Farm Equipment editors were in and around Indianapolis this week visiting with equipment dealers, several of which are rapidly transitioning their businesses from “big ag” equipment to the smaller gear that rural lifestyle customers want.

These dealers say they’ve seen a “healthy” rise in lawn and garden equipment sales this year, especially lawn tractors.

We’re also hearing other encouraging news about this market.

Like many metropolitan areas, the outlying counties surrounding Indianapolis are experiencing significant urban sprawl as city dwellers move farther out seeking the quiet of the country.

The dealers that RLD visited say that, compared with the last 3 years, 2010 is giving them a lot of hope that the worst of the recession, which saw their equipment sales drop by 30% or more, is behind them.

One dealer said that he’s seeing people in his area southwest of Indy acquiring larger tracts of land. Some of his customers have purchased an additional 30 or 40 acres and are looking for tractors a little larger than those they already own. He says he’s had to bring in more equipment in the 50-100-horsepower range than ever before. Some have started raising hay and adding to their small livestock herds.

Another dealer north of town was getting ready to host its first-ever tent sale for lawn tractors. On the county highway that borders the dealership on the south, there was a line up of lawn tractors and mowers stretching for more than one-quarter mile. It was impressive to say the least and demonstrates the dealer’s confidence that the market is on its way back.

TSCO Declares Dividend

While it doesn’t sell much in the way of equipment, another sign that things are looking up for the large property owner and rural lifestyle market came this morning as Brentwood, Tenn. based Tractor Supply Co., (Nasdaq: TSCO), announced it is declaring a cash dividend and offering a two-for-one stock split.

Tractor Supply is the largest retail farm and ranch store chain in the U.S. The company's board of directors declared a quarterly cash dividend of $0.14 per share of the company's common stock. The board also approved a two-for-one split of the company's common stock.

Stockholders of record as of the close of business on August 16, 2010, will receive a cash dividend, based on the number of shares owned prior to the split, on August 31, 2010.

Additionally, stockholders of record as of the close of business on August 19, 2010, will receive one additional share of common stock for each share owned as of that date. As a result of the stock split, the number of outstanding shares of common stock will increase to approximately 72.6 million from approximately 36.3 million shares. The company expects the newly issued shares to be distributed on September 2, 2010.

Jim Wright, chairman and CEO, commented, "In addition to our third consecutive quarterly cash dividend, we’re pleased to announce this stock split, which should further enhance the liquidity of our shares and increase the attractiveness of our stock to a broader range of investors. This action by the board also recognizes Tractor Supply Co.'s outstanding long-term equity market performance, our current business momentum and promising growth opportunities."

As of June 26, Tractor Supply operated 967 stores in 44 states. The company's stores are focused on supplying the lifestyle needs of recreational farmers and ranchers. The company also serves the maintenance needs of those who enjoy the rural lifestyle, as well as tradesmen and small businesses. Stores are located in towns outlying major metropolitan markets and in rural communities.