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February 13, 2014

Making hay in New Albany

Resident hopes to market his rotary rake, baler at farm show

NEW ALBANY — Willard Collins has family photos in every room of his New Albany house. One photo, a Collins favorite, takes up an entire wall, but bears no family resemblance.

That’s because it’s a front-mounted rotary hay rake, fastened to a tractor, pulling a hay baler and covering an 18-foot swath. It may not be a blood relative, but Collins considers it part of the family.

“It does the raking and the baling at the same time,” he said pointing to the picture. “It cuts out an entire step.”

Collins, 87, has a patent on the front-mounted rotary hay rake and plans on showing it off at the National Farm Machinery Show, which runs through Saturday, Feb. 15, at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville. He hopes executives with John Deere or another company like it enough to buy the plans and sell the invention to farmers across the country and beyond.

“I don’t want a large sum of money. I don’t want that at all,” he said. “All I want are royalties for me and my family when I’m gone. I think that is fair.”

A company Collins did not want to name has been trying to market the item for the past year, but has yet to yield results, he said.

“They haven’t done anything with it; I don’t think they approached it right,” he said.

Collins, a pastor at Branham Tabernacle in Jeffersonville, started constructing the front-mounted rotary 10 years ago after his son put the idea in his head. He said it took him more than a year to construct the final product, which he used on his farm in Elizabeth. He filed for a United States patent in 2007, and it was granted July 30, 2013. He now has copyrights to the plans, and hopes to see it soon on the market.

Collins will have a booth at the National Farm Machinery Show where a continuous video of the invention in action will be shown for four straight days.

“He is an amazing man. We are very excited,” said his daughter, Sharon Collins. “I am amazed he can do it at his age. He deserves it. He has worked hard his entire life.”

The invention still amazes Collins, who grew up on a farm. He said his machine eliminates a step in the baling process, and the ground turns the hay rake rotary system, so it doesn’t cost extra to operate it. Each bale of hay it combines weighs 2,000 pounds, or one ton.

“I thought it was really a great thing,” Willard Collins said. “I was really happy it worked out the way it did.”

He said he has the device in his barn in Elizabeth, and built another one and sold it to a farmer in Florida. He said a machine shop helped him “trim out and make neater” his invention.

“My son thought of it and put it in my mind. I just went front there,” he said with a smile. “I am really proud of it.”

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Judy Lunsford works on a lesson plan for her students with fellow teachers, Ellen Rothstein and Adam Stephens, in her classroom at Northaven Elementary in Jeffersonville Wednesday afternoon. Lunsford, a new addition to Northaven, will be teaching second grade.

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