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Minnesota Soybean Business

For Pete’s sake: Machinery Pete celebrates 30 years in business

September-October 2019

No two days are the same for Greg Peterson, aka Machinery Pete. And that’s just how the founder of the Machinery Pete business likes it.

Peterson describes most of his days as “floating down the Chippewa River, not knowing what the next story might be,” referring to the river flowing through his hometown of Benson. On this day, Peterson looked back on how this company was born and how the business has continued to grow over 30 years.

Machinery Pete’s first product was rooted in compiling auction prices of machinery all over the U.S. and Canada in one place so customers can find an accurate price on a piece of machinery.

Peterson was raised in Benson where his father was a third-generation dealer and owner of the local John Deere dealership in nearby Morris. The Petersons’ roots run deep in agricultural machinery, going back to the 1900s in North Dakota.

A self-described “numbers guy,” Peterson graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College with a degree in accounting. Peterson and his wife Jacque now live in Rochester, where they raised their two daughters, Meghan and Josie.

Looking back on where the company started, Peterson recalls his father calling him up and telling him, “Why don’t you come home and have lunch, I need to show you something.”

That something turned out to be a book with prices of machinery during the 1980s farm crisis when banks were in need of knowing what machinery was worth. They were planning on discontinuing this practice; Peterson’s father saw an opportunity for his son. Peterson then went into business on his own.

Taking care of business

Peterson was able to make his business into a success by believing in his core values. He has a motto that he continues adhering to: “Keep your head on a swivel.” In other words, Peterson is constantly in search of, well, machinery, while looking to find new ways to improve his company. This is what helped him to be consistently innovative with what he does for the company. This philosophy allows Peterson to find value in some items that others may overlook.

In 2000, Peterson launched his own website where he was able to put the information online and give easy access to others. In 2007, Machinery Pete debuted a TV show. Peterson was working diligently as a one-person business and would often only get about 3 to 4 hours of sleep each night making sure to keep up with his business. When social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube came about in the late 2000s, Peterson says he was reluctant to learn a new communications medium.

“But I knew to build the business I didn’t have time not to do it,” he says.

He was then approached to partner with Farm Journal Media, where he was encourage to keep doing what he loved. Farm Journal would handle the rest. Today, the company has relaunched MachineryPete.com to also serve as a premier marketing service for dealerships across the country. The company has also expanded its data analytics in used machinery values.

Machinery Pete celebrates 30 years in business in 2019.

Over the last 30 years, Peterson has seen a lot of change in the auctions that he attends. One of the major things would be the reach that an auction may get; before the Internet the auctions would be advertised in the local paper and only people in the region would know about this auction. You now see an auction online, and it can reach much further than ever before. There may be an auction in Minnesota, but someone from Pennsylvania could be bidding from online for that same piece of machinery.

Peterson says both computers and other forms of technology transformed his business. Interested farmers can now see video of a piece of machinery if a farmer is able to do so, and see more than just a photo.

“Now as equipment has gotten so much more expensive, that when the internet came along, it really broke down any barriers,” Peterson says.

A number of factors can play a role in how much customers are willing to pay for top-shelf machinery.

“An auction of a farmer that has a good reputation, keeps clean machinery, and many people know them,” Peterson says. “People are willing to pay a premium for that machinery.”

Peterson has been able to see this trend evolve over the past 30 years of attending and commenting on auctions around Minnesota and the U.S.

Peterson recommends for any farmer trying to sell some machinery to create a video of the tractor, planter, or combine of them talking about the piece of equipment. Having a video of something shows the possible buyer what it sounds like and gives an honest insight as to what the condition may be or how it was maintained.

Honestly is the best policy, Peterson says. Even if sellers admit in the video that their item is “junk,” they will likely receive more for money for their transparency.

“There is a trust and reality to that comes through, that has a hard time quantifying but I just know that it is real,” he says.

Peterson sees the benefits of the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) and the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA). as he’s had opportunities to speak at some county annual meetings, discussing recent trends and stories of his 30 years on the trail.

“We just try to promote membership to Minnesota farmers,” Peterson says, “I see benefit, and great things that the organization has done over the years, setting up additional markets and (am) really a fan of what the association has accomplished.”

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