Engrained Success: McLean family creates thriving agribusiness around grain drills

·3 min read

Aug. 6—On a back road in McLean County, the Needham family has created a thriving agribusiness that has found a national and a global following.

Since 2006, Phil Needham and his wife, Holly, have built the business — Needham Ag Technologies, LLC, 4911 Kentucky 81 North — around distributing quality made-in-the-U.S.A. parts for no-till grain drills and air seeders.

And now their 24-year-old son, Ben Needham, has found a niche in repairing, refurbishing and reselling John Deere grain drills for planting wheat, soybean and grass seeds.

"We started out in the garage of our house," Ben Needham said.

"We were a small company; we would drive into Owensboro to UPS every night and actually drop boxes off."

But now they've expanded into six warehouses adjacent from their Kentucky 81 home, and the delivery trucks come to them for pallets that ship to destinations from Kansas to Australia.

Ben Needham said they distribute 200 products — from bearings to bushings.

"As you use the equipment, the metal components that you engage into the soil begin to wear out over time," he said. "...So we sell upgraded parts that are better than John Deere's."

The Needhams rarely sell grain drill parts to local farmers because of the lack of wheat grown in Daviess County.

As far as the used grain drill machinery, which Ben Needham repairs, they're mainly purchased by midwest farmers who grow an abundance of wheat.

Ben Needham mainly refurbishes John Deere model 750 grain drills, which were produced during the 1990s. They have a 15-foot width that supports 24 seed-planting row units.

"When we had a 750 on our own farm, even prior to starting the business, we would work on it," he said. "So by having our own grain drill, we saw some of the issues that needed to be addressed and which products to improve and change."

He said a new grain drill has a price tag of $90,000, but a refurbished 750 model runs between $20,000 to $40,000, depending on how much repair and updating is desired by the customer.

Ben Needham said he's repaired and sold 25 grain drills in the handful of years he's been offering the service.

"It's hard to say how many I'll repair and sell in a year; it just depends on what's available," Ben Needham said. "In 2021, it was just a struggle to find the stuff to work on. But this year, I've already worked on more in half the year than I did in all of 2021."

Phil Needham, who is known as a wheat expert, said he's proud of what his son has accomplished.

"He's learned a lot on his own," Phil Needham said. "And he learned a lot of it from the school of hard knocks."

After graduating from Apollo High School in 2016, Ben Needham said he knew he would join the family business full-time.

"As far as sticking with the family business, I've always liked it, but redoing grain drills wasn't anything that I foresaw a long time ago," Ben Needham said. "I guess that came about all of a sudden once I saw a market for it."

{span}Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299{/span}