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Still Standing

Hand’s longtime farm center has survived changing business climates

April 12, 2009
By RICHARD NILSEN/The Leader-Herald

GLEN - When Lynwood J. Hand moved his farm supplies store to the family farm property in this hamlet in April 1984, he had an open house. On April 25, he's doing it again.

The L.J. Hand Farm Center opened in 1967 in Fultonville and moved to the intersection of Route 30A and County Highway 161 in 1969. It was there until 1984, when he moved the store about a half-mile east onto the family property. This month marks the 25th anniversary of the store's relocation.

Hand's niece, Sandra Borden, works in the office at the store.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan

Lynwood J. Hand, the owner of L. J. Hand Farm Center in Glen, places a control lever unit on a shelf at his store Tuesday.

"He has old-fashioned values," Borden said. "He built this store up from nothing. I'm very proud of him. At 76 years old, he still works 24-seven."

Borden said when customers come into the store, they are certain Hand will have the answers to their questions.

Hand's office overlooks the showroom and counter. When a customer came to inquire about a particular part, the counter person asked Hand, who replied, "It's right back here on the shelf -been waiting to be picked up for months."

Randall Implement Company Store Manager Wes Ostrander, who has worked in the Fultonville store for 20 years, said Hand is an institution.

"He's a complement to our business," Ostrander said. "He has a tremendous inventory with vast quantities of stuff accumulated over the years."

Ostrander said Hand has a wealth of knowledge to impart to his customers.

"He is to be commended for surviving in the business climates we've gone through," he said.

Hand said things have changed considerably since he first opened the store.

"Back then, most of the business, probably three-quarters, was dairy," Hand said. "Now it's down to one-half."

Hand said he sees the family farms dying out, with "weekend farmers," "dirt farmers," commercial operations, truckers and municipal customers taking their place.

"Pretty soon, only the Amish will have family farms," he said. "But we'll keep plugging away."

Hand said the current economic downturn is accentuated for farmers due to low milk prices.

"How can a farmer make it getting only $9 or $10 [per hundred weight] for his milk?" he asked. "Our sales here are decent, but the purchases are smaller and money changing hands is less."

Hand said he also carries a lot of credit for his customers, who stay loyal. Peter VanDenburgh was a customer with a dairy farm in Johnstown and has worked for Hand for nearly 15 years, said VanDenburgh.

"Most everything here is done the old-fashioned way," VanDenburgh said. "There are no computers here. If the power goes down, we're still in business."

VanDenburgh pointed out a 12-volt battery that would power the lighting at the counter. Inventory is on paper, not a computer.

Asked about the recession the country faced, Hand had a quick reply.

"Dairy farmers are already in a depression," he said. "The Amish are the future of farming. Them and the giant corporations."

Hand said even big farms had a lot of financial and regulatory pressure from government oversight that he felt was too restrictive.

"It boggles my mind what goes on in Washington," he said.

Ray Dykeman of Dykeman and Sons in Fultonville said he or one of his employees is at Hand's store almost daily.

"This whole area would be lost without [Hand]," he said. "I know some people who travel 70 or 80 miles because they know he will have what they need."

Dykeman said he had been doing business with Hand since about 1970, and the supplier is important to the Dykeman's agriculture enterprise.

"I can't say enough good about him," he said. "He is very reputable."

Hand said his store didn't sell tractors or do repair, but rather sold parts for machinery and everything else agriculturally related.

"We get requests for parts from places like Randall [Implement] when they are working on the odder tractors," he said. "I also spend a lot of time giving advice."

Hand's roots in the area stretch back to Marcus Hand, historically the first permanent settler in Glen.

"John Johnson's [the son of Sir William Johnson] men burned his house," Hand said of his ancestor from the Revolutionary War era.

Before the store, Hand said his family started with dairy, then had a turkey farm named Turkey Haven from 1948 to 1963. He still has the road sign on his back wall as a reminder of where he came from.

"It's hard for farmers," he said. "Even dirt farmers need some other income."

Hand understands difficult times. He said as a child growing up in the 1930s, his overalls "could stand up on their own, they had so many patches."

Despite difficult economic times and his age, Hand has no plans to quit.

"I'll just keep plugging," he said. "I'll keep working until I can't anymore."

Richard Nilsen is a general assignment reporter and can be reached at ga@leaderherald.com

 
 

 

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