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10/7/2004

Faithful to farms

By Valerie Singleton
The Daily Times-Call

Edward Tafoya is handy with a backhoe.

In fact, his skills with the lifting-and-digging mechanism are so smooth that he can use it to lift eggs with a tablespoon hanging from the backhoe’s top.

But mostly, Tafoya uses his backhoe prowess in construction, digging trenches, water and sewer lines, and even graves.

“I can dig a grave in four minutes,” he said.

But backhoe bowling was a feat Tafoya had yet to place on his résumé — until Saturday.

“I don’t know,” he said while standing among a crowd at Longmont Farm Supply Inc., between the west Interstate 25 Frontage Road and Turner Boulevard.

He eyed a bowling ball dangling from a New Holland backhoe as it swooped down and hit a bowling pin placed atop a canister.

Backhoe bowling isn’t a new concept. In fact, Tafoya estimates that the pastime is probably as engrained in the agricultural community as is a friendly visit to Longmont Farm Supply.

Last Saturday, longtime customers of the business showed their gratitude for years of faithful service by ringing in the company’s 50th birthday. The party featured live music, food, an obstacle course and games — backhoe bowling among them.

While families took turns maneuvering a riding lawnmower through a cone-lined obstacle course, a group of children fervently swung at a tractor-shaped piñata.

For many, it was a way to say thank you to a business that has served an industry during an era of transition.

“A lot of the stuff has changed,” said Sue Rademacher, who farms in unincorporated Weld County. “The tractors are smaller (because they’re intended for) 2-acre lots, ’cause you don’t have very many farmers.”

As the face of the Front Range has changed from farmland to new homes and businesses, Longmont Farm Supply’s owners have modified their services and supplies to accommodate customer needs, according to Linda Taggart, who ran the business with her husband for 24 years.

Virgil and Bea Taggart opened Longmont Farm Supply with one tractor in 1954 in a filling station at Third Avenue and Emery Street. They moved to 16th Avenue and Main Street before coming to their current location in 1967.

“We just have grown so much,” Taggart said. “You used to look around here and there was nothing around. We had to change our business to adapt to that.

“We changed our commitment in the business in the mid-’70s to focus on the little-tractor market.”

On Friday — the business’s official 50th anniversary — the Taggarts rang in a new era by handing the reins to their son-in-law, Jeff Wood. With 23 employees, including one grandson, the business has supported four generations of the family.

Taggart said the business bears the proud designation of being the largest compact-tractor dealer in northern Colorado, selling parts and whole goods and providing a repair shop for customers’ equipment.

Tafoya — a 69-year-old Bayard, Neb., resident — has been getting farming supplies and equipment through Longmont Farm Supply for several decades. He is among a group of longtime customers the Taggarts have befriended throughout the years.

It is because of the business’ strong standing in the farming and construction communities that the Taggarts can travel anywhere in the United States and find friends, Linda Taggart said.

“We’re very proud of it,” she said.

Valerie Singleton can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 319, or by e-mail at vsingleton@times-call.com.