Monday, September 30, 2013

Vala’s Pumpkin Patch – a u-pick business gone crazy | by Shannon Peterson

Country Bakery at Vala's Pumpkin Patch
© Robert Ervin Photography, Inc.
In the early 1980s, Tim Vala decided he wanted to start a u-pick strawberry patch. He was a city boy with an education degree, but dreamed of creating a family focused farm attraction. He and his wife, Jan, bought 35 acres outside of Omaha, NE, and, by his own admission, he bought a tractor he didn’t know how to drive and planted fruits and vegetables he didn’t know how to grow.

Today, that business is one of the largest pumpkin patches in the United States. It’s a 200-acre operation (more than the original 35 acres are devoted solely to parking) that employs Tim, Jan, their three daughters, and 600 seasonal employees. The family plants 55 acres of pumpkins, offers 60 fun activities, and welcomes 200,000 visitors to Vala’s Pumpkin Patch each year.

That’s a lot of numbers, big numbers, enviable numbers. And you’re thinking, “So what?”

There’s a model here that many farm families can use to add value to their land. Believe it or not, agritourism is one of the fastest-growing niche segments in the travel industry. People are longing to escape the fast-paced, plugged-in stress of daily life. People are interested in learning about their food, where it comes from, how it is grown, who grows it. They want to re-connect with nature, explore rural life, and foster family memories.
\© Nebraska Tourism

The bottom line: People want to come to your farm, and they want to pay to do the things you do every day.

Tim Vala discovered that strawberries are in season for about 10 minutes. Pumpkins; however, can be harvested over about 40 days each fall. Those first few years, Tim noticed his visitors enjoyed taking hayrack rides, picking pumpkins, and walking in the fields. He built upon those early lessons and bit-by-bit he turned his little u-pick strawberry patch into mega fall festival.

A trip to Vala’s Pumpkin Patch is an annual tradition for families from miles around. Children ride ponies, pet bunnies, and giggle at the Pigtucky Derby Pig Races. Parents indulge in autumn comfort foods such as kettle corn, caramel apples, and chili. Corporations reserve bonfire pits to host employee events.

And, as they breathe in the crisp autumn air, visitors to Vala’s are experiencing agriculture and celebrating the harvest—even if they don’t realize it. Find out more about this Nebraska tradition by visiting

Have you been to Vala's? We want to hear all about it! Share your story in the Comments box below.

Shannon Peterson
Marketing Content Editor

Shannon joined Valley Irrigation in 2013. She enjoys traveling with her family, particularly to national parks, and she occasionally writes about her travels for Home & Away magazine. Shannon also likes reading, trying new restaurants, seeing movies, and watching Husker football and Creighton basketball. However, she and her husband spend most of their free time chauffeuring their teenage son to activities and chasing their baby daughter.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pride Resonates in New Ad Campaign | by Jill Zwiener

I grew up in a small farming community in Nebraska.

I watched my dad put in countless hours on the farm. His day began before the sun came up and never really seemed to end. Like all farmers, he put his heart and soul into his farm. Each field of corn was a reflection of who he was.

There was an epic sense of pride in his operation. Pride that he was taking care of the land his father farmed. Pride in each and every ear of corn he grew. And pride in the machines he purchased for his farming operation. You could see the pride in my dad’s eyes as he talked farming with his friends as they gathered around the table at the local bar for cheeseburgers.

Today, I see that same pride in the growers I meet. Times have changed, growers are managing more land and using precision technologies, but they still share the same pride and dedication, even when faced with adversity.

This pride I'm talking about comes to life in our new Valley® advertising campaign featuring growers. I hope you've had the chance to see our new print ad in your favorite agriculture publication. If you haven't, check it out below or click here to watch our TV spot.

Jill Zwiener
Brand Manager

Jill joined the Valley Irrigation team in 2011. She loves country music, fountain soda, food, college football, and the ski slopes of Colorado. She enjoys using photography to freeze the precious bits of time with her family into pictures that she can cherish for years.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Props to Your Valley Dealer - Tell Your Dealer Why You Love Them | by Kelly Cox

Everyone likes to receive a compliment - it gives you the warm fuzzies…and sometimes a big head, but let’s focus more on the warm fuzzies. Even your Valley® dealer likes to hear that he and his crew are doing a great job! That’s why Valley Irrigation has created a super special social page on its Facebook Timeline called “Give Props to Your Valley Dealer.” 

Though the word is used a lot in modern music lyrics and such, you may be wondering what in the world “props” is (or are). In the words of the great Google, let me explain:
noun informal
1. respect or credit due to a person.
“Kelly gave her husband props for brushing the cat without having to be asked.”

Through the "Give Props to Your Valley Dealer" social page, Valley customers like you have the opportunity to share with the world why their Valley dealer is the best! But, we won’t keep these compliments to ourselves, there’s no need to be selfish! We’ll share them on all of our social channels (Facebook, Twitter, and Google+), as well as with the dealers themselves!

Don't want to formally submit your props on the "Give Props to Your Valley Dealer" page, but still want your Valley dealer to know how much you appreciate his hard work? No problem - just use the hashtag #ValleyProps on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ along with your compliment and dealer's name (and a picture of your Valley machine, if you like)!

That being said, we want YOU to give props to your Valley dealer! Tell your dealer how much you appreciate his hard work in helping to keep your operation moving throughout the year. 

There are several ways to give props:

  • Facebook – Give Props to Your Valley Dealer social page (, or share on our Timeline using the #ValleyProps hashtag
  • Twitter – Tweet using the #ValleyProps hashtag (please also mention @ValleyPivots, if you have enough characters)
  • Google+ – Share using the #ValleyProps hashtag

Tell your dealer how much you love him today -  "Give Props to Your Valley Dealer" is only around for a limited time!

Kelly Cox
Global Digital Marketing Manager

Kelly joined the Valley Irrigation Global Marketing Department in 2008. Her love of all things geek (steampunk furniture, anime, Doctor Who, and science fiction/fantasy literature, just to name a few) helped shape her appreciation for technology and the web. Kelly is a newlywed and new homeowner, where she shares her geekery with her husband and cat Kiba. She considers herself a wine connoisseur (though, 3 buck Chuck is delicious!) and has a love of painting, dance, and singing.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Big Iron (and a little rice) | by Kelly Downing

Last week I was in Fargo, ND, for the Big Iron Farm Show. It was a very enjoyable experience for several reasons. First, the weather was beautiful, with high temperatures near 80° F (27° C), while at home in Nebraska there were another few days of very hot (97° F, or more than 36° C) weather. Second, I got the opportunity to meet with several customers and potential customers from all over the world — North Dakota, other U.S. states, Kazakhstan, Liberia, etc. Third, farm shows are always fun. Fourth, and perhaps most important, I hadn’t had any cheese curds in quite some time — it was time for a treat!

The North Dakota Trade Organization (NDTO) does a great job promoting its state, which accounted for the large number of international visitors, and it was a great pleasure to meet so many wonderful people from all around the world. I also got to spend some quality time with a couple of neat guys. Our dealer in Fargo, Ken Storm, is always fun to be around. I also got to hang out with a valued coworker, Ben Soliev. He is from Uzbekistan, so was invaluable in our communication with all the Russian-speaking visitors. Ken helped with the translations for the North Dakotans. ☺ Plus, they are both just nice guys, and it is always a pleasure to spend time with them.

We were asked to get some representative photos from the show. Here is mine:

You might notice that our display span for the show looks a little “different” than a typical machine in the field. That’s because, the night before the show, somebody hit it with a forklift! If any of you read the comic strip “Family Circus,” you can probably guess the culprit: one of those two gremlins named “Ida Know” or “Not Me.”

Other than this minor distraction, the show went very well. There was quite a bit of rain just before the show began, which forced the cancellation and delay of some field events. However, it had been very dry, so the moisture was welcome. Unfortunately for me, I had to leave the show early and go to southern Missouri and Arkansas for the rest of the week. Not that those are bad places, but the temperature was much higher. And, as you might have deduced, I am really a “cold-weather” kind of guy.

It was nice seeing the harvest down south. Lots of corn coming out of the fields and rice, too. The rice harvest is delayed this year, due to the late spring, but the crop looks good. Here are a couple of photos of the Jeremy Baltz pivot rice, near Pocahontas, AR. He is closing in on harvest and anticipates a good result.

Although it has seemed like a long time coming, harvest is approaching at home, too. I even saw several corn fields cleaned out this weekend as I drove through eastern Nebraska to visit my mom. This reminds me that I want to wish you all a very safe, productive harvest season. Take extra care and don’t rush; I want you to enjoy the fruits of all your labors! Stay in touch.

Kelly Downing
International Ag Project Specialist

Kelly, a Nebraska-based Irrigation Specialist, spent 10 years working on soil and water research projects for a major agricultural university, involving a variety of crops. His work focused on irrigation management, but also included other topics. 

Since joining Valley Irrigation, he has worked in the fields of Service, Product Management, Product Reliability and Sales. Kelly focuses on developing projects in irrigation field management and providing recommendations for the Circles for Rice project. Kelly has traveled to several countries providing technical support, such as soil moisture monitoring and irrigation management training.

Monday, September 16, 2013

You Never Know What Husker Harvest Days (or Husker Football) Will Bring | by Brooke Stover

Valley booth at Husker Harvest Days 2013
You never know what the weather will be like for Husker Harvest Days in September. Welcome to Nebraska. (We never know what the weather will be, period.) I suppose it keeps us Nebraskans on our toes – as if the Huskers don’t do that to us already (maybe it’s all in the name). Everyone please keep your fingers crossed our defense steps it up this weekend in our last non-conference game.

But I digress, back to the topic at hand. Two years ago, at Husker Harvest Days, it was 45 degrees and rainy and I, of course, forgot to bring my parka and snow boots. In 2012, we shut down early on day two because of a wind storm, which wreaked havoc on many of the booths at the show and left us all covered in a thick layer of dirt. But this year we lucked out (awesome weather on day two this time). Sure, we had a little rain, but nothing to ruin the festivities. In fact, the rain brought in even more people. It was like a tailgate in the Valley® building, but let’s be honest, it’s pretty much always a party!

Even though we can’t count on or make sure-footed bets on the weather at Husker Harvest Days, there is one thing we can count on – an amazing crowd! Being at this trade show is one of the most fun parts of my job because I get the chance to meet some of our customers and talk to our local dealers, all of whom are AWESOME! I’ve noticed that our customers have great relationships with our dealers, who have equally great relationships with Valley employees. It’s a great dynamic and creates a fun atmosphere even on a gloomy day.

All said and done, this year at Husker Harvest was a successful one – no frostbite, no dirt in our eyes, and a lot of great conversations with our dealers and customers. Let me sum it up by making another comparison between Husker Harvest Days and Husker football – sometimes the going is a little rough, but win or lose, our customers, dealers, and Valley employees make a great team!

If you’re on the fence about visiting a trade show this year, just go! It will give you the chance to be a part of the fun, meet our amazing Valley dealers, and see our products up close!

Next up on our trade show schedule:

Brooke Stover
Global Marketing Coordinator

Brooke has been with the Valley Irrigation Global Marketing department since 2011. She spends her free time taking pottery classes; though she thoroughly enjoys this, most of her stuff is a bit lopsided. Brooke also loves to read and listen to Frank Sinatra. She enjoys traveling and has been to 11 countries with the goal to make it to six more in the next six years!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Additional Gearbox Facility Provides Redundancy & Sustainability

New gearbox facility in Waverly, NE
Valley® is the only company in the irrigation industry that designs and builds its gearboxes right here in the United States. The quality is second to none, and it’s a source of pride for them.

To keep up with the growing demand and create sustainability, Valley is increasing their commitment to their customers by building a new gearbox facility in Waverly, NE. Stephen LeGrand, Vice President of Global Operations, Valley Irrigation, says the new facility will also provide necessary redundancy.

“If we ever had a disaster at our current gearbox facility in Valley, we’d be out of luck,” he explains. “This Waverly facility is about a 45-minute drive away from Valley – close enough to take advantage of the knowledge and core competency from our original facility, but far enough away for true redundancy.”

LeGrand says that having a second facility in the U.S. not only keeps the quality high, but it also provides customers with the fast turnaround they expect. “We have a very short supply chain, so we can ramp up or down as farmers’ needs change. We also provide competitive pricing against imported products, but Valley products are better built, with faster turnaround.”

Valley is building the gearbox facility at an unused site that they already owned. They are rejuvenating the site, which also helps revitalize the city of Waverly.

“It’s a win-win for Waverly and for Valley,” says LeGrand. “We have our facility at a site that’s right for us, and Waverly benefits from the employment that a new business brings to town. We’ll be hiring highly skilled workers, eventually employing 30 to 40 people."

LeGrand explains that this facility represents a significant investment in their overall business. “It’s important that our customers know we’ll be here for them in the long run, providing the best possible products and service for them.”

He says that, just like growers must invest in their farms to ensure the best possible outcome, Valmont is investing in their business, explaining, “Investments like this one will ensure that we can meet the needs of farmers today and in the future.”

Thursday, September 5, 2013

2013 Farm Progress Show Was Sizzling this Year | by Jill Zwiener

I attended the 60th Annual Farm Progress Show last week in Decatur, IL. The weather was smokin’ hot and the crowds were plenty! It was my first time attending the show and I wasn’t disappointed.

The Farm Progress Show is the nation’s largest outdoor farm show. With more than 500 exhibitors, I put a lot of miles on my ASICS checking out the various vendors. The 86-acre exhibit field featured displays from the nation’s leading large and shortline equipment manufacturers, seed and crop protection companies, livestock equipment manufacturers, and many additional agriculture input suppliers.

The crowds were especially heavy the first two days. At the Valley® booth, we had visitors from all over the world, including many from Brazil, interested in a variety of irrigation products. Some were new to irrigation and wanted to learn more about center pivots while others were seasoned pioneers looking for more information on our remote technology products, BaseStation™ and TrackNET™. Other visitors were interested in learning more about DropSpan™ and Bender160™, which were on display at our booth. And many people were excited to hear about the new Valley VFlex Corner being released in October. 

Because we had product managers and Valley dealers working the booth, it was the perfect opportunity for growers to learn more about why they should choose to invest in a Valley center pivot for their operation!

If you didn’t make it to the Farm Progress Show, you should make plans to attend its sister show, Husker Harvest Days, in Grand Island, NE, on Sept. 10-12. It’s another one-stop opportunity to see the latest in agriculture. Plus, we’ll be featuring some new products so you won’t want to miss it!

The Farm Progress Show - Did you Know?
  • For the first time in 60 years, the field demonstrations were canceled because the crop wasn’t mature.
  • The homemade ice cream on Third Street is amazing! I recommend the chocolate or half chocolate/half vanilla. Oh yes…I tried both.
  • There are about a dozen air-conditioned tents at the show. Ours wasn’t, but, we did have free ice cold water!
  • Country music singer Chris Cagle performed in concert after the show on Wednesday.

Jill Zwiener
Brand Manager

Jill joined the Valley Irrigation team in 2011. She loves country music, fountain soda, food, college football, and the ski slopes of Colorado. She enjoys using photography to freeze the precious bits of time with her family into pictures that she can cherish for years.