Tunes from the tractor

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 16, 2002

Songs played by a farming couple in Myrtle are getting nationwide recognition through an unconventional vehicle for musicians &045; a telephone.

Bonnie and Dan Belshan never anticipated their service to produce a phone hold message would become a business with more than 100 customers.

The customer list includes a computer retailer, moving company, car dealership, bank, and hotel across the nation from Rhode Island to California.

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They supply a device containing on-hold messages that advertise the company with customized music they record in a studio on the second floor of their farmhouse.

While Bonnie writes the copy and composes, Dan sets up the recording and marketing. Together, they go through research on the business of their customers so that the music and message would strike a chord with the client’s need and image.

Though the business has become bigger year by year, they maintain the highly individualized customer care a small enterprise can offer. One of the perks is the yearly fixed-price contract includes a guarantee to change messages up to six times within two working days after the order.

“A rigid work ethic as farmers drives our service,&uot; said Dan. In the seeding and harvesting seasons, he often takes orders in the field while driving his combine, and works with Bonnie until late in the studio.

Recently, their music activity has acquired a new horizon when the University of Minnesota Extension Service asked them to record an radio announcement for its information telephone service.

A jingle they perform with a narration in four different languages &045;Spanish, Somali, Hmong and English &045; will be soon on the air and also played in the extension’s exhibition at the county fairs this summer.

Since they assembled a band, Beacon, in 1980, Bonnie and Dan have been known as unique singing farmers who turn their daily farm experiences into music.

They played at a number of banquets and events all over the Midwest, capturing the sentiment of rural residents. Audiences have burst into laughter when they played a comical song about an old John Deere two-cylinder tractor, or Spray Song, about a farmer’s relentless struggle against weeds.

So, are they farmers who sing or singers who farm?&uot;That depends on the times of year and the price of corn and soybeans,&uot; Bonnie said. &uot;We enjoy being both&uot;