Eklund Farm Machinery serves a wide range of farmers and operations with great equipment, focused creativity, and a ‘whatever’ approach to customer service.
“There are a lot of things that make me different,” says Billy Eklund, the charismatic owner and current generational namesake of Eklund Farm Machinery in Stamford, New York. It’s a Massey Ferguson dealership that sits just over the hill from Eklund Farms, an organic dairy farm that milks 550 cows and also runs about 300 Angus beef cattle.
The two businesses share a similar pedigree; the businesses and the family are renowned in this corner of the Catskills. Billy’s grandfather started the farm and the dealership. His father ran both. Billy grew up working in both and today manages the dealership while also running the farm with the support of his family.
Besides sharing generations of owners, Eklund Farm Machinery also shares generations of customers. One of those is Edward “Rusty” Pick, a farmer from nearby Harpersfield. “I watched Billy grow up as a child,” says Pick, who opines that “a farmer can’t be successful without a good equipment dealership.”
The farm equipment landscape is crowded with choice, as well as ways to deliver product and customer service. That puts a spotlight not just on what makes each equipment choice different, but what makes a dealer “different.”
“Who will support you? Who’s going to help you when you’re down? The dealership is the main thing,” he says. “Eklund has done that my whole life, from the first day with his grandfather, to Billy, who’s taken over,” says Pick.
Pick loves to share stories about Billy’s grandfather and his parents, Bill and Diane, both of whom are staples at the dealership. Diane has her own parking place, simply marked “Mom,” and handles bookkeeping, along with her “maternal” role that everyone here recognizes. “They all call me ‘Mom,’” she says.
“Family is super important to this dealership,” says Billy, “from my wife and kids, to taking over for my father and grandfather, to my mom, who is in that office every day, pushing us forward,” he says.
“There’s a personal connection when a family farm works with a family business owner such as Billy,” says Chris Albano, who works with his family at Albano Farms, also in Stamford. “Every time we call Billy, he says, ‘Whatever. Whatever man.’ We joke about it, that’s his word. Whatever it takes to keep us going.”
“By us having a farm, I totally understand how it is super important for when that farmer is making hay, spreading manure, doing silage, that he needs his equipment right now, no questions asked,” says Billy. “It has to happen. I've been taught that from my dad over the years that I have to make sure that that happens, and it just all has to come together or that farmer, customer, cannot get his stuff done.”
The Albanos run a full fleet of Massey Ferguson equipment, from large and small square balers to a new 8S tractor. Besides milking 350 cows, they farm around 2000 acres of hay and corn ground, and sell dry hay and some silages. Like a lot of farmers in the Catskills, Frank Albano—Chris’s father—says with a wry laugh that he can “tell a lot of Billy stories,” but he sticks to the important stuff. Though it’s rare, “it’s when something goes wrong that a dealership really shines,” says Frank. “We could lose a whole day if he didn’t help us out.”
“If we buy the best piece of equipment from a not-so-good dealer, it doesn’t matter… I mean, there’s no sense in buying it,” says Chris. And Billy even helps out with his time and his personal equipment. “I'll take a tractor off our farm and bring it to them just so they can get stuff done, so they're not out there hanging,” says Billy. “I can’t tell you how many times we say ‘Call Billy, call Billy, call Billy,” laughs Chris.
That’s not just true of farm work. “He loves his community and wants to be a part of it,” says Frank. “I’m impressed by that.” The Albanos say it’s common to see Billy out on a Massey, pushing snow out of a parking lot or mowing a soccer field. “Or towing somebody’s car. Or helping the village guys out with equipment. It really means a lot,” says Chris.
Not lost on Billy is the visibility for the brand, “keeping Massey on the map,” he says. That’s also a motivation for the unique events and sponsorships that Eklund Farm Machinery pursues. His Hay Day is known far and wide, showing off Massey Ferguson hay equipment with demos and adding community-pleasing event amenities like a DJ, live music and fireworks.
You’ll also see Massey tractors running at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania, for NASCAR events. Besides sponsoring the event on behalf of the dealership, Billy is on hand to spread the word about Massey Ferguson, and provides equipment for certain maintenance activities.
“The tractors are out there, they got 15 foot batwing (mowers) on them, mowing the fields, getting the infield ready, and just maintaining the grass,” says Billy. “After that, two Massey Ferguson 4707s have front brooms on them, they broom the track, keep it clean. And then they also have three-point-hitch rubber machines that lay down blacktop in the cracks on the racetrack.”
This year brings a new sponsorship into the Massey-Eklund fold. “We're the sponsor for the US Luge, the World Cup in Lake Placid,” says Billy. The dealership had previously helped raise funds for the luge team by raffling a tractor, and this year, the official sponsorship will include Eklund and Massey logos on the uniforms.
“I know it is a tremendous amount of work for him,” says Frank Albano, “but it just shows how dedicated he is to promoting Massey, and that he believes in it.”
It all helps set the dealership apart, but Billy is at the center, and a “different” dealership requires “different” leadership. “I have a funny switch in my head that makes me just want to push harder and always do better, and always please everybody and make the customers super happy and impressed, and make sure everything goes well,” says Billy. “I think that comes from my dad and mom, me growing up on the farm. Just pushing me to work in the fields, and working on the farm, and I bring that up here to the dealership.”
When Billy flips that switch, it powers a successful dealership. If his parents did instill that ethic, they are quick to credit him today. “Billy is the reason we are who we are,” says ‘Mom,’ Diane. But Billy is quick to share the success with his team, and his customers.
“I mean, we have the best customers in the world. They're so loyal and so just good to us, and we're good to them,” he says. That customer base ranges from weekenders buying GC tractors to the 8s, professional farming crowd, and Billy says he has the team to support any type of farmer. “We have the best customers, and we have the best group here, best staff. And it just can't get any better,” he says.