Two Montanans saw some different crops and some different techniques during a recent harvest — a harvest on the opposite side of the world.
Isaac Drugge, a service technician at Torgerson’s LLC in Havre, and Lowell Harris, who works as a service technician for the farm implement dealership in Great Falls, helped out a fellow Case International Harvester dealer, Intersales, in Temora, New South Wales, during the harvest in Australia.
Drugge said he enjoyed his time working in Australia, adding that many things are the same, but many things are done differently.
“I got to learn a lot, ” Drugge said. “I learned from the technicians and dealership, and I also gave tips on how we do things up here. ”
Marty Hafliger, service manager at the Havre Torgerson’s, said the connection came about due to Torgerson’s relationship with a combine specialist from Australia.
Peter O’Connell travels around the world training technicians to work on combines, Hafliger said. He spends several weeks in Havre each year working with technicians from Torgerson’s.
“He’s kind of a got-to guy in Australia, ” Drugge said, adding, “I’ve learned a lot from him. ”
Hafliger said O’Connell asked if the Havre Torgerson’s staff members knew of anyone who might be able to help a dealership in Australia during its harvest, from October through December.
“He asked (Isaac) if he knew who would come to give a hand, ” Hafliger said.
Drugge, who lives in Zurich, said he went to Australia first — in a 14-hour airlplane flight — and later was joined by Harris.
He said it was his first trip out of the United States, and, once he got over his nervousness, had a lot of fun and learned a lot.
Harris said he had been to Australia before, some 15 years ago, when he spent a semester in college there.
“It wasn’t shocking for me, ” he said.
He also said the changes were interesting — most of the work was similar, but everyone does things a little differently.
“It was a good experience, ” he said. “We learned from those guys over there, and they learned from us. ”
Both Harris and Drugge said one major difference was in harvesting canola, which is not prevalent in north-central Montana. The oilseed is a major crop near Temora, they said.
Drugge said he learned a lot about harvesting that crop. The same combine is used to harvest grain and the oilseed, with some changes made on the equipment before switching crops.
He added that the oilseed is used as a rotation crop for the grain crops. No fields are left fallow.
“Every one of their fields produced a crop every year, ” Drugge said.
He said his work fell into two main areas: working on machinery in the field, also common during harvest in north-central Montana, and putting together, inspecting and testing headers to prepare them for delivery.
The business — the top-rated Case International Harvester dealership in Australia last year — was very busy, Drugge said. Intersales had 30 combines of the newest models to go out to customers who had never used them before. Part of the job is showing the customers how to use their new combines, called “headers” in Australia.
Drugge said he is interested in returning to Australia, possibly to a different region with a different climate and different crops, and in seeing some Australian technicians come up to help with the harvest in north-central Montana.
Hafliger said that could happen, and although nothing is final, discussions about doing just that are being held.
It could grow into a very beneficial relationship for dealers on both sides of the globe, he added.
“I think we’re just scratching the surface, ” Hafliger said.
“It’s a win-win for both dealerships, ” Drugge added.