East Oregonian : E.O. (Pendleton, OR) 1888-current, April 26, 2017, Page Page 2, Image 18

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    Page 2
East Oregonian/Hermiston Herald
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
From tinkering to international trade
Staff photo by E.J. Harris
A robot makes spot welds on a wheel for a wheel rake at Circle C Equipment outside of Hermiston. The robotic welder and one operator can perform the work of three
individual human welders.
Innovation spurs business at Circle C Equipment, which holds patent on hay equipment
EO Media Group
What started as a few
innovations on the family
farm has translated into
global business at Circle C
Equipment in Hermiston.
The company, which
manufactures specialized
equipment for hay growers,
has reached customers
across the U.S., Canada
and overseas. Products are
made locally, including
wheel rakes, hay condi-
tioners and the massive
big bale stacker, capable of
lifting 1,300-pound bales
with the touch of a button.
“We’re still a small
company, but our name is
getting known,” said Greg
Cook, who manages the
family-owned business.
“We’ve grown in the
market quite a bit.”
Before there was Circle
C Equipment, there was
Circle C Farms, run by
Cook’s father, Ivan. For
35 years, the operation
grew and exported 7,000
acres of alfalfa hay outside
Gradually, Ivan began
tinkering with farm
machinery to make harvest
run smoother and easier.
His ideas evolved into a
trio of patents that drive the
company today.
“My dad is a big
thinker,” Cook explained.
“He understands what’s
needed, then he goes to
work building something to
accomplish what’s needed.”
The first thing they built
was the American Eagle
Big Bale Stacker — essen-
tially a customized rig with
a large mounted flatbed and
computerized robotic arm
that can be programmed
to lift and stack bales
automatically, with a single
It would normally take
three workers in conven-
tional tractors and trailers
“If you can
make your
quality better,
it sells quicker
and you have
more demand.”
— Greg Cook,
Circle C Equipment manager
Staff photo by E.J. Harris
Raul Cortez takes notes while programing an automated lathe to cut a conditioner at Circle C Equipment outside
of Hermiston.
to retrieve those heavy
loads, Cook said.
“We built two of them
and used them on our
farm,” he said. “My dad
got the idea that we could
probably build those for
public use.”
In addition, Ivan Cook
came up with a new design
for the wheel rake, used
to collect hay into rows
and turn it over to dry. His
concept adds plastic bands,
known as depth bands,
around the metal teeth
along each wheel, which
keeps the rake from digging
into dirt and rocks.
Finally, Circle C has
created what it calls the
Third Generation Super
Conditioner. Conditioners
are a component of
swathers, which hay
farmers use to mow the
Once the grass is cut,
the swather feeds hay back
to the conditioners, which
resemble two large rolling
pins. The conditioners work
by crushing the stems,
making hay softer and
releasing moisture to dry
The Circle C Super
Conditioner uses a different
surface pattern to crush the
entire length of the stem,
Greg Cook said, as opposed
to every few inches.
Each one of their
products is just a little
different, Cook added,
but can have a big impact
for farmers. Quality is
especially important in
today’s hay market, he said,
as prices have dropped
from as high $250 per ton a
couple of years ago to $125
per ton this spring.
“If you can make your
quality better, it sells
quicker and you have more
demand,” he said.
Circle C Equipment
was founded in 1997, and
has since outlasted the
family farm, which closed
in 2005. The company
has three shop buildings
where a team of 23 workers
assembles products that are
sent around the world.
The Super Conditioners
start out as solid metal rolls
before they are wrapped
in rubber and left to
roast overnight in a large
pressure cooker known
as an autoclave. The high
temperatures essentially
bind rubber to metal, and
a programmable lathe then
carves out the hill-and-
valley shape.
“It knows when to stop.
It knows how many passes
to make. It knows the
length of the roll you put
in,” Cook said. “It’s a fully
automated system.”
An automated robot
welding arm is another
pivotal tool for making
each individual wheel on
the Circle C rakes. The
company produces about
36 wheels every week, and
the robot — a relatively
new addition to the opera-
tion — works swiftly and
accurately to weld on metal
“You gotta get out of its
way,” Cook said, standing
back from the shower of
white hot sparks. “It moves
pretty fast.”
Final assembly of the
wheel rakes is still done
by hand in the shop next
door. Workers also spend
much of their time over
spring performing routine
maintenance on the bale
stackers ahead of harvest
Circle C does have
room to continue to grow,
Cook said, and they are
considering possible new
products to manufacture.
The company has dabbled
in making metal wheels
for center-pivot irrigation
systems, but Cook said
they are taking it slow and
cautious for now.
Hay markets are also
beginning to swing back
upward, Cook said, and
farmers are beginning
to feel more optimistic
about investing in new
“The optimism is out
there among farmers,” he
said. “We’re just trying to
provide a better product.”
When every dollar counts these days, stop by
Elmer’s. We have local familiar faces ready to
help you with your irrigation projects.
Proudly serving Eastern Oregon & Southeast Washington since 1978
Pipe: PVC, galvanized & black fittings;
Filters: Clemons, CTC, Gheen;
Pumps: Small centricial pumps , Pressure Tanks;
Lawn & garden supplies: K-Rain sprinklers & valves;
Hand line, Main line, wheel line: gaskets & fittings, pipe cutting & threading
Pivot parts; Pivot sprinkler packages: Nelson & Senninger
Motors: UMC and US; Wheel Boxes: UMC & Valley
Valves: Butterfly, ball, gate, check
Automatic control valves: Nelson, Netafim
“Proudly serving and investing in the future of our communities”
Hwy 395, Hermiston • 541-567-5572 • Fax: 541-567-8721
Emergency service also available