When the planting season comes, growers want to be prepared and confident that they can rely on the machinery they are bringing out to the field will perform. And any unexpected downtime during this crucial period. When it comes to fertility for Joe VanQuaethem of VanQuaethem farms in Eden, Ontario, they depend on their Salford ST-10 to set them up for success year over year. Through trial and error, they determined the need for a dependable, easy-to-use, and high-quality machine is what they need to ensure they can get fertilizer down accurately and with the least amount of fills possible.

We took the scenic 20-minute drive from Salford headquarters to Eden, just outside of Tillsonburg, and spoke with Joe, the guy who focuses on production and all things tech for the 9,000-acre cash crop farm, about their operation and discussed how the Salford ST-10 has been a key tool in their operation.

Tell us a bit more about VanQuaethem Farms: We farm approximately 9000 acres, depending on the year and mostly corn and soybeans. Our main farm is just outside of Tillsonburg in Eden, Ontario.  We farm sound the Oxford county area all the way up to Woodstock, Delhi, and around the lake area. We have many different locations in Ontario, Canada.

My dad had started, around the mid-eighties which was when he actually officially became a corporation. And then I had started full time after completing university in Guelph from the Agricultural program around 2011 and have been fulltime since.  

Depending on the time of the year our workforce fluctuates. Including my dad and brother, we have 6 to 7 full-time people. And then in the fall, we ramp those numbers up to accommodate harvest where we will get some additional staff to help.

Can you describe your role with the farm? In my role here, I touch on a bit of everything with my main focus on production. Anything equipment related is what I deal with and any kind of tech-related items. Now I have trained employees I am able to pass some of the tech stuff on to and they’re doing a great job with it and seem to enjoy. All of the equipment purchasing, I would evaluate what specific things that we’re looking for, and manage that process. My dad still deals with our general marketing but I also fill in where is needed from spraying, planting or driving truck. It is an all-hands-on-deck role.

What Salford machines do you have in your fleet today? Currently, we have an ST-8 on our one planter and we have the ST-10 which is in the back here on our other planter. Both planters are Exact-Emerge John Deere 16 rows and we do plant with them at the 9 to 10 mile an hour like they’re supposed to be. We have had the ST-8 for 6 years and the ST-10 for about 5 ish years, give or take. And, I am currently looking to add another 24 row Exact-Emerge and with an ST-10 the back of that as well.

What does your fertility plan look like and how does the ST-10 fit into that plan? So, a lot of the things and I think a lot more people are finding it as well is the benefits of banding dry fertilizer on their planters. Especially around areas like this where there’s a lot of sand, like Eden which can see fertilizer leaching problems, with putting liquid down. People have been doing it for a while, but it’s been with bucket planters which end up requiring fill-ups every 8 to 20 acres depending on your system. That is really not efficient when you come to big acreage and everything else.

So, we knew we had to do something if we wanted to keep our fertility plan as it should be. So, we did do a year where we tried liquid starter on our planter and it was a disaster. So, realized this wasn’t going to work and we had to make a big change. We started going to carts and we did not have good results with the [COMPETITOR] system. There’s a list of things I didn’t like about it. So, we were shopping around, and we got our first ST-8 and haven’t looked back since.

What stood out to you most about the ST-10 vs. other carts you had used in the past? There are a lot of different things, but I guess the main one would be the auger. The metering system in our other cart was all internal and on the Salford it’s external. Meaning, sometimes as soon as you fill up, you can get a dusty batch of fertilizer, causing bridging in the tank. The design of the [COMPETITOR] tank was not angled very well, so there was no flow of fertilizer either. With no flow and you get bridging, and you couldn’t look at the metering system, so there’s no way to get in there and, see if there’s something going on. Where the Salford, you can easily access the machine, closed the doors, take the rollers out, and inspect them. Doesn’t matter if it’s full, empty, or in between.

So that was huge. Honestly, that was the biggest pain for us. The fertilizer flow in the previous cart just wasn’t working. And then on top of that, when it was flowing properly, the accuracy would change so much depending on the different fertilizers. Depending on your blends, where you got it from, which company, densities, and everything else. The Salford’s roller metering system, it doesn’t matter, all different densities and everything else, it essentially just stays the same. Now you can change on your rate controller, slow it down, speed it up, but  overall you can just put in your weight, ensure it is calibrated and just go all year and not have to worry about fluctuating rates.

Plus, the durability is great. I haven’t had anything really major maintenance wise. I had a tire blow which is not the cart, just simple things like that. But, the durability is great. The stainless, the plastic tanks are awesome.

How often do you have to calibrate and do you manage this yourself? I pretty much do it myself. When we bought the machine Premier Norwich and Salford came out to get us set up and calibrated then honestly we didn’t have to do much since. I do have scales on my cart as well, which I recommend to a lot of people. So essentially with my rate controller weight and my scale weight, beginning of the year, I run a quick ten acres, as long as it keeps up, same weight and the same weight on the rate controller, we are real to go for the entire year. Pretty much since we got the ST-10 and had it set we haven’t had to touch them since, it just is so much easier to have that reliability in a machine year over year.

Sounds like less headaches? Way less headaches.

Describe your off-season maintenance to be ready to go each season and how that looks? We do all our planter maintenance at the home farm, we put them away after the spring, and work on them in the summer, clean them up all washed and service so when Spring hits we are ready. Spring in Ontario, Canada there is always a curve ball, but we don’t worry about the ST-10 as it will be pretty much ready to plant. The Salford it’s pretty easy to maintain because the access to pop the rollers out, open the doors wide open, and get right in there to clean out the bin nicely. It’s actually fairly easy to wash. Drop the doors in the bottom, flush everything out. And because fertilizer is tough to get out, we always want to be sure we  wash everything, check bearings on the rollers and go. Also, we do like to crown everything, every solenoid, nothing plastic but anything steel. I just crown everything up good to keep the machine looking new each year.

How was the purchasing process for you and which dealership do you work with? The Premier that I use is, it was Courtland, now it’s the Norwich location because they just merged with the Simcoe store. But they’re awesome, super responsive, and I never have to worry about parts or anything for it. And that’s one thing when I start going to brands that are off of John Deere, something else you always worry about is there going to be service for it? Because everything can work well, but eventually something might break on it with how much we are using ours. So, Salford’s relationship with Premier has been stellar to set us for success and  I’ve never had problems with parts or anything.

Would you recommend Salford? I already do! I’ve recommended Salford’s to anybody that’s asked me about a Salford because you know, not everyone has them on their planters or strip tills and we’ve had them for a while now. There’s a lot of people that reach out to me locally or on social media and ask if they’re setting up a strip-till or they’re going to dry fertilizer in their planter. I always steer them towards the Salford and I just say, don’t veer off as I’ve been through the headaches with other brands, and just trust me, save the headache, just choose a Salford.

Can you describe Salford in five words? I could describe them with simplicity probably. I would say accuracy is big. Definitely, I would say durability, definitely durable compared to other companies. Yeah, they look good on the back of the planter. It flows nicely… Oh and definitely reliable. Whether that fits in the simplicity as well but Reliable, super reliable. One less headache I have to deal with. There are enough things going on in a planter and people calling me for other jobs in the spring. If I’m running a planter, it’s just got to work every time. I have other things to worry about. So, if your fertilizer is flowing right and rates are always on and it’s just one thing you can just erase out of your mind when you’re trying to plant a crop and deal with employees and everything, just like 100%, not a question.

Give us your shameless plug to where to find you online: Yeah! Follow us. We have an Instagram, VanQuaethem Farms. Lots of content and yeah reach out if you have any questions and follow us through the season. And what we do. Mostly fall and spring and some stuff in the summer.

For more information on Salford Group visit https://salfordgroup.com