Amity air drills, carts go back to Concord brand name

Mikkel Pates
Forum News Service

WAHPETON, N.D. — The Amity brand of seeding tools is reintroducing the Concord brand, a storied name associated with the original development of air seeding technology.

With this change, effective for model year 2020, all air drills and air carts that are built in Wahpeton by AGCO-Amity JV LLC will carry the Concord name. The drills that previously would have been branded as Amity will now be given the Concord name. Ben Sander, marketing manager for Concord, said the company is inspired by “unique, innovative concepts of the original Concord,” which was a legend in seeding.

Famous name

The Concord drill was born of the need for farmers to cut costs in the farm credit crisis in the late 1970s and 1980s.

Concord Inc. was founded in 1977 by Howard and Brian Dahl. Their father, Eugene Dahl, was the former chairman of the board of Steiger Tractor Co., of Fargo. Their grandfather, E.G. Melroe, founded Melroe, the Gwinner.-based company that developed the Bobcat skid-steer loader.

Howard and Brian worked to advance technology that would replace traditional box drills and would help farmers seed and fertilize small grains and oilseed crops on increasingly large acreage. Concord also made soil sampling equipment.

The first air seeders were probably developed in Germany in the late 1960s, and then in Australia, Howard said, carrying a large amount of seed and fertilizer in a hopper and feeding it through a series of hoses.

In 1980, the Dahls met Daryl Justesen, the U.S. head of sales for the Prasco air seeder, developed in Manitoba.

Justesen headed up U.S. sales for Prasco, but the Canadian machine lacked good depth control or a good packing system.

The Dahls quickly hired Justesen as vice president of marketing. Together, they promoted the row-by-row packing and precision depth control.

Jake Gust, a farmer and engineer, held a patent on a system that used automobile radial tires to create constant weight on each packer.

The Dahls were the first to put down fertilizer below the seed at the same time as planting and the first to build a machine that could change seeding and fertilizing rates “on-the-go.”

1981 to today

The first “green Concord” went into the field in 1981 and the company sold 10 of them in 1982. The machines were popular for direct-seeding into wheat stubble and standing sunflower stalks. Concord hosted hundreds of farmer meetings, including the famed Concord Connections meetings at the Fargo Radisson Hotel and Civic Center.

“When interest rates are 18% and you’re struggling to make a profit farming, they were looking for answers,” Justesen recalled. Farmers were making four to six passes for tillage and planting per year. With the Concord, they could cut that to one- to two-pass farming and save moisture.

Justesen, retired from management but on Amity’s board of directors, remembers that a 40-foot drill with 150-bushel tank was $1,000 a foot, or about $40,000. Today, a new drill would be $5 or $6 per foot, he says. In 1984, Justesen was instrumental in developing a floating hitch.

Still going strong

Willard Hill, 83, of Veblen, S.D., is now retired on a farm run by his son, Jay, 59. Willard bought one of the first Concord drills off the manufacturing line, he says. He’s still using it today — 38 years later — seeding almost all of his soybeans with it.

Jay gives credit to his father for taking a risk on the drill, and moving the farm to new technology when he was still in college. On June 6, the Hills were using it to seed soybeans in wet, heavy soil, with no fertilizer. “It’s too wet to be working but it’s too late not to,” he said.

Early on, Justesen helped the Hills modify their machine to get through corn stalks better. They do some fall chisel plowing today. They seed more than 1,200 to 1,500 acres of beans with it every year and have used it with liquid and dry fertilizer.

Similarly, Allen Anderson, of Cavalier, N.D., grew up at the homestead his family has maintained at Hensel since 1881. “We’ve always been at the ‘bleeding edge’ of technology,” he half-joked, saying he wanted to eliminate tillage. He liked the individual seed packing and the wider packing wheel.

Anderson bought a Concord seeder in 1996, the year the Concord switched to red paint and Case-IH dealers were available for parts. Since then, the Andersons bought two double-disc drills, and in 2012 bought a 60-foot single-disc drill to replace the final Concord, and now are considering buying a new one again.

Retired farmer Willard Hill, 83, of Veblen, S.D., was in his late 40s when he bought his first green Concord air seeder. The farm still has it and seeded all of their 1,200 acres or more of soybeans with it in 2019. Photo taken June 6, 2019, near Veblen, S.D.