. . . “We make it possible, just do it.”
By Sherry Vogel
Greg and Judy Gunderson, of rural Baker, decided to “make hay while the sun was shining” some 19 years ago, when in 1998 they ventured to buy Trendline Equipment, an established agricultural equipment sales business in Baker.
In the beginning
A short ten years before, in 1987, when there was a serious downturn in the oil industry the Gundersons made the decision to move to Bozeman, Mont. so that Greg could attend MSU. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Ag Education. In 1994, a teaching position was available in the Plevna School District teaching Vo-Ag classes to High School and Jr. High students. This gave Greg and Judy the opportunity to return to the community where they grew up and had raised their family.
While Greg was busy teaching full time at Plevna High School, the opportunity arose to buy Trendline Equipment. Purchasing a business that sold agricultural equipment seemed a perfect fit.
Incidentally, Mr. Gunderson and his students were already selling mineral feeders to many local farmers and ranchers. The feeders were a classroom project that they were manufacturing on a tire-turning machine, which they had designed in the classroom.
Both Greg and his students got a first hand lesson in realizing how major equipment companies have developed farm machinery out of necessity. They themselves had started out as innovators and then became fabricators when the occasion arose to meet a need. They had experienced first hand the satisfaction that many farm equipment companies like Vermeer have come to realize after designing a marketable product to meet the farmer’s needs.
As Trendline Equipment grew, the Gundersons found themselves busier and busier with each passing year. They had to keep a sense of humor, especially at certain seasons of the year. Falls are especially hectic for the teacher/equipment dealer as the new school year rolls around and the farmer’s ever-revolving cycle of crop production swings into harvest time.
The couple has an inside joke which evolved from a phrase that Judy has spoken many times throughout the years, “Are you coming home for lunch or can I bring you a sandwich?” There have been many sandwiches eaten over the years.
Meals on the run aren’t unusual for Greg, as he was raised on a farm. The farming lifestyle starts young and as the saying goes, “Farming is like any other job, only you punch in at age 5 and never punch out.”
Greg has always had a hand in the agricultural field and is proud to have spent his lifetime involved in the Ag industry. Whether it was delivering fuel when he worked for John’s Exxon Bulk and Farmer’s Union or selling parts to the local farmers and ranchers when he worked as parts manager at Napa Parts or teaching Vo-Ag classes in Plevna and Baker, and most recently selling Vermeer farm equipment.
After acquiring Trendline, Greg traveled to the Vermeer Headquarters located in Pella, Iowa to attend the Vermeer training school for independent Vermeer equipment dealers.
The school was very beneficial to the new equipment dealer. He not only learned the basics of sales, but also got introduced to the Vermeer family.
There he learned how Iowa farmer Gary Vermeer established the Vermeer Company, which started from humble beginnings, in 1948. As the young company grew, Mr. Vermeer was always mindful of looking for a better way to do things. Gunderson could relate with the company’s slogan “Find a need. Fill that need with a product built to last. And simply build the best.”
History of Trendline Equipment
John Tronstad, one of the original founders of Trendline Equipment Company in Baker, had first started selling Vermeer balers and parts in 1978. He was a farm dealer at his ranch south of Baker. He later teamed up with local rancher Doug Cox who also operated a ranchsouth of Baker.
In 1985, the two men formed a partnership. They named the business Trendline Equipment. They set up a new shop in the C&S building on Montana Avenue in downtown Baker.
In 1989, Tronstad left the partnership to take a full time position with the Vermeer Company as a traveling manager.
At that time Cox bought out Tronstad. As time passed and Cox got busy on his own ranch, he sold the business to Chuck Abrams. Five years later Abrams decided to sell out. He acknowledged the need for a locally owned farm equipment dealer to continue in Baker, so he approached the Gundersons to see if they would be interested in continuing to serve the agricultural equipment needs in this area. They were also aware of the need for a local equipment and parts dealer and agreed to buy the dealership.
The businesswas moved to the north Quonset on the Gunderson farm south of Baker. The business started selling balers, hay rakes and parts.
In 1998, Greg sold his first new baler, took a trade-in, sold that and took his next trade-in. Seven sales and trade-ins later, a successful haying season was completed. The weather cooperated that year and the hay yards were full and ready for winter-feeding.
As Trendline Equipment grew Gunderson found himself busier and busier. One thing lead to another and soon Greg and Judy’s lifestyle changed as they found themselves putting fishing on weekend camping trips on the back burner. They settled for outings in the country, which were sales calls and delivery of equipment.
During the interview, Greg paused for a minute, then added, “Thank you Judy, for your patience, the sandwiches and being my traveling partner.”
In 2005, as Trendline Equipment prospered, the Gundersons decided to develop a new business site and construct a new building. They chose to build on Fairway Acres Road, south of Baker, off of Hwy 7.
As the Gundersons have been successfully meeting the haying needs of the area’s farmer and ranchers, they have also successfully expanded their product lines. The have added Highline bale processors, Branson tractors, McFarland pasture harrows, hay trailers, and Tubeline bale movers to the Vermeer balers, rakes, and hay processors that they first started selling.
Over the years it’s been most rewarding for Greg to have been able to provide a quality product to his customers. He has enjoyed meeting new people and always appreciates when they become repeat customers. He shared, “I like fixing what the customer thought was a big problem and in the process finding that it was just a small problem that didn’t cost much for repair.” Greg finds satisfaction in always being fair with everyone.
Another large part of Trendline’s success is that Greg takes pride in prompt service. He stated, “I’m as close as my cell phone.”
Just as the Vermeer Company came from humble beginnings and grew into a successful business, Trendline Equipment that also started small has grown as business expanded and is now branching throughout not only Fallon County, but eastern Montana and western North Dakota as well.
Just as the Gundersons have always supported the agricultural industry, they are also big supporters of the local community. Trendline has supported the local FFA and 4-H students by purchasing their livestock during the Fallon County Fair, Carter County Fair and Wibaux County fairs.
Trendline Equipment has offered summer employment to members of the community throughout the years. Their first employee was Jason Bremer. Jason was a great fit for the business. He was very meticulous in his mechanical abilities. Herb Straub, a long time resident of Fallon County worked for Greg for two summers. He came with ready and willing hands along with a wealth of farm and ranch experience. Bev Rath worked as a bookkeeper for two years. Bill Bagley worked for several years as an equipment salesman. Other employees through the years have included local young men and women: Shelby Ward, Courtney Stanhope, Eric Wyrick, Bryce Ward, Zach Hepperle, Steven Rath and several others.
One of Gunderson’s goals is to be an inspiration to the younger generations. By providing an employment opportunity he was able to influence many young people. He stated, “Whether they are sweeping the floor, turning a wrench to replace rake teeth or learning the fine art of repairing baler belts, they are learning punctuality, accuracy and commitment; life long skills that will serve them well, no matter what career they choose.”
Trendline Equipment today
In 2016, Gunderson retired from his teaching job and Judy retired from her position as tax appraiser for Fallon County. They now work full-time to meet the haying needs of the community, including services and repairs. The Gundersons enjoy trips to attend Vermeer conventions, training sessions and celebrations and take tours of various production plants. They also enjoy fun times with Vermeer dealers from all over the United States.
Trendline Equipment in the future
When the Gundersons decide sometime in the future to retire from Trendline Equipment, they plan to sell it to someone who will have mutual goals for the business. Greg states, “We hope to find someone who will serve area farmers and ranchers.” He added, “I plan to be only a telephone call away and would do whatever it takes to help a new owner off to a good start and a smooth transition.”
The Gunderson Family
What do the Gundersons want to do after they retire? They will finally get some fishing in together on weekend camping trips. They will plan those trips around visiting their six grandchildren: Anthony, Allan, Shelby, Bryce, Pepper and Cotton; and three grown children. Although their children are not involved in agriculture, they have been successful in their endeavors and Greg and Judy are very proud of them and their accomplishments. Tony is retired from the United States Air Force and lives in San Antonio, Texas, Todd is currently an accountant with the North Carolina Department of Family Services and lives in Greensboro, North Carolina and Trina who lives in Clarkston, Montana is employed with Blackhawk, a company that supplies gear for military and law enforcement agencies.
When in Baker the Gundersons will continue to volunteer in the community. Greg currently serves as chairman of the Farmers Union Board and serves on the O’Fallon Museum Board. Judy enjoys serving on the Council on Aging Board.