In business since the 1960s, BHM Farm Equipment is sticking to its roots with old-fashioned customer service.
The North Annville Township company, after decades of changes in the industry and recent buyouts of other local dealerships, is believed to be the only remaining independent, single location, new tractor dealership in Lebanon County.
The early years
BHM opened Jan. 1, 1967, named for the initials of the three brothers-in-law – all farmers – who established it: Warren Barnhart, Carl Hostetter, and Henry Meyer.
Initially, under the Allis Chalmers brand, the business sold farm tractors; lawn mowers and garden tractors (built by Simplicity); Gleaner combines; hay tools; tillage equipment, including plows and discs; and corn planters.
Under the New Holland brand, BHM sold hay tools (mowers, rakes, balers); forage equipment (pull-type harvesters, silo blowers, wagons); manure spreaders; and skid loaders.
The industry changes
The farming and equipment landscape changed drastically with the 1980s farm crisis, which produced low commodity prices. Agriculture became less profitable, and subsequently the need for new equipment dropped. Large manufacturers merged.
Deutz-Fahr, a German company, bought Allis Chalmers in 1985; the remaining Allis-built tractors were rebranded as Deutz-Allis.
Once they were sold, all Deutz-Allis tractors were Deutz designs, and the paint was changed from orange to lime green. The color switch turned off many loyal Allis customers.
AGCO (Allis Gleaner Corp.) formed in 1992 and returned to U.S.-based ownership. Eventually, AGCO would absorb many remaining brands of farm equipment besides Allis and Gleaner: Oliver, White, Minneapolis Moline, Cockshutt, Massey Ferguson, Fendt, New Idea and Hesston. All, at least in part, eventually ended up under the AGCO umbrella.
AGCO tractors sold through the 1990s were built and designed by various manufacturers worldwide. Also in the 1980s, Case and International Harvester merged to form Case IH in 1984, and Ford Tractor Co. and New Holland Equipment merged in 1986, giving New Holland a presence in the tractor market. Case IH and New Holland merged in 1999, creating CNH.
By the early 2000s, only a handful of major tractor and equipment companies remained. Family farms were becoming less common, and larger farms took over. New equipment was priced higher than the family farmer could easily afford.
BHM in transition
Manufacturers wanted large, regional dealers to handle the new, large equipment. As a result of this, BHM, like many small dealers, lost the contract to sell AGCO and New Holland Equipment in 2006.
By then, Ellis Meyer, son of Henry Meyer, was the sole owner of BHM. Ellis recognized the need to have a compact tractor line and brought in Kioti in 2007.
Kioti is more than just a tractor brand; the company designs and manufactures the tractor, engine and transmission. Daedong, Kioti’s parent company, is a South Korean-based manufacturer of tractors, industrial equipment, gears, chains and automotive parts. Working with the actual manufacturer of the product is key to successful long-term support.
Today the business continues to provide parts and service support for the Allis and New Holland Equipment products sold through BHM.
The Kioti brand of tractor has grown significantly, too, as they have performed well for property owners, landscapers and farmers.
Kioti expanded its offerings from compact tractors to include 22 horsepower to 145 horsepower tractors; diesel-powered utility vehicles; and zero turn mowers (gas and diesel powered). Skid loaders and a track loader are coming soon.
BHM also continues to carry Simplicity riding tractors and zero turn mowers.
There isn’t an automated message when you call BHM. Employees still strive to know each customer by name, and to treat each customer with integrity, care and respect. Calling customer service old-fashioned is fine by them; BHM has no plans to change.