Footings, Foundations and Farm Ponds
Front row: Gene Eicher, Brent Eicher and Brian Eicher. Back row: Dewayne Eicher, Daved Eicher, Wesley Graber, Tom Eicher and Tim Eicher.
Family-owned Eicher Excavating remains steadfast to a legacy built on honesty, versatility and hard work
Gene Eicher was just 14 years old in 1963, the year his dad rented a loader backhoe to install a water line. Nearly a half century later, family-owned Eicher Excavating has become one of Indiana’s leading excavating contractors. In the early days, the senior Eicher and son would tackle just about any job that involved digging in rich Indiana soil. Footings, basements, water and sewer lines — even graves — are among the many types of projects Eicher and company have completed over the years, and are still doing today.
“We started our excavating business little by little,” Eicher recalls. “It was just my dad and me working together at first. We started doing work for a fellow who built church houses; he asked us to dig some footings for him and we also got involved in digging some graves. Little by little people in the community would give us jobs, a lot of different types of work.”
He admits the early days were rough, when father and sons endured long, hot summer days and frigid sub-freezing January temperatures and taking on just about any type of work they could get. Yet Eicher remembers it all with fondness; especially the day his dad showed up with their first Bobcat® skid-steer loader.
“I don’t know what prompted Dad to buy his first skid-steer loader,” Eicher says. “He and the salesman at Bobcat of Fort Wayne just really seemed to click and Dad actually bought it to help with various chores around the farm. We liked it so much that we bought another one for the excavating business in 1995. I remember thinking how much back-breaking labor it saved us.”
Making the gradeAs the number of jobs steadily increased, so too did the number of Bobcat models within the Eicher Excavating equipment fleet. The company has two compact track loaders, two excavators, and most recently, a CT450 compact tractor. The Eichers arm their Bobcat lineup with an arsenal of convenient, labor-saving attachment selections including the Brushcat™ rotary cutter, box blades, hydraulic breakers, combination buckets, snow blades, a sweeper and a tiller. Eicher explains how the CT450 plays many roles, not only on the Eicher Excavating stage, but also on his small farm.
“The CT450 is a multipurpose machine for us,” Eicher explains. “It’s amazing how many uses we’ve found for it. I have the tiller and that works great for soil preparation and garden work, and the 3-point rotary cutter is really handy for taking down tall grass and brush prior to starting an excavating job. We also build a lot of ponds and use the CT450 for waterways, driveways and leveling. It’s a nice compact tractor that is easy to get in and out of and I really like the cab. The visibility is good and the way it is set up makes it easy to swap out implements. I also use it for baling hay and tilling on my farm.”
He also likes the light footprint and compact frame of the CT450 that allow the Eicher Excavating clan to navigate tight spaces with minimal disruption to the existing landscape. This feature is especially useful in assisting Eicher’s son in completing grading projects — a skill that the modest elder Eicher is so proud of.
“Among the many Bobcat loader attachments we really like is the box blade,” Eicher says. “It is controlled by a laser and we have found it very useful in building waterways and in the work we do building ponds. Last summer we built a 3-acre pond for a customer who wanted a sidewalk built all the way around it.” Eicher used the laser-controlled box blade to grade the sidewalk base. An excavator worked ahead to cut out the unnecessary soil. “Then the skid-steer loader/box blade combination followed, controlled by the laser, and the settings allow for dialing in any degree of fall you want,” Eicher said. “It cut it precisely within a half-inch — worked really slick.”
The patriarch of the Eicher legacy passed away in 2010 but the three brothers — along with Gene’s boys — are still together and all are part owners. “Remaining family-owned makes us somewhat unique, I guess,” Eicher says, “and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”