including mapping systems, trackers and air drills.And Bata credits the engineers and technicians he’s been working with to update and outfit the machinery with thorough advancements to help maneuver through the tough terrain in Adams.“That’s what we appreciate - a manufacturer that actually listens,” he says. “You can build a machine and run it on a 10-acre plot farm, but when you put it on 1,000 to 4,000 acres at a time, that’s truly the test of the machinery.”The first visit to the Bata farm gave the John Deere group an idea of what the Batas have dislike about their machines and what they’d like to change. After making some modifications, the team will test out the revamped product and give it a whirl in the fields, At this point, Bata thinks the machine they’ve been working on appears to be in good shape for spring.“They thought they had the problems solved until we got into heavy rock and started busting things,” he says. It’s out to lunch until we run it on about 5,000 acres,” he says. “Then we can really tell them what’s going on. With all the farming technology that’s coming so fast, the future’s there.’”Until the day of the great reveal, the excitement of being a part of technological advancements that will benefit farmers and ranchers in the area and beyond keeps Bata moving forward. And with the new technology, he says it’s hard to consider retirement.“My boys tell me, ‘You never will retire, dad,’” he says.

Related Topics: AGRICULTURE
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