John Deere dealer Kibble Equipment will shutter its locations in Albert Lea and Kiester and consolidate operations to Blue Earth and Minnesota Lake, according to a report by Tim Engstrom in the June 16 Albert Lea

The Albert Lea location is slated to close August 1, and the Kiester closing is set for November 1, said Kibble Equipment General Manager Butch Kibble.

Kibble Equipment is based in Montevideo and has plans to build a 48,000 square-foot dealership on the north side of Blue Earth. Work likely will begin later this month or early next month.

Kibble said the consolidation has less to do with sales and is more about being prepared for the long term, as farm implement dealers must get larger to deal with changes in agriculture technology and service.

“You are either going to be a dealer of the future or not,” Kibble said.

Dealer consolidation has been steady in the ag world for the past decade, and John Deere, according to the Wall Street Journal and the trade publication Farm Equipment, has been a pioneer in the trend, urging dealers to bulk up or cash out. Among the farm brands, Deere has the most dealers in North America, though there are fewer and fewer small owners.

A clear driver, the media stories note, is that as farms get bigger there are fewer farmers on the land, so the implement dealers have followed suit. They also say, as farms specialize, it has created the need for dealers to specialize, and that’s easier for dealers with greater inventory to accomplish.

Influencing the decision, Kibble said, was that other John Deere dealers were in close proximity. Ag Power operates one in Hollandale and another in Northwood. Not far away in Austin is Sema Equipment.

“Our goal is not to abandon the customers in Albert Lea, but it is to provide a higher level of service,” Kibble said.

The company hopes to retain 85-90% percent of its employees, Kibble said. Exactly what will happen, he said, is undetermined.

“The decision is not taken lightly,” he said. “We care about employees.”

Albert Lea has had a John Deere dealer for 75 years.

Kibble Equipment also has locations in Mankato, Bird Island, Montevideo, New Ulm, Nicollet, Redwood Falls, Sleepy Eye and Wabasso.

Besides John Deere, other farm implement dealers in or near Albert Lea are Titan Machinery on East Main Street offering New Holland products and Arnold’s Case-International Harvester in Alden.