Adam Vetter, of rural Westside, is among an increasing number of farmers who have turned to utility vehicles as their primary modes of transportation around their farms and even for trips to town.
Adam Vetter, of rural Westside, is among an increasing number of farmers who have turned to utility vehicles as their primary modes of transportation around their farms and even for trips to town.

March 9, 2018

Gary Vetter estimates that the utility vehicles he and his son use to traverse their farm of crops and cattle save them between one and two hours of travel time each day.

“The convenience factor is huge,” said Vetter, 58, who has farmed south of Westside for about four decades.

The vehicles have evolved from all-terrain vehicles, which farmers had long used for their nimbleness over rough ground.

The utility vehicles are lighter, more maneuverable, safer and easier to get in and out of, compared with a full-size pickup truck. And they have vastly more storage than all-terrain vehicles.

More than half of the farmers Vetter knows own at least one utility vehicle.

“They are very, very popular,” said Tyler Nelson, general manager of Olsen’s Outdoor Power on the west side of Carroll. “Some people have four or five of them on one farm.”

Nelson has watched the meteoric rise of utility vehicles over the past decade or so. They now account for about half of Olsen’s sales.

Initially, the utility vehicles “were an oddity,” Nelson said. “Now farmers are doing 3,000 or more miles a year on them.”

Vetter estimates his annual farm-related travel can reach 8,000 miles. He even drives the utility vehicles — many of which now can travel at highway speeds and have seat belts and roll cages — to Carroll to get supplies rather than swap it for a truck.

“It saves fuel and wear and tear,” Vetter said. “Being able to turn around in a tight spot. Just all around it’s a little bit quicker, and basically you can jump in and go.”

His son Adam has a utility vehicle with an enclosed cab to keep him warm in the winter when he checks his cattle multiple times each day. The vehicle is heated and air-conditioned.

“There’s always something going wrong on the farm,” Adam Vetter said, “so we’re always traveling around.”

Those amenities are among a growing list that manufacturers include. Some have power windows and satellite radio.

As the vehicles have evolved, they’ve also shot up in price. They can cost more than a car.

But the convenience can’t be beaten.

“We used to have four-wheelers,” said John Kanne, 60, who has farmed for nearly his entire life near Lidderdale, “but we switched to utilities because you can haul a lot more.”

Kanne has had the utility vehicles for about four years. They save time on the farm, but they’re also handy for traveling to see his children and grandchildren.

He estimates that more than half of the farmers he knows use the vehicles, too.