Located in Carlisle, Ark., the Brandt manufacturing facility is smack-dab in the middle of rice country. The central Arkansas farm equipment manufacturer brings steel in through one huge set of bay doors and, after manipulation by a bevy of skilled employees, drives a variety of machines out through another.
New Brandt owner, Eddie Pitonyak, knows farm equipment. He knows farming, too — a big plus in this business.
“I grew up on a rice/soybean farm between Hazen and Stuttgart,” says Pitonyak. “My wife, Bridget, is from Carlisle, Ark. My grandfather and father both farmed, and I farmed too until 1984. At that point, the farm economy experienced a downturn, and my wife and I had two young boys. We had to try something else.”
Pitonyak got into the farm equipment business starting as a representative for an equipment company. He did that until 1992.
“At that point, I started another company that was a wholesale distributorship parts company. I ended up selling my interest in that company to a Dutch firm. Then, in 1996, I started Pitonyak Machinery Corp. and repped for companies, buying and selling equipment.”
Early in 2002, Pitonyak talked to Ed Brandt, who was running the Brandt plant in Carlisle. “We hit it off really well,” says Pitonyak. “One thing led to another, and it ended up being a good fit. I decided to buy the company last year.”
Brandt, an old, well-known company, has been around since 1913. Started by the aforementioned Ed Brandt's grandfather, Brandt equipment has always been known for its quality, says Pitonyak. And nothing, he says, has changed.
“Our customers know they're going to get top of the line work. It isn't always the most cost-effective way for us to operate, but we'll spend extra to make sure what we sell is excellent. We want repeat customers.”
If busyness of employees is any indication, farmers are buying what Brandt's selling.
“Right now, we've got around 25 employees,” says Pitonyak. “We've increased the workforce from much less than that. We appreciate the local support because we hire local people.
“We have a lot of long-time employees. The guys that have been around a while really make an effort to check on the new guys' work. Everyone is proud of their work, and they watch each other — not to nag — but just to make sure the welds are right, the augurs are right, whatever. It's got to be done properly.”
Brandt sells strictly through dealers.
“I'm very dealer-oriented and always support them. Customers need dealers for local support of parts and service. Now, we back the dealer up, and that's one of the advantages of buying from a dealer here. If you run into a tree, you can bring it to us, and we can fix it. You don't have to send it across three states.”
Right now, amid a cacophony of hammering, sawing and sizzling welding torches, the busy shop has four more grain carts to build. Then manufacturing will begin on some hipper rollers. With a full crew running, Brandt can build “about” three 850-bushel grain carts in a week.
“Our equipment is custom made. Each is run individually, tested, and we take pains on all our equipment to not cut corners. Instead of using smaller frames, smaller augur tubes, or whatever, we spend a bit extra to produce quality equipment. Brandt has always produced quality, beefy equipment and we're going to continue — and improve — on that.”
Brandt's primary business is in the Delta. But the company's loader forks and quick hitches “are sold all over this country, and they're exported too.”
All augurs are given a spin on a $50,000 computerized balancing machine at the shop's back.
“I don't care if it's ours or not, the bigger augurs have to be balanced. These are 18-inch augurs going into the carts, and they must be put in right. If you get one out of balance, it'll start shaking and make the tractor start shaking, and then the customer will be upset. We can't have that.”
Brandt manufactures two models of land levelers — NL1650 and NL1850H. What's unique about the levelers is found on the bottom of the blades.
“We start with a half-inch thick angle blade, and at the bottom we weld on a half-inch by 1.5-inch piece of plow steel. This plow steel is super hard — not just a regular wear strip. Above that we bolt on a half-inch thick poly facing. That means you can run the levelers using less horsepower through trashier, damper conditions.”
The company has three grain cart models: GCP2000 (1,150 bushels), GCP850 (850 bushels, which took the place of the 1700 model), and the GCP625 (650 bushels).
“We've been manufacturing grain carts right here in rice country for over 60 years. Rice country is very demanding on grain carts. Our main competitors are stationed in predominantly corn and soybean areas of the Midwest. We build a really nice cart and will put them up against anyone's.
“We use a 10×4 mainframe for our 850 and 2000 models. We've got a fully enclosed axle — a big, heavy axle that's adjustable on our GCP850's.”
Brandt has six models of quick hitches.
“Our hitches are very heavy, and we sell a lot of them. We shipped a batch to Australia the other day. We sell many loader forks too. Our forks are heat-treated and forged.”
The company also makes a small utility leveler. “This 3-point leveler is often used for smoothing out bean levees. We use one of these to level our lot out.”
The folding hipper rollers made by Brandt are unique.
“We've got a patent pending on these. With the HR40F model you can space out for 12-row 38-inch rows or 12-row 40-inch spacing. You can also make 16-row 30-inch spacings.”
There are two cylinders on each wing. Operators can leave them to float loose or lock them down in case of work in a precision-leveled field.
“We also use a solid, 2.25-inch shaft through every drum shaft. We don't use stub-shafts. For safety, we also have lock-down devices for our drums. We also use the super-hard plow steel on our scraper to keep it from wearing out so easily.
“We also have rigid models that don't fold. You can move furrow assemblies to 30 inches, 38 inches, whatever you want to do with them.”
“I don't mind competition,” says Pitonyak, who has a rice farm at Slovak. “On our grain carts, the main competition comes from Ohio and Iowa.”
The congressmen from those states aren't doing Delta farmers any favors, he says.
“On rice and cotton subsidies, (Iowa Senator) Grassley and his bunch are trying to cut our farmers off. A friend of mine likened Grassley to a rabid dog — he just keeps on and on.
“Anyway, the companies from that area are selling equipment to Delta farmers. They should pick up the phone and tell their congressmen that. They should say, ‘Hey, I'm doing business down there, and you've got to back off on the subsidies.’ But as long as farmers around here support them without comment, it'll be business as usual.”
Farming is tough right now, says Pitonyak. “It costs a lot of money to raise a crop here. If it weren't for subsidies, many folks in the agricultural chain would go out of business. If enough people say something, these companies will call their congressmen. We need to protect our interests.”