Although many farmers are familiar with their grain handling products coated in green, red, blue and yellow paint, the quality underneath the colors of J & M Manufacturing’s equipment is one thing that has never changed.
In 1960, a time when the tool and die business was becoming sporadic, brothers Jerome and Maurice Grieshop decided to get into an industry that was a little more steady and tried their luck in the wagon building business.
“The first wagon they built held 129 bushels and sold for $127,” said Jeffrey Grieshop, J & M Manufacturing’s Vice President. “Since then things have changed some and now we make 1,500 bushel grain carts that sell for $150,000.”
Although everything that J & M Manufacturing builds is done at their 65-acre Ft. Recovery, Ohio location, they have not limited themselves when it comes to where their products are put to use. In fact, the boardroom at J & M features huge maps on adjacent walls — a U.S. map and a world map. Each map is dotted heavily with gold tacks highlighting the global locations where equipment with the J & M logo is used.
That growth over the past 50 plus years represents many types of grain handling equipment that come off of the J & M assembly line in Mercer County.
“For a number of years we made nothing but gravity wagons and accessories,” said Shannon Grieshop, J & M sales manager. “It wasn’t until the 1980s that we designed a grain cart and that design is what really put our company on the map and allowed us to grow.”
That design included a grain cart auger patent acquired by Maurice Grieshop in the late 1980s. The improved visibility resulting from the new design has since made J & M the preferred grain cart for many farmers.
The success of J & M has allowed the company to grow into more agricultural products. They now produce soil conditioners, seed tenders and header transports as well.
J & M has seen many great years and equally as many lean years in the agricultural economy. They have had to develop strategies that would allow the company to survive through the not-so-good days of farming, but cutting corners on the quality of their equipment has never been part of the thought process.
“I think 25 years ago we actually lost sales because we were overbuilt and therefore higher priced,” Shannon said. “Since then, the farmer and their situation has changed. They no longer work in a factory all week and come home to farm on the weekends. Today’s farmers have grown to such a size that they want quality products. Whatever they think they’ve saved on a product by buying it at a lower price, they lose, and then some, when they find themselves broken down in the middle of a field.”
For many years now, technology has boomed in the agriculture sector and, for the most part, all of that new technology is being used in front of the hitch. J & M is starting to bring some of precision agriculture aspects and the use of “the cloud” into their line of iron behind the hitch. The upcoming high-tech grain carts from J & M are driven by the wants and needs of the farmers. Now, growers can gauge the moisture of the grain in the cart, measure just how much grain they are taking from the combine and putting in the hauler. This data is conveyed, in real time, to the owner of the farm so they can know exactly what is happening on their operation.
In an industry where a product can be identified from a mile away simply because of its color, J & M decided in the mid 1980s to cater to every farmer’s palette and moved to a color scheme that is more diverse than their a more orange-red trademark tone used in their earlier days.
“It started with red and green, very simply, as the two choices that we offered when the idea came to be,” Shannon said. “Then New Holland dealers asked why we couldn’t do blue, so we did. Then Caterpillar yellow was added along with an AGCO orange. Now we can do any color down to a specialty order. I haven’t seen a scarlet and gray grain cart yet, but I can’t imagine that is too far off.”
That “catering to the customer” aspect of J & M Manufacturing also shows up in growth of products offered, growth on a global scale and, more recently, expansion of their Ft. Recovery facilities to allow for more growth and new ideas for years to come.
“It was hard to believe 10 years ago that things would be good up to today, but they have been,” Shannon said. “From what we are seeing in our business, I don’t see any reason why J & M won’t continue to prosper. Sure we are seeing $4 corn, but it is still a thriving market. If we do what we always have since 1960 and focus on the farmer’s needs and give them quality products, the rest will follow.”
“We are really excited about the outlook and what is coming up next for J & M,” Jeffrey said. “We just received another new patent on a grain cart design and we believe that will gain more market share for us in years to come. We are always trying to come out with something new and desirable for the farmer and these new facilities and visionary employees will keep us ahead of the game.”
The need for improvement and new innovations is not simply motivated by the bottom line at J & M. With the prosperity they have built also comes great responsibility. The company that once had 50 employees now has closer to 200. The forward thinking happening on the drawing boards and in the prototypes being created is motivated by this “extended family” behind the scenes of J & M.
“As I was growing up, my Dad would always get asked if he ever expected his company to be as big as it was,” Jeffrey said. “He always said he was just hoping to make it to the next day.”
Those days soon turned into years, then into decades. More important than the time that has passed since Jerome and Maurice put the welding iron to the first grain wagon, is the generations that are literally carrying that torch and putting those very familiar initials on quality equipment in fields worldwide.
VIDEO: Here is a “Behind The Scenes” look at how J & M grain carts are manufactured in Ft. Recovery, Ohio.