Farm Horizons, May 2004
From farming to fabricating, Hecksels have it in their blood
By Troy Feltmann
Steel used to be a sidleline for Harlen and Pauline Hecksel of Winsted, but now it’s their bread and butter.
In 2000, they incorporated their fabrication business and put up a sign.
The fabrication business began to supplement the farm.
HH Fabrication and Repair makes 28 different skid-steer attachments.
They make round and square bale spears, pallet forks, rock buckets, grapple buckets and forks, snow and dirt buckets, leveling bars, u-blades, landscaping discs, manure forks, backhoes, power take-off adapters, quick hitches, and tree pullers.
“That’s our bread and butter,” Harlan Hecksel said.
“We kind of grew into it. We started as the local fix-it shop. Then, we started making a few bale spears and pallet forks. It just kept getting bigger and bigger,” he said.
The last three years, the business has grown quite rapidly.
HH Fabrication has been shipping attachments from Alaska to Texas, basically all over the United States.
“We also do work for Littfin Lumber, Ram Buildings, Lester Buildings, SJ&F and Herald Journal Sign and Graphics,” Hecksel said.
They also sell steel to local farmers.
Besides fabricating, the Hecksels also farm. They raise beef and pigs and cash crop.
“The last five years, we have been shrinking the livestock because we haven’t been able to keep up with the load,” he said.
“Pauline does all of the tillage in the spring and the fall. I do the planting and combining,” Hecksel said.
Hecksel has been farming his whole life.
“I was involved in FFA and judging teams in high school. I went to state and nationals,” Hecksel said.
“After high school, I went into the military. After that, I got married and worked for Lester’s,” he said.
Hecksel worked there for three years and then hauled milk and did township maintenance.
Pauline didn’t farm until she got married.
“I was a city girl. I learned how to clean stalls, work up fields, and pick rocks,” Pauline Hecksel said.
“We still have the land and equipment to utilize,” she said.
Hecksel said the fabricating business is a lot like farming.
“You are trying to get a lot bigger and more efficient. We make products to make farmers more productive,” Hecksel said.
He says the biggest difference between the two is that you are producing something, but in fabricating you can put your price on what you sell.
“In farming, you have to take what you get,” Pauline Hecksel said.
Hecksel thought farming used to be stressful.
“Now, I get in the tractor or combine and it’s just like a vacation to me,” Hecksel said.
Last year, Hecksel made a big mistake the first two days of combining.
“I brought the cell phone along. The second day, I figured out it wasn’t working out. Now, it is a vacation to get away,” Hecksel said.
The Hecksels have two full-time employees and two part-time employees.
“We are in the process of hiring more help,” Hecksel said.
“When we started out, we wanted to stay a small company. We don’t want to get large,” Pauline Hecksel said.
“We wondered if we could compete against the big boys. I constantly get phone calls inquiring how big our company is, how many employees we have, and can I talk to the boss. You got him,” Hecksel said.
“It turned out to be an asset because farm people like to talk to the guy who makes the product,” he said.
“The other day, I talked to a guy who said he would never buy equipment from a big company because they don’t stand behind their product,” he said.
The Hecksels keep researching and developing new products.
“Last year, we introduced a power take-off adapter to run a 540 rpm PTO so it can run a grain elevator, post hole auger, or snowblower from the skid-steer. This product has been going over very well,” Hecksel said.
The Hecksels have three children who no longer farm.
“Our son, Troy, wanted to farm, but we talked him out of it,” Pauline Hecksel said.
“He comes out and helps when he can. It’s still in his blood,” she said.
“The farm is a great place to raise a family. It is the best,” she said.
“It is very disturbing to see the barns empty and people working in town instead of on the farm. It is heartbreaking,” Hecksel said.
“It is a good life, but don’t keep track of your hours,” Hecksel joked.
You can contact HH Fabrication at (320) 485-2341, or check out its web site at www.hhfab.com.