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Landscapes, Summer 2008

Ideas & Inspiration

For many agricultural producers, including the inventors featured here, ingenuity is a way of life.

THEN & NOW

Since they were featured in Landscapes in 2001, Texas AgFinance customers Luther Hueske and Harold Luhn have been fighting to protect their patent on the Rakehand. The ups and downs have highlighted the blessings of family and friends in their small communities of Brenham and Bellville, Texas.

 

Friendship Is Always a Good Idea

Harold Luhn and Luther Hueske

Photo by Penny Currie

Harold Luhn and Luther Hueske

Luther Hueske and Harold Luhn could write a book about their experiences since patenting their invention, the Rakehand. But, they say, they couldn’t publish it yet.

It is a story filled with frustration and heartache, but most of all, friendship. Not just any friendship either. The kind of friendship that is best experienced in the country, where people step in and help whenever you need it.

The Rakehand

Hueske and Luhn invented and patented the Rakehand, a device that allows you to rake and bale hay in one pass around a field, with one piece of equipment.

"It reduces the need for fuel and labor, which have always been our biggest selling points," Hueske says. "We thought back when the last (Landscapes) article was written, that saving on fuel was a big deal. It’s a much bigger deal now. The price of farm diesel has quadrupled since then."

They have continued to sell the Rakehand, primarily to repeat customers and people who have heard about it by word of mouth. They also have advertised it in magazines and at farm trade shows.

Among their satisfied customers is their neighbor, Max Baranowski. He purchased one of the first units after he saw it work during a field day at his farm. It is an investment he has never regretted.

"I love it," Baranowski says. "I’ve been using it for years. It works great, and it really saved me on labor."

Protecting Their Patent

Instead of enjoying the fruit of their labor, however, Hueske and Luhn have spent years fighting in court to protect their patent from infringement. They won the first round, but now they are in an ongoing battle, with the case under appeal.

"Everybody thinks they have a great idea and wants to get a patent, but they don’t realize what it takes," Luhn says. "I guess it depends what the invention is."

Despite the frustration, they are still inventors at heart.

"I’ve always been a dreamer, thinking of ideas," Luhn says. "And you think of ways to make things better. You gotta make it easier for yourself."

Friends in Need

In August 2006, the frustrations of the slow and lingering court battles were dwarfed by a different set of bad news. Luhn was diagnosed with colon cancer.

"Talk about a life-changing event," he recalls. "That put things in perspective real quick." Neighbors and friends, including Hueske, stepped in to help. One neighbor took over all the hay baling while Luhn recovered from surgery.

Within a month, he was back on a tractor and running his equipment again. Although he is still undergoing chemotherapy, he is doing well, and he credits his progress to his family and friends.
Hueske agrees. "He’s lucky. He’s got a lot of good friends and a great, sweet wife. Plus, it’s about attitude. Harold’s always had a good personal attitude, friendly, easy to get along with. People remember what you’ve done, and they want to help you. That’s what friends are about." 

Article and photo by Penny Currie


THEN & NOW

For FLBA of South Alabama customers Jerrell and Russell Harden, inventing is a way of life. Ideas come while they are farming, driving and sometimes even sleeping. Since they were featured in Landscapes in 2001, they have obtained two more patents and are working on more.

Inventing All the Time

When a piece of equipment fails to meet their expectations, farmers Jerrell and Russell Harden do not grumble or throw it away in frustration — they start thinking of ways to make it better.

Jarrell and Russell Harden

Photo by Chellie Phillips

Jerrell and Russell Harden

It is a habit that has resulted in 13 patents so far and numerous patentable inventions for the father and son.

Improving the Farm Operations

They are inventing in their heads all the time, often looking for ways to make their agricultural operations more efficient. Jerrell, an FLBA of South Alabama customer and retired farmer, lives near Brundidge, Ala. His son, Russell, owns a poultry operation.

Recently, Russell invented an overhead venting system utilizing solar heat, which he installed in his poultry houses. The small unit opens and closes automatically, drawing air from overhead to heat the houses in the wintertime. It warms the air 10 to 18 degrees and reduces heating costs.

The commercial units are 12 vents per house and cost about $1,300. Russell installed 50 small vents per house; it took about an hour per house to install, and cost about $120 per house. Based on the fuel savings, it was time and money well spent.

"With the cost of propane these days, any little improvement can save a lot of money," says his father, Jerrell. "That little invention is really neat. Russell enjoys inventing, and he’s a natural at it. In fact, he’s better than I am." 

Patents for Farm Equipment, Health Care

For many years, the Hardens’ patents focused mainly on farm equipment. They have sold inventions to eight different companies. Of these, the best known is Ro-Till, which Jerrell developed in the 1970s with his brother Leo.

Ro-Till combines the best of conventional and no-till farming. In one pass, the planter prepares the seedbed; the row is under tillage but mulch remains in the middle, conserving moisture. Today, thousands of units are in operation.

Jerrell’s more recent patents, however, have been for health-care equipment. As he and his wife have cared for aging parents, he has realized the need for safer, more convenient products that will help people with disabilities and their caregivers.

For example, he invented a wheelchair lock to prevent falls. He also developed a powered wheelchair that can lift a person weighing up to 400 pounds from a wheelchair into a shower. It is rewarding for him to know that this and other ideas will help people.

Cost of Inventing

Although it requires a big investment of both time and money, the Hardens enjoy the mental exercise that goes into developing something new or improved.

"It is something I enjoy doing, because I like the challenge," Jerrell says. "Inventing is my hobby — but it’s an expensive hobby."

The Hardens estimate that it typically takes about two years and as much as $10,000 to $12,000 to obtain a patent. 

Article by Penny Currie
– Photos by Chellie Phillips and Penny Currie