Beyond its thousands of acres of cropland, Mississippi also calls claim to a national leader in agricultural equipment manufacturing. The KBH Corporation in Clarksdale designs, builds and sells equipment across the U.S. and is regarded as a leader within the industry, adapting with agricultural changes during the past half-century. “KBH has always had the challenge of reinventing itself as agriculture changes,” says Tim Tenhet, KBH sales manager. “As grains have taken the place of nearly 1 million cotton acres just in Mississippi alone, we’ve been forced to diversify into non crop-specific equipment.” The company was started in 1951 to manufacture equipment that applied anhydrous ammonia fertilizer. The co-founders gave the company name their surname initials – Kirby, Bass and Holcomb – and co-founder B. Bass soon bought out his partners. In the 1960s and 1970s, the company started making equipment designed to help Delta farmers fight weeds: Flame cultivators, which literally burn up weeds and “wick bars,” tractor-mounted tools that help a farmer apply herbicides only where needed. By the 1980s, KBH had developed other equipment for cotton production, like specialized cotton wagons. “Over the last few decades, KBH has developed a much more diverse line of farm equipment,” says Buddy Bass, third-generation company president. That included bulk seed handling equipment, hopper-bottom grain trailers for semi-trucks and dry fertilizer tenders.
Listening to customers helps keep KBH building equipment to meet new farm needs. “It’s no cliché to say that our customers are our friends,” Tenhet says. “And we rely on our customers coming to us with problems that we can help solve.” That’s how KBH started working on its latest fertilizer tender. Tenders auger (or move) bulk fertilizer into the bin of the fertilizer spreader. “A customer suggested we should develop a wireless remote- controlled tender that could be operated from the spreader platform,” Tenhet says. That would save the operator time and reduce fatigue from climbing up and down equipment ladders.
“We ran a few prototypes, and now we have over 30 production units running from coast to coast,” he says. Developing new equipment helps more than just the company’s customers; it supports the local economy. KBH averages around 100 workers employed at its plant in Clarksdale. “We’ve been blessed to have a family-owned manufacturing business for over six decades, and we plan to keep serving our customers and meeting new challenges as farming changes in the future,” Bass says.