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Published December 29, 2009, 07:58 AM

Howard men create farm improvements

HOWARD — Randy Leith wanted a way to take better care of smaller roads in his county. Dave Clarke wanted a way for farmers to cover more ground in less time.
Both Howard men have completed their self-assigned missions and are hoping the rest of the world is ready to take notice.

By: Austin Kaus, The Daily Republic

HOWARD — Randy Leith wanted a way to take better care of smaller roads in his county. Dave Clarke wanted a way for farmers to cover more ground in less time.

Both Howard men have completed their self-assigned missions and are hoping the rest of the world is ready to take notice.

Six years ago, Leith, an experienced Miner County road construction worker, wondered if a grader attachment could be created for a compact tractor, allowing him to grade roads too small or inconvenient for traditional graders.

“We were building a road and I could see that something, if it had enough power, would fit the bill,” Leith said.

By March 2008, Leith had finished the Mini-maintainer, a hydraulically-operated blade that attaches to small tractors, of 45 horsepower or less.

Now, Leith is ready for his creation to hit the market. With a Web site already created, Leith is considering spending part of the winter shopping his creation to warmer parts of the country where dirt work is still being done.

Since he finalized the product, Leith has used it to remove snow and level dirt in the area.

“This summer, I did grade a half mile of township road whenever it needed it and … it’s honestly the best township road in Miner County,” Leith said. “It looks like a well-traveled country road.”

Leith isn’t the only one in Howard prepared to push the boundaries of what can be achieved mechanically.

Clarke, owner of Clarke Machine, recently displayed the company’s new 24-row, 20-inch spacing header at the Farm Progress Show in Decater, Ill.

“Everybody was kind of awestruck,” Clarke said.

The header, which can only be attached to some of the industry’s largest combines, is the biggest in the world, to the best of Clarke’s knowledge.

The header, which costs approximately $140,000, was designed as a reaction to the agricultural trend of farmers using a smaller number of big combines on their land.

“There are a lot of people looking at cost per acre,” Clarke said. “Instead of running two combines, they just run one big one.”

A larger header means fewer passes, and that can reduce the amount of soil compaction, Clarke said.

“The less trips they make, the less compaction they get in the soil,” Clarke said. “The farmers are real conscious of wheel and tire compaction.”

While neither Howardborne contraption has been sold, both men expect news of their creations to spread.

“When we sell one, we’ll probably sell three,” Clarke said. “It’ll just get bigger and bigger.”

But innovation isn’t the only thing Clarke and Leith have in common. The pair both graduated from Howard High School in 1969.

Clarke never expected that he and his classmate would one day be creating unique pieces of equipment.

“It wasn’t something that we dreamed of. It just happened,” he said, laughing. “It’s called evolution.”

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