Machias, ME – Every August millions of people make their way to the state of Maine to enjoy its beauty during the last few weeks of summer. While tourists soak up the sun on Maine’s beautiful beaches, hike one of its many trails, climb one of its mountains or simply relax and take in its picturesque shoreline, locals remain hard at work. With blueberries being one of the states staple agricultural products and August being the month when they are harvested, the last bit of summer is marked by long, hard days for those who call the area home.
Ivan Hanscom, a native of Machias, Maine, has been harvesting blueberry fields for more than 40 years. There are few people who understand the hard work and dedication it takes to be a successful blueberry farmer more than Hanscom. “Long before we used machinery to harvest blueberries, we hand raked the fields, yielding about 20 boxes of berries per person, per day,” states Hanscom. “About 15 years ago, we decided to invest in equipment that would make our blueberry operation more productive and profitable, eliminating the need to hand rake and the labor cost associated with that, while exponentially increasing our daily yield.”
To justify his initial investment in the harvesting equipment, Hanscom formed Hanscom Industries and began harvesting far more than the 50 acres of blueberry fields owned by his family. By offering his harvesting services to others, he was able to successfully offset the cost of the equipment, while establishing a business that continues to thrive and grow today.
While the original equipment is no longer in use, Hanscom Indsutries continues to rely on heavy equipment to harvest. After significant research in early 2012, Hanscom purchased the newest of his harvesting equipment, a KIOTI DK90 tractor from Profile Tractor and Equipment, his local Authorized KIOTI Tractor Dealer. He then outfitted the tractor with a heavy-duty harvester implement from Doug Bragg Enterprises of Canada that would immediately test the rugged durability, hydraulic capacity and PTO of his new KIOTI.
“Since we’ve been in the blueberry harvesting business so long, we knew the daily rigors that a tractor would need to handle, including uneven terrain, long hours of non-stop use and the heavy-weight and demanding hydraulics of the blueberry harvester implement it would need to support. We work our tractors hard day in and day out,” states Grant Hanscom, who frequently operates the KIOTI DK90 tractor. “One of the things that I like the most about our new KIOTI tractor is that we don’t have to add any extra weight to make it run efficiently with the harvester implement. Because the DK90 is the heaviest tractor in its size class, it effortlessly supports the weight of the implement. In the past, we’ve always had to add extra weight to our tractors to gain stability and avoid them tipping over while harvesting on slopes and hills. When it comes to harvesting blueberries, the more weight the better.”
While some may say that heavier weight leads to inefficient use of fuel, Hanscom Industries has experienced just the opposite. “The DK90 has been extremely fuel-efficient and its large, 33 gallon fuel tank allows us to refuel less often, so we can harvest more berries each day.” In August 2012, Hanscom Industries, now run by Ivan, his son Grant and grandson Jacob, harvested over 100 acres yielding more than a 1/2 million pounds of blueberries.
As important to blueberry farming as weight is speed. A tractor with too much speed or the inability to operate at a very slow speed doesn¡¯t allow the operator to adjust operation as needed to maximize the number of blueberries harvested. As such, many tractor owners who use their machine to pick berries purchase it with an optional creeper gear so that they are able to reduce the speed of the tractor to a near crawl without it stalling.
“KIOTI’s DK90 tractor comes with a creeper gear as standard equipment at no added cost to the customer. And its 4 speeds allow it to speed up for low yields or slow down for high yields. Most competitive model tractors offer only 3 speeds,” states Wayne Rose, General Manager of Profile Tractor and Equipment, “And the creeper gear when added to a tractor as an option can cost a customer anywhere from $4,000 – $8,000 dollars. This was a major selling feature for Hanscom when considering the purchase of the DK90.”
As Hanscom harvests with his new tractor, the blueberries are picked by an implement that gently pulls the berries off the bush, and then sends them up a hydraulically driven conveyor to a second conveyor. The excess debris that is picked with the blueberries is separated in the transition from the first to the second conveyor. The berries then continue down the second conveyor, which shifts from side-to-side to evenly distribute the berries, into a tote that can hold up to 350 pounds of the fruit. Once full, the tote is hydraulically removed by the implement and another one dropped from its holding stack to maximum uptime.
“The purchase of our new KIOTI DK90 was a significant investment for the company,” states Ivan Hanscom. “I did 6 months worth of research before buying and I was not going to make a mistake. Profile Tractor and Equipment was instrumental in helping us understand the overall value of the KIOTI DK90 verses competitive model tractors. Once we understood the overall value, the purchase decision was an easy one to make.”
Because blueberries are a seasonal agricultural product, Hanscom uses his tractor throughout the balance of the year for a wide variety of tasks, including at an additional business owned by the family, Jonesboro Sand and Gravel.
“We fully understand that to get the most out of our equipment, we have to continually use it. In the past, we’ve had to be cognizant of the number of hours being put on our tractors to be sure the warranty period got us through as many blueberry harvests as possible. We don’t worry about that with our KIOTI DK90,” states Ivan Hanscom. “When I purchased the KIOTI DK90, it came with a comprehensive 4-year warranty that didn’t limit the number of hours or type of use. The value of that warranty to my business is tremendous. It gives me the ability to use my KIOTI tractor year-round without any concern about warranty hours or unplanned repair costs. I’ve owned many brands over the years and I’ve never come across a warranty that gives me that type of coverage and peace of mind.”
“We’ll use our KIOTI DK90 through the fall to mow, over the winter to move snow and load sand into trucks, and in the spring to till and spray pesticides,” says Jacob Hanscom. “The climate controlled cab makes it practical for year-round use, while its spacious design adds a comfort level for even that tallest of operators.”
When asked what one does with 1/2 a million lbs. of blueberries, Ivan Hanscom responded with a hearty laugh. “Well, outside of eating a lot of them since they are so good for you and full of antioxidants and Vitamin C, we sell them exclusively to a local processor Cherryfield Foods who flash freezes and packages them for enjoyment year round. By flash freezing the berries at the peak of their flavor and nutrition, we extend the fresh bounty of the season all winter long to people all over the world.
With his son and grandson in the business and Ivan still involved in its day-to-day operations, Hanscom Industries continues to grow and has a bright outlook for the future. Hanscom Industries is extremely committed to their local community and to helping fellow blueberry farmers in Maine be as profitable and productive as possible each year. For more information on Hanscom Industries, please call 207-255-8611.