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Grain Bins on a Budget
Mark Roberts wanted more grain storage for the soybeans and corn he grows on his Pleasureville, Kentucky, farm. He couldn’t afford new bins, so he searched the Internet and stumbled on Woody’s Used Bin Sales based in Flushing, Michigan. He ended up buying two 66,000-bushel bins for less than the price of one new bin that size. He also purchased a used overhead load-out bin, a pit, and legs. “They are good bins – as good as new,” says Roberts, noting he will gladly buy used again.
He’s not alone. A basic Internet search reveals plenty of businesses selling used bins.
Demand for decent used bins
Randy Wood, owner of Woody’s, realized there was good demand for used bins a couple years ago when his crane service took down silos in Michigan’s thumb area. When he was hired to take down a grain elevator, he also disassembled the grain bins that went with it and decided to put his sales skills to work.
“Farmers are frugal, and they like a decent used product,” notes Wood. “They usually get my bins for about 50% to 60% of new cost, including assembly.”
The key word for Wood is decent. He’s not interested in old, rusty bins. “I check everything over,” says Wood. “I’ve got suppliers for bolts, new steel sheets, and components, and a decent network set up of real good people.”
Through visibility from his website, Craigslist, and a free ad on bestfarmbuys.com, Wood gets responses from people who want to sell or buy bins.
“Usually bins sell in a couple of weeks,” he says. “I have a list of buyers who’ve been calling for the past two years. Once I find a bin, I can get a deal together pretty quickly.”
Bob Jacobs coordinates crews that tear down, ship, and reassemble the bins. Recently, they’ve been busy taking down bins in Illinois, but states such as Minnesota and Wisconsin have also put many used bins on the market.
Woody’s has its own truck, and Wood offers less-expensive shipping rates to customers or makes whatever arrangements necessary to meet buyers’ needs. His crews can take care of everything from concrete and electrical work to crane rental for customers.
Roberts chose to pick up the disassembled bins and parts in Michigan and then reassemble them himself with the help of farm employees and a consultant in Kentucky. He already had some experience putting up much smaller bins. After a bit of a learning curve on the first bin, the second one went quickly.
“The bins more than doubled my storage. To me, it’s a tool to get the crop out of the field quick, and I don’t have to wait in line at the grain elevator,” says Roberts. “Plus, a lot of times prices are better after harvest, and storage helps me with that.”
With demand from states in the Midwest and in the South, Woody’s crews stay busy year-round.
Last winter, they were busy putting up bins in Alabama, for example, and they also shipped bins to Guatemala farmers. The company has relocated bins from 5,500-bushel bins to 100,000-bushel bins, but can go much larger, Wood says.
While farmers purchase most bins, some buyers call with other ideas.
“We get calls from people who want to use them for storage units, homes, garages, and condos,” Wood says. One bin was transported by ferry from Wisconsin to a Michigan microbrewery.
Though only bins in good condition are resold, Wood notes that crews will also take down old wooden bins for a fee. Whenever possible, he tries to find a neighbor or someone in the area interested in taking the wood for free, rather than send it to the landfill.
In addition to giving buyers a good deal, Wood says he pays fair prices to sellers. He accepts calls from buyers and sellers anywhere in the U.S. Find photos and descriptions of available used bins on his website.