CUBA CITY—The Steinhart’s Farm Services business has changed hands, but not families. The business that specializes in manure spreading and feed mixing was originally established by John and Karen Steinhart in 1980. Now their nephew, Tony Steinhart, has taken over the operation.
The business has always been a family affair, with Tony’s grandpa helping out since the beginning and Tony working a variety of jobs since 1994, two years before graduating from Platteville High School. Tony started by pushing a broom in the shop and eventually did some service work. He was an active member of the National Guard from 1995-2001. In 2000 he worked in sales and graduated from UW-Platteville in 2002 with a degree in Ag business.
“A lot of the time during the summer I would stay with John and Karen,” Tony said. “I lived in Platteville and went to school in Platteville, but I would come out afterward to work. After a while John got a camper and put it out back and I would stay there all summer.”
John and Karen Steinhart have two daughters: Karrie Steinhart teaches kindergarten at St. Rose School and Jennifer (Steinhart) Bosold works in Madison.
“Neither of them had much interest in the business,” Tony said.
He said John and Karen anticipate spending more time with their two grandchildren—Ben and Austin Bosold—in the Madison area now that they’re retired.
Last April, the Steinhart’s started working with Honkamp and Krueger of Platteville draw up a plan and offer for a stock sale.
“I didn’t really buy the business, I just bought the shares of the business,” Tony said. “Karen was the president and she sold all of her shares to me. Jaime and I bought the buildings and the property separately.”
The transaction was official on Dec. 18.
“We didn’t really change anything,” Tony said. “We have all of the same employees, other than John and Karen.”
A staff of 15 keeps the business running. Tony has become the president of the company, taking on more of a management role, although he does continue to do some sales.
“I used to be on the road quite a bit, delivering equipment after I sell it,” Tony said. “Now I delegate a lot of that to the employees.”
An outside payroll company has been secured to help with freeing up staff time to take on more responsibilities passed on from John and Karen’s departure as well as Tony taking over the management of the company.
At first, Tony stayed busy switching over the vendors to reflect the new shareholder.
“One company didn’t even want to give us the dealership if it was changing ownership, but it didn’t change ownership, it was just a change in the ownership of the stock,” Tony said. “The Steinhart Farm Service Inc. stayed what it was, it didn’t change.”
The company didn’t gain or lose any vendors; it all stayed the same.
“John and Karen did a good job getting the business where it was,” Tony said. “The day-to-day stayed the same, it was a smooth transition that way.”
He said his aunt and uncle are just a mile down the road if he has any questions with the business.
“They want us to do well, too,” Tony said. “The milk prices are down a little bit, so that hurts the economy. We mainly work with livestock and manure handling, so corn prices don’t affect us much. With fuel and steel prices being down, that helps us a little bit. Milk prices a year and a half ago were double what they are now. It’s hard on the farmer’s side for what they can do. A lot of our supplies they’re using daily for feeding, so it’s more of a necessity than the new tractor they may want.”
The Internet and company website has been a very helpful tool for nationwide sales.
“We’ve sold from Texas to Florida, a mixer in Vermont and Oregon, pretty much all across the U.S.,” Tony said. “Our market is a niche market because we specialize in mixers. We don’t have skid loaders and tractors.”
Steinhart’s handles Patz feed mixers and Kuhn Knight manure spreaders.
“When feeding a cow straight hay, they don’t produce as well,” Tony said. “After they eat out of a mixer where everything is mixed together for them, they produce better. It’s a lot easier on their stomach for digesting.”
He said they sell three variations: trailers to pull behind a tractor, mounted on trucks or stationary with motors on them.
“[The Kuhn Knight manure spreader] has hammers on it and it tears the material up when it spreads it,” Tony said. “It has a side sling instead of the rear spreader that leaves big clumps in the field. The hammers pulverize the material so it spreads thinner.”
Most of the company’s business is in sales, but they do a lot of service, too. Somebody is always on call for after business hours and on the weekends.
“Once farmers get on a mixer, you don’t want to take the cows off of it,” Tony said. “We have a policy that if they break down we’ll take you another mixer to use while yours gets fixed, as long as you buy the mixer from us.”
Tony and his wife, Jaime (Weigel) Steinhart, have a 3-month-old son, Tyson, who was born on Dec. 1. Jaime Steinhart works for Ag Venture selling sweet corn. Both working in the agriculture field, they are able to bounce ideas off of each other for their jobs.
Tony said his uncle John was paralyzed in an accident the first year he was in business. After that the current Steinhart’s Farm Services building was constructed along Hwy. 80 with an apartment in the back.