FlexDraper Generations.

The FD2 is right at home on the Emtman Brothers’ farm where innovation has grown for 130 years.

More than 130 years ago, Randy Emtman’s great grandfather, John Emtman, arrived on the Palouse — a region of the northwestern United States which includes parts of Idaho, Oregon and Washington — and decided to set up shop. Or, rather, set up farm.

At the time, the 160 acres (65 hectares) of land he intended to homestead was covered with timber and also had a few springs and year-round stream.

“So he basically had everything he needed to get started and build some buildings,” says Randy. “There was a little bit of rock for foundations for him and the lumber for the buildings and wood for heating… in my opinion, he chose a very good parcel of land to get started with.”

A little bit at a time, they cleared the land and started growing wheat and potatoes, selling the potatoes at a market in nearby Spokane. And thus, the literal and metaphorical seeds were planted for what the Emtman Brothers Farms would grow to become.

Those initial 160 acres have, over the years, been expanded to 12,000 acres (4856 hectares) of land that are now home to grass seed, Timothy grass, lentils, canola, sunflowers and alfalfa. The Emtman Brothers are also known for their herd of Piedmontese beef.

And though the expansion over the past century has been obviously significant, the core of the farm has remained rooted in family. John Emtman had eight sons and three daughters; all his sons became farmers and his daughters all married farmers. Now, five-generations in, Randy still runs the farm with his father, Roy Emtman Jr., and his brother, Jeff Emtman. And Randy now has his son, Greg Emtman, in on the action as well.

As many folks know, working with family can have its challenges, but Randy says a culture of modernity and forward-thinking has been engrained within Emtman Brothers Farms for a long time, which makes progress and change less of a battle between the generations.

He cites his grandfather, Roy Emtman Sr., as the guy who paved the way for the continued open-mindedness and innovation.

“I grew up working with grandpa; he was second generation, and grandpa was always thinking about how to do things better. Whether it was with crops or inputs or machinery, grandpa was very progressive in his thinking,” says Randy. “He passed that on to my dad and uncle

So, it's just kind of an attitude that's been passed on from generation to generation, and so it seems like we're always trying new things.”

It’s a perfect fit, then, that Emtman Brothers Farms has had the opportunity to run the FD240 FlexDraper, a machine that builds on MacDon’s own history of innovation.

The Emtmans are longtime MacDon customers who also run FD140s, and Roy Jr. was able to notice a difference between the two headers immediately.

“One thing is that was very easy to control as far as the height adjustment, it had those wheels on it (ContourMaxTM Contour Wheels), which it basically set the header height,” says Roy Jr. “And then probably the major difference was how the canola went through, the other machines would have some build up at the throat, but this one, it was non-stop.”

“We were running two FD140’s and then this FD240 in those same fields, my ground speed was faster and my stoppage was zero.”

The Palouse offers challenging terrain; it is one of the hilliest regions in the United States and Randy explains their land can be anything from flat ground up to slopes that are about 45 per cent inclination. Even facing those obstacles, the FD240 impressed the Emtmans.

“All equipment is designed for flat land and here we have to figure out a way to make it work. We like all the new innovations in farm equipment, but some of it gets pretty challenging now, especially with the wider widths we're working with and the speed we want to work at, but the FD240 worked very well,” says Roy Jr.

“To run a 40-foot header through some of these dips that change direction and go up and down real fast, it is kind of a challenge but the FD240 worked well.”

“With these new combines we run all the settings in automation, automated groundspeed, guidance. You put the header down go from one end of the field to the other, turn around and set everything back again. It’s pretty easy-going to be honest… the FD2 definitely made life easier.”

Roy Jr. says the Emtmans were one of the first to use a draper header in the region, despite advice that it wouldn’t be the best piece of machinery for the extremely hilly terrain, and now, it’s all they use. They were also the first farm to put a draper header on a swather when doing bluegrass, which set the trend for others in the area.

“That was pretty innovative, you know, everybody was watching, like what did they cut that with? How does it work? Now anybody that's doing bluegrass wants a draper header,” says Roy Sr.

Innovation extends to their farming practices as well; the Emtman Brothers Farms are proud of their eco-friendliness and sustainability efforts. Their cattle are raised on the farm’s fields and can enjoy the sustainable pastures of the Palouse; the Emtmans say the “sustainable and stress-free practices” they follow decrease the chance of disease and allow them to raise natural beef without antibiotics, hormones or steroids.

They also conserve the fertile soils with sustainably rotated crops and no-till farming practices, with the ultimate goal of leaving the land in better shape than they inherited it, a principle which guides much of the decision-making on the farms.

“We are definitely all about the next generation, you know, passing it on,” says Randy. “We want to leave the farm to the next generation in at least as good a condition that we received it, but hopefully better.”