The Standley family, Hannah, Calvin, John and Beth, may join the ranks of famous names like John Deere, Cyrus McCormick and others. Calvin and John Standley developed a tillage cart, a chisel plow attached to the back of a grain cart, that allows a farmer to take care of fall tillage while harvesting, instead of having to perform tillage in a separate operation and with additional equipment, fuel and manpower.
The Standley family, Hannah, Calvin, John and Beth, may join the ranks of famous names like John Deere, Cyrus McCormick and others. Calvin and John Standley developed a tillage cart, a chisel plow attached to the back of a grain cart, that allows a farmer to take care of fall tillage while harvesting, instead of having to perform tillage in a separate operation and with additional equipment, fuel and manpower.
MALDEN, Ill. — Like most farmers, Calvin Standley likes to tinker with things. And like most farmers, he’s come up with some mechanical creations he thought might solve some problems or challenges on his third-generation family farm.

Asked if he’s invented some newfangled gadgets for his farm, he laughs.

“None that we want to talk about,” he said.

The one he does like to talk about is his tillage cart. For that invention, Standley has a couple of binders full of notes, drawings, diagrams and documents, all related to the development of a farm implement that Standley came up with to solve a problem that can plague farmers — fall tillage after harvest.

“We came up with the tillage cart because harvest is a busy time of the year for us and for all farmers,” he said.

The tillage cart’s concept seems simple — attach a chisel plow to the back of a grain cart so the tractor pulling the grain cart and collecting grain from a combine can also complete fall tillage at the same time.

Standley came up with the idea to make the most of the available time and manpower. He drives the combine while his wife, Beth, drives the tractor pulling the tillage cart. When harvest was done, they still had to get back in the tractor and chisel plow their fields.

“The idea came from the idle time with the grain carts sitting there and the fact that the chisel plow was always in a different field. We sometimes had mechanical issues or problems that drew me to that other field,” Standley said.

Getting Started

So in the winter of 2011 and the spring of 2012, he and son John, wife Beth and daughter Hannah decided to see if they could bring the idea of a grain cart that did double duty to life.

The work didn’t start with a doodle on a stray notepad. It started with a computer.

“We did patent searches to see if there was anything in the same field,” Calvin said.

The family wanted to know if any similar implement existed before putting time — and money — into creating a workable tillage cart.

“It took about three or four months after we found nothing in that field. That three or four months was working with a patent attorney and getting the initial language together. That type of language has to be developed to describe what you want to do,” John said.

After the language was developed and the application for patent sent to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, it was shopping time for the Standleys — a process that Calvin admits was tough.

“We spent a lot of time going around, looking at this grain cart, looking at that chisel plow, seeing the mechanics of them and which ones we thought we could make work, how we were going to piece it together,” he said.

It wasn’t the purchasing that was tough. For Calvin, who’s been farming on his family’s farm since 1978, it was the fact that the pieces they were buying weren’t going to be used in their entirety.

“We bought the pieces we needed to buy. To buy a brand-new piece of equipment and then cut it apart — it’s a challenge when you pay a lot of money for something and it might only be worth $200 a ton at the salvage yard,” he said.

They took their plans and ideas to McHenry Machine Co. in Princeton.

“We took it to Doug and Brad Williams. They actually put everything together for us as far as the welding. We gave them input as to what we wanted and where we wanted things to go and they made it work,” Calvin said.

Building an actual prototype also helped them work out any bugs or glitches with the tillage cart.

“There are some things we wouldn’t have found out if we hadn’t built the prototype. From a problem-solving perspective, it was good,” John said.

Testing Time

The Standleys chisel plow their ground after harvest, and by the time combines were ready to roll around Malden in the fall of 2013, so was the Standley tillage cart.

Calvin said he was happy the moment he saw the tillage cart in action.

“It worked, and it worked better than what we thought it was going to. It was way above our expectations,” he said.

The family has a patent pending on the tillage cart. They have hosted representatives from two separate companies at their farm to see live demonstrations of the tillage cart. The family continues to work on perfecting, improving and adding to the tillage cart.

Even as it was being developed, on paper and then in the machine shop, the tillage cart was more than a one-trick pony. The original intent was to have an implement that could chisel plow as grain was being loaded onto the grain cart.

“One of the things that the patent language encompasses is different tools together at harvest. It doesn’t have to be just a disk or a chisel plow. It has language that includes a disc or a shredder or dry fertilizer application. We incorporated the same theory into the patent language,” John said.

The Standleys also thought of issues that might occur given the weight of a loaded or half-loaded grain cart, such as compaction. They located a shank on the tillage tool right behind each of the tires so any compaction caused by the weight of the cart can be immediately turned over and loosened.

The tillage cart continues to be a work in progress. This summer, the Standleys said they will add to the safety features already in place, including cameras that allow the tractor operator to watch the plow.

The tillage cart could be a timesaver for farmers.

“This past fall and harvest was a great example of that. We had a lot of farmers doing tillage work in the spring that they didn’t have time to get to in the fall because of the weather,” John said.

For Calvin, the proof of the benefits of his tillage cart were evident on his own farm this past harvest.

“We finished chisel plowing the same day we finished combining. We’ve never done that before,” he said.