Future Farmer JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021
A conversation with American Crystal Sugar Company CEO Tom Astrup.
CONTENTS AG CONVERSATIONS
Sponsored Content: LG Seeds ....................................... 12 Sponsored Content: AgCountry Financial ............... 18 Sponsored Content: North Dakota Farm Bureau ... 21
A CONVERSATION WITH AMERICAN CRYSTAL SUGAR CEO TOM ASTRUP
CHATTING WITH ROGER REIERSON
PRAIRIE AG PRODUCTS
GENESIS FEED TECH
DAKOTA DIRT COFFEE
10 THINGS GRAND FARM WILL DO FOR GROWERS
GRAND FARM: DEEP DIVE
MICHELE PAYN INTERVIEW
CUTTING EDGE AG
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MEET THE TEAM
Learn more about us at SpotlightMediaFargo.com JOHN
January/February 2021 Volume 2 Issue 1
Future Farmer Future Farmer is published 6 times a year and is direct mailed to farmers throughout North Dakota and Minnesota. Find us online at Futurefarmermag.com.
Publisher EDITORIAL Editorial Team Lead
Mike Dragosavich Drago@SpotlightMediaFargo.com Nolan P. Schmidt
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Future Farmer is published by Spotlight LLC, Copyright 2021 Future Farmer. All rights reserved. No parts of this magazine may be reproduced or distributed without written permission of Future Farmer, and Spotlight LLC, is not responsible for, and expressly disclaims all liability for, damages of any kind arising out of use, reference to or reliance on such information. Spotlight LLC, accepts no liability for the accuracy of statements made by the advertisers.
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n a given month, we have
the true appreciation of conversation.
hundreds upon hundreds of
It is the pulpit of my (and my co-
conversations here at Spotlight.
workers) creative work.
Whether it is with a story subject,
Landon Vogel enlightened us about agriculture products and how his
a co-worker or a friend, we always
This month, we had some of our
business Prairie Ag Products provides
seem to find ourselves engaging in
most meaningful conversations in
solutions for farmers. With high-
conversations with peers. Have you
this magazine's history. We discussed
quality products, Prairie Ag Products
ever taken a second to realize just
the business and future of one of the
helps solve problems before they ever
how many conversations you have
Red River Valley's most important
arise on the farm.
in a day? That could be in-person,
companies, American Crystal Sugar.
via text or virtually through Zoom.
It was a conversation that went
And how does that old saying go,
Needless to say, those conversations
beyond soybean farmers, it stretches
"a person is only as good as their
are vast and far-reaching regardless
into every sector of agriculture given
cup of coffee?" Something like that.
of if it is two minutes or 20 minutes.
Crystal Sugar's reach across the
Either way, we profiled three young
entrepreneurs straight out of farm
Conversation is what allows this
country. While they stay connected to
magazine to be created. It is
We talked about cutting-edge
the ag world, the Dakota Dirt Coffee
conversations with ag leaders,
innovations with Power Pollen. The
boys are helping fuel farmers and
notable business owners and the
Iowa-based company is the first of
more with their fresh, home-roasted
great farmers of our area. I don't think
its kind in the country and showcases
I've ever looked back and understood
the future of pollen collection and
Those are just a few of the conversations we had this month. It's simply a fraction of the discussions we actually had in creating this issue. We hope these conversations are valuable to you and lead to more conversations in your own life. Because without conversations, we are silent. No progress is made, in the ag sector or beyond, when there is silence. Converse accordingly,
The Editorial Team
FROM THE FIELD
brought to you by LG Seeds Because your business is more than a farm, LG Seeds is dedicated to being more than a seed company. In a unique approach to the industry, LG Seeds works intimately with a network of regional STAR Partner dealers. By bringing about this team approach, they are able to serve farmers with their leading genetics but also “feet on the ground” expertise. It’s not enough to provide farmers with leading-edge research and genetic hybrids, the LG Seeds team is dedicated to personalized results. To achieve this, the company enlists STAR Partner dealers. These STAR Partners work closely with the sales team and agronomists, receiving marketing and business support to aid their regional clients. STAR Partners are equipped with the resources to maximize success for farmers. Including a strong agronomic expertise, in-field support, digital ag platforms and regular training on the latest genetics and technologies. To better understand what LG Seeds provides and how STAR Partners operate, we spoke with two STAR Partners, Marshall Bjorklund and Scott Nelson. These two Minnesota LG Seeds STAR Partners shared what makes them feel like valuable parts of the company’s mission and why they do what they do.
WE MEAN BUSINESS. LG SEEDS 1122 E 169th St Westfield, IN 46074
Brought to you by LG SEEDS
Marshall Bjorklund STAR Partner
rom the basketball court to the soybean fields, Marshall Bjorklund loves competition and success. Since becoming a STAR Partner dealer for LG Seeds, Bjorklund has seen growth, development and success in a whole new way. Bjorklund grew up near St Peter, Minn., and attended NDSU where he studied Intercultural Systems Management and Crop & Weed Science. He also played basketball, but ultimately chose to farm and saw a brighter future in the seed business. After graduating college, Bjorklund joined the family seed business, which his grandfather started. Choosing a quality seed brand is essential to the success of any seed dealer, and that's why Bjorklund chose LG Seeds. "You need to have good performance in whichever company you choose," says Bjorklund. "We had a good taste of [the performance], and knew we would be able to sell it." Speaking of success, a quality product like LG Seeds isn't the only component of a successful dealer, exceptional salesmanship is also an important factor. "You need to have a good reputation, not only with your dealership but the company as well," says Bjorklund. "I found that LG Seeds was very reputable. They have a lot of support with
their Sales Account Managers and Technical Team Agronomists."
on uncertain things that they might have questions on."
There are other factors to long-term success as well, and Bjorklund has found that networking is an essential tool to use for research, product comparison and performance and more. "In most farming communities, a lot of people talk about things like seed and certain hybrids as well," says Bjorklund. "They might talk to their neighbors and say, 'This [seed] did really well,' and that's something I've learned."
Bjorklund has some great strategies to help further promote LG Seeds and its products. "We've entered a National Corn Growers yield contest the past five years, and we've done extremely well with our LG Seeds hybrids, and I think people have noticed that," says Bjorklund. "We're not one's to brag about yields, but it's a great, nonbiased way to get your product out there and show people how it can perform."
Bjorklund believes networking for success is a slower, but rewarding strategy. "It's not something you're going to grow into overnight," he says. "You have to be patient with it year by year and it'll continue to grow."
LG Seeds has a variety of benefits, and to Bjorklund, one of those benefits is customer support. "They are really good about standing behind their products, and realizing if there is an issue that they will make it right."
However, with a superior product like LG Seeds, being a successful STAR Partner dealer is even easier. "I truly believe that [LG Seeds] have some of the best genetics in the industry, and we're not afraid to go up against any other brand," says Bjorklund.
Bjorklund is also excited about the new Mix Matters Tool LG Seeds is offering to help growers yield the best results possible. "With each individual grower, you can enter in their farms, and the system will automatically generate recommendations for that certain piece of ground-based on soil types," says Bjorklund. He believes this tool from LG Seeds will help give farmers an edge to better results.
Having a successful dealership means more than sales. It's important to have a good relationship with the customer. "It's more than just handing a bag of seeds to a guy," he says. "You must have a relationship with them, and be able to give them advice
Brought to you by LG SEEDS
Technical Team Agronomist
Area Agronomy Manager
Product & Agronomy Services Manager
Dealer Development Lead Customer Care Specialist
Sales Account Manager Team
Area Sales Manager
Teaming Up For Success Every LG Seeds STAR Partner dealer has a team of experts backing them up. Whether its agronomy support, marketing ideas or business advice, the LG Seeds team exists to support the business success of STAR Partners - who stand at the center of the team. Bottom line - it’s all about helping growers yield bigger, better results.
Team 29 Marshall Bjorklund's Team Dan Olson - Sales Account Manager Jenae Willette - Sales Account Manager Mitchell Skaar - Sales Account Manager Peter Wingert - Sales Account Manager Justin Krell – Technical Team Agronomist Amanda Buchanan – Customer Care Specialist Michelle Frost – Marketing Coordinator
Scott Nelson STAR Partner
lthough Scott Nelson isn't a farmer himself, he still dedicates himself to providing top-quality seed to farmers in his community. Scott Nelson is an LG Seeds STAR Partner dealer from Delano, Minn. He grew up working on his neighbor's farm, and loved the life farming provided. He later took interest in the family seed business in Delano. Nelson earned his Bachelor's in Business from St. Cloud State, and returned to Delano to start a family and start a seed business. When it comes to his love for the sales business, Nelson loves the connection he builds with customers and working together to meet their needs. In addition to sales, Nelson is also the Agronomy Manager at his local co-op. One major reason why Nelson loves LG Seeds is how well they perform, and how well the product satisfies his customers.
"Everyone you talk to, I don't care what seed company, but [LG Seeds] has the best stuff," says Nelson. According to Nelson, another aspect of LG Seeds that sets them apart from the competition is their sales team and support: "They'll do anything for you; they'll bend over backward and work on a Sunday if you need." Nelson and his team have been working hard to establish a stable, long-term business that customers can rely on. "We're here for the long term," says Nelson. "We're not going to be a seed dealer that shows up in the middle of the night and then leaves two years later." The quality of LG Seeds is helping drive forward that long-term success for Nelson. "[LG Seeds] have really good genetics," he says. "They're put together in a way where we've seen really good success."
Quality and good salesmanship are essential. However, pricing plays an important role in customer loyalty and retention. Nelson says there's a constant pressure to have competitive pricing. He believes his business, as well as LG Seeds, are doing an exceptional job at staying competitive in the market. Nelson's goal is to ensure customers that they can rely on both himself and LG Seeds to deliver quality seed, exceptional salesmanship and the genetics and research to support it.
Brought to you by LG SEEDS
Technical Team Agronomist
Area Agronomy Manager
Product & Agronomy Services Manager
Dealer Development Lead Customer Care Specialist
Sales Account Manager Team
Area Sales Manager
Teaming Up For Success Every LG Seeds STAR Partner dealer has a team of experts backing them up. Whether its agronomy support, marketing ideas or business advice, the LG Seeds team exists to support the business success of STAR Partners - who stand at the center of the team. Bottom line - it’s all about helping growers yield bigger, better results.
Team 28 Scott Nelson's Team Mitch Fabel – Sales Account Manager Thomas Schmitt – Sales Account Manager Trevor Hamre – Sales Account Manager Justin Krell – Technical Team Agronomist Amanda Buchanan – Customer Care Specialist Michelle Frost – Marketing Coordinator
The Key to Navigating Crop Insurance arming on the plains of the upper Midwest has its challenges. With Mother Nature, you never quite know what you are going to get. Each year 4,000 acres in Ransom and Sargent counties in Southeastern North Dakota. David Rasmussen raises spring wheat, corn and soybeans on around 4,000 acres in southeastern North Dakota. But the last two growing seasons have been unforgiving for Rasmussen. Large early-season snowstorms in October combined with spring rains and cold conditions have placed farmers in this part of the country in a difficult spot. By Rasmussen’s own estimate, he was able to successfully plant only about two-thirds of his normal crop. And Rasmussen is certainly not alone. According to data from the United States Department of Agriculture, nearly 20 million acres were prevented from being planted nationwide in 2019, alone. That total more than doubles the previous mark set back in 2011. North Dakota farmers were unable to plant over 855,000 acres that year. In neighboring Minnesota and South Dakota, those totals reached over 1.1 million acres and nearly 4 million acres, respectively. In a market environment plagued with lower commodity prices and ongoing trade issues with foreign nations, struggles with weather only add to the stress placed on
the backs of farmers and ranchers. Luckily for Rasmussen, he had a solid crop insurance plan in place. Working together with his insurance specialist and loan officer at AgCountry Farm Credit Services, Rasmussen was able to utilize the Prevented Plant option within his policy. “We knew going in last spring that we were not going to get everything planted,” said Rasmussen. “It was pretty easy talking to AgCountry to help me fully understand the prevent plant rules and be assured in my planting intentions.” Because of these decisions, and the knowledge of the team he works with, Rasmussen says crop insurance has helped his farming operation weather the storm of the last few seasons. “Everybody on the AgCountry team was aware of what was going on and how we were approaching it. They knew what to expect. They are so good at understanding the payments and keeping that stuff up-to-date.” Sheri Rostock works as a senior insurance specialist at AgCountry in Lisbon, ND. She says that crop insurance is one of the best tools available to farmers and ranchers to hedge against poor weather conditions. “The most recent couple of years really highlight the difference crop insurance can make for a farm’s financial success,” says Rostock. “Without those extra funds, money would be awfully tight for some operations.” There are a lot of options available to farmers and ranchers when it comes to crop insurance. However, Rostock
ND Prevent Plant (PP) Acres for 2020 totaled 3,205,306. Ransom and Sargent Counties alone had 661,584 prevented planting acres.
cautions that it is important to work with a company that understands agriculture. “Each farm is unique,” says Rostock. “Given the complexity of modern agriculture, it is nice to work with people that are on the same page as you.” Like farming, navigating through the crop insurance program can also be difficult for those who do not regularly work with it. Coverage and payments can vary greatly depending on where someone farms and what they farm. For these reasons, ongoing communication is crucial between the farmer and insurance specialist.
According to the North Dakota FSA Office, Ransom County had 31 percent prevented planting acres and Sargent County had 37 percent prevented planting acres in 2020.
20,984,873 271,550 33,040,528 3,205,306
“To avoid any unwanted surprises, it is best that farmers be upfront and provide their insurance specialist with as much information as they can once it becomes available,” says Rostock. And in the case of Rasmussen, Rostock says that through communication and evaluation, they were able to get him the best possible coverage to help the bottom line of his farming operation. After the last two years for Rasmussen, this is certainly welcomed. “Being able to get paid in a timely fashion has really helped keep the cash flow and the operation going. Crop insurance has been a lifesaver and I thank AgCountry for helping me through it.” Find out more at AgCountry.com
EXPANDING HORIZONS With the help of the North Dakota Farm Bureau, Brandon and Erik Lindstrom continue to add to their agriculture portfolio.
usiness and agronomy may be two very different vocations, but to Brandon and Erik Lindstrom, it turned out to be the perfect blend.
The Lindstrom brothers grew up in the farming industry and attended college at South Dakota State. However, that's where the similarities ended: Brandon studied Political Science and Economics, whereas Erik studied General Agriculture and Agronomy. Initially, Brandon didn't see himself using his degree in farming, but he kept finding himself coming back home to help on the farm. "Sometimes you have to step away from [farming] to come back to it and appreciate it," he said.
55...You can't throw out old wisdom, but you need to be flexible in trying new things." This is where North Dakota Farm Bureau plays an important role. Although both Lindstrom brothers are involved with NDFB, Brandon has been in a leadership position within the organization for three years. He has represented his district on the Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee. Currently, he is the Cass County Chair of the local Farm Bureau.
When discussing the advantages of being a part of an organization like NDFB, Brandon believes there is a community aspect where one can connect with other people in the agriculture industry. "It's almost like another family that you get to hang out with and share farming stories and experiences," says Brandon. "It's a great way to meet with a group of farmers that you can swap ideas and experiences with."
For Erik, it was all about taking a rare opportunity to farm with his dad. "How do you turn down an opportunity like this? A lot of kids would never have the chance to farm with their dad and join the family business," Lindstrom said.
In addition to community and sharing experiences, Brandon enjoys the support farmers receive from NDFB. "It's nice to know it's an organization that has my back," he said.
When it comes to the farming industry, the Lindstrom brothers believe their age plays a dynamic role. "It's an interesting mix of old knowledge and young viewpoints," says Brandon. "The average age of a farmer is
However, it's not just farming the Lindstrom brothers enjoy; Erik has expanded the business into syrup production. One might be thinking maple syrup–however, it is in fact syrup from Boxelder trees. "I like it better
[than maple syrup], honestly," says Erik. "We just did a little trial one year and then threw a little bit more money in equipment each year, but we're also learning a little bit more as we go... Because it's not close to anything we've ever done before," chuckles Erik.
A Boxelder syrup small business is quite the venture for anyone, and Erik admits it's an interesting challenge finding people who have acquired a taste for it. "We're trying to kind of feel the market and also make sure it's tested to make sure it's a viable product because they don't produce quite as well as sugar maples do," says Erik. "We really have to find people that are sold on the taste of it." That isn't stopping Erik, however. He has planned over the next couple of years to develop and expand his product into a profitable business. Without the help of NDFB and its supportive community, this idea may have never gotten off the ground. That, coupled with farming soybeans keeps the Lindstrom brothers busy. A balancing act of that degree is made easier thanks to the resources from NDFB. Learn more at ndfb.org.
By Brady Drake
Photo by Nolan Schmidt
Tom Astrup President and CEO American Crystal Sugar
om Astrup has worked eight different positions during his time with American Crystal Sugar Company. In 2016, he was given the title President and CEO, putting him at the head of the biggest beet sugar producer in the United States. American Crystal Sugar Company operates sugar factories in Crookston, East Grand Forks, and Moorhead, Minnesota; Drayton and Hillsboro, North Dakota; and Sidney, Montana, under the name Sidney Sugars Incorporated. Needless to say, Astrup is running quite the operation. We sat down with the CEO to learn more.
AMERICAN CRYSTAL SUGAR
YOUR L AND, YOUR LENDER . Working Hard For You
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Hawley (218) 483-3361 Moorhead (218) 233-2544 valleypremierbank.com
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Q.Can you take me through your career history?
and finance, but in nearly every other department within the company.
A. I graduated in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of North Dakota. After graduation, I worked as a Certified Public Accountant for an accounting firm in Minneapolis/ St. Paul. I began working for American Crystal in 1994 and have held eight different positions in my 26 years with the company. Those positions gave me a range of experience not only in accounting
Q. Did you always want to be a CEO? A. No. It certainly intrigued me, but it wasn’t a specific goal of mine. Throughout the course of my career at American Crystal, I’ve simply tried to learn as much as I can, add value to whatever position I was in at the time and improve as a manager and a leader. It really wasn’t until a few
American Crystal Sugar employees about 1,800 employees across its network.
years prior to becoming CEO, that I decided it was a position I aspired to. Q. American Crystal Sugar is headquartered in Moorhead but has plants all over. As a President and CEO, how do you manage that? A. Specifically, we have sugarbeet processing factories in Hillsboro and Drayton, ND; Moorhead, Crookston, and East Grand Forks, MN; and Sidney, Montana. Our sales
are managed through two marketing cooperatives in which we are the largest member. United Sugars is the second largest marketer of sugar in the United States with a customer service center in Moorhead, MN and a corporate office in Edina, MN. Midwest Agri-Commodities Company is the largest marketer of sugarbeet pulp and molasses products in the United States with a corporate office in San Rafael, California. The simple answer to the question is we have good people in charge at each of those locations who I trust
to get the job done right and to frankly do the job better than I could do it. We also have corporate resources in areas like Agriculture, Operations, Human Resources, Information Technology and Finance, who provide critical technical support and strategic leadership. I personally meet on location with each of those management teams several times per year to discuss current operations and long-term plans. I also hold companywide employee communications meetings throughout the year. And then of course there is our approximately 2,600 sugarbeet
AMERICAN CRYSTAL SUGAR
The sugarbeets grown at American Crystal Sugar are responsible for 15 percent of America's sugar
farmer/shareholders throughout the Red River Valley. We hold communication meetings with them four times per year. Q. How have you tried to mitigate the effects of COVID at the plants? A. We’ve done what so many businesses and other manufacturers have done which includes temperature screening of employees, assigning specific personnel to cleaning and disinfecting high touch areas, minimizing group gatherings, wearing face masks or shields, and erecting barriers between workstations. We also gave every full-time employee an additional 80 hours of COVIDrelated paid sick leave. We did not want COVID to be a financial hardship for our employees and wanted to reward them for staying home when it was necessary for the health and safety of their co-workers. Q. What is the worst piece of advice you’ve ever received? A. I don’t have a specific answer to that question. I’ve been fortunate to work for and with a lot of high-quality people over the years. I’ve found those real-
world experiences learning from others to be the best “words” of advice.
about what is going on in the world and in business.
Q. What are three pieces of advice you have for other C-level executives out there?
Q. What’s one thing you do to foster success in your organization?
3. Don’t become obsessed with profit. Obsess about the things that lead to profit like customers, people, and processes.
A. I think it’s about establishing the goals we want to accomplish and then consistently communicate them to all employees, along with the unwavering values we are going to live by in pursuing those goals. In our case, the values we’ve identified are safety, quality, teamwork, integrity and accountability. To close the positive cycle, we emphasize recognizing employees for their accomplishments whether that be in the form of a simple “thank you” or catering in lunch or celebrating with employees and their families at a summer picnic.
Q. Do you have any media/ book recommendations for the other business professionals out there?
Q. What’s one thing the business community can do to help American Crystal Sugar continue to succeed?
A. I am a regular reader of The Economist and The Harvard Business Review. I think both really force me to pull back from the relatively small world I work in every day and think more broadly
A. To advocate for agriculture. We have one of the cheapest, safest, most reliable supplies of food in the world. We should never take that for granted.
A. 1. Surround yourself with good people and trust them to make decisions, even if you don’t always agree with them. I find they are usually right. 2. Ask lots of questions. You never know your business nearly as much as you should or as you think you do.
2020 Brings Twists and Turns For
By Josiah Kopp
n 2019, Fargo INC! magazine sat down with entrepreneur Nick Horob of Harvest Profit to explore what it's like to live through a full year of entrepreneurship. In just over a year, so much change has taken place for Nick Horob and Harvest Profit, including an acquisition by John Deere, which took place on November 12, 2020. As we reflect back on 2020, it's safe to say the year was filled with unexpected curveballs. Through it all, Horob kept Harvest Profit steered in the right direction. When we last spoke with Horob in late 2019, he was exploring the possibilities of joint ventures and acquisitions for Harvest Profit. Finding HILLARY EHLEN FUTUREFARMERMAG.COM
HOROB WAS FEATURED ON THE COVER OF OUR NOVEMBER 2019 ISSUE.
the perfect partnership is a feat very few businesses achieve, yet Horob found that with John Deere. Horob grew up in Williston, North Dakota, in the heart of farmland. Both sides of his family farmed, but he was more interested in finance. "I started doing consulting work for farms around [Williston] back in 2009, and then discovered a need for a better software tool and so we built Harvest Profit as a way to help my consulting customers get traction and just expand to other geographies," said Horob. Initially, Horob attended North Dakota State for an Industrial Engineering degree. It wasn't until he took an engineering economics class that he began to be intrigued with the numbers aspect of farming. He transferred to the University of Minnesota, and graduated with a Finance Degree in 2007. Harvest Profit proved to be a promising and essential tool, and it gained traction in the late 2010s. Horob was approached by a variety of potential partners, and the future of Harvest Profit seemed promising, regardless of where the venture lead. Horob had worked with John Deere on a few integration projects in the past, and conversations began to form about an acquisition. "We were doing some long-term planning at Harvest Profit," says Horob. "Part of these plans included some ambitious new projects that would likely require more resources. Evaluating these alternatives led us to have initial conversations with Deere and we quickly found there was mutual interest and good alignment."
"We had conversations with [John Deere], and they really remained focused on keeping our current product in place. They didn't want to do anything to shut down the product; all they really wanted to do was learn from us and learn from our customers as they grew their software tools." Partnering with any brand is a big decision, and often times, businesses may fear that an acquisition could harm the brand or take away from their vision. However, with John Deere, that was never a concern for Harvest Profit. When discussing with Horob some of the key factors that led Harvest Profit into choosing a partnership with John Deere, freedom was their focus. "[John Deere] gave us the freedom to keep our product independent, keep our team independent, and really just to help integrate more closely with some other tools in the future," said Horob. "We're really comfortable that they truly had our customers best interests in mind and have given us the freedom to continue what we're doing." John Deere is a household name for many farmers across America, and for good reason. Horob recognized their vision in investing in the technology side of their equipment, and pursued that as a vital piece to the future of Harvest Profit. "[John Deere] is a leader in economic data, we are a leader in the business and the financial data. Just being able to tie those two together is going to be a pretty powerful combination in the next 4-5 years," said Horob.
"Our number one goal is to keep the momentum in our current product moving forward, and keep our current customers happy. At the end of the day, you know, we can say that, but we just need to deliver on that."
- NICK HOROB
"[John Deere] is a leader in economic data, we are a leader in the business and the financial data. Just being able to tie those two together is going to be a pretty powerful combination in the next 4-5 years." - NICK HOROB Looking ahead, with the help of John Deere, Horob is excited about getting the power of Harvest Profit in front of more people. Collecting and storing farming data across multiple platforms can be complex and confusing for many farmers. This is why Horob is excited to partner with John Deere to help bring a more user-friendly data experience to the table. "This is going to be a logical way to tie some of this [complexity] together," said Horob. "Farmers will be able to have a better end-toend user experience for capturing their economic data and turn it into actionable insights." Worries and struggles can arise in most any acquisition and, for Horob, the biggest worry during the transition was staying focused on the customer, as well as the due diligence process. "We couldn't let that [transition] experience degrade our customers' experiences," said Horob. "We just have to keep managing both of those. It was a lot of work for us – on our team – to ensure that the customer experience wasn't suffering." Changes in businesses can be worrisome to customers. Sometimes, even a logo change, or new packaging can be a risk, and reassuring your customers that the quality of your product will always be there is vital to any acquisition. For Horob, it's not just about initially earning that trust in Harvest Profit, but continuing to earn it each day. "Our number one goal is to keep keep the momentum in our current product moving forward, and keep our current customers happy," said Horob. "At the end of the day, you know, we can say that, but we just need to deliver on that." Customer happiness was the laser focus of Harvest Profit in the beginning, and even with the acquisition, it still is today. Although Horob doesn't have a motto, per se, there's a definite mission within Harvest Profit. "There hasn't really been a motto," said Horob. "We're just trying to build the best software, and support it as best we can. That's just really what our driving mission is, providing the best tools we can and do all we can to support that."
Moving forward, Horob's role is being a Product Manager overseeing the development of Harvest Profit– and they've already some big gains, especially within the last year. As we set our sights on 2021, Horob reflected on some of the things he is most proud of. "I think we've gone about growing our business in a really rewarding way, which is just trying to put out valuable content and help people learn and help people grow," said Horob. "And at the end of the day, it's a win-win for everybody." Hindsight is always 20/20, and sometimes we may look back on situations or journeys and critique the process. However, when Horob looks back on the acquisition as a whole, he is very pleased with the process as well as the outcome: "In all honesty, the project went very smoothly," says Horob. "There's isn't much I would've done differently. If I had to pick one thing though, I would say that I regret not setting up our credit card payment processing with Stripe from our company's inception. Previously, we accepted both payments by check and credit cards via Stripe. That led to a lot of manual data work during the due diligence process. " Horob has advice for other entrepreneurs out there who are shooting their shot in the world of business. "For us, it's just really focusing on a problem. So for me it was hard to have the best visibility to the numbers side of their farm. So how can we? How can we help make that easier," said Horob. "So to focus on the problem, focus on the job that somebody is trying to get done, versus trying to just focus on building the business." "If you can solve a problem that adds value to people, that's going to lead to good things in business," said Horob. For those entrepreneurs who are trying to build their way in the world of business, this is sound advice. Not only is it critical to solve a problem, but also to solve a problem that enhances the life of people– and that's really what Future Farmer is all about.
Q&A WITH ROGER REIERSON By Brady Drake
Few people are afforded the breadth of perspective that Roger Reierson has over the agricultural industry. The Executive Chairman of the RR46 Board and 2011 National Agri-Marketing Association National Agri-Marketer of the Year Award is using his wealth of knowledge as the Agribusiness Committee Chair with the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce. We sat down with him to learn more about the committee. Photo provided by Flint Group
What does your day-to-day look like as the agribusiness committee chair? As a committee, our job is to educate, inform and talk about initiatives that are happening in agriculture. This year, we plan to expand our reach by doing monthly meetings, podcasts and online conferences to zero in on specific topics where there is interest in the community.
Why did you want to get involved in this position? I've been a member of the committee since it started. I'm also a past chair of the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce. So, I've been involved with the chamber for almost 40 years now. We also have a lot of agricultural clients at Flint Group. So, I have a pretty good knowledge of agriculture and the agriculture sectors and their economic impacts.
Where do you see the ag space heading? I think agriculture went through a couple of fairly rough years with trade issues and other factors like weather. Certainly, commodity prices over the last few years have not been favorable to agriculture. However, during the last six months, we've seen quite a better outlook for agriculture. A lot of areas have shown promise going into the next year. There are still some prices that are low, but agriculture is pretty resilient. With new technologies, yields are up which helps a lot. Farming practices are much better and more efficient than in the past. We're also really seeing an uptick in interest in autonomous farms.
You've had the opportunity to view agriculture through a number of different lenses that a lot of people don't get the opportunity to look through. However, I have to ask, were you surprised by anything you were exposed to?
In sort of that same light, and by that I mean talking about 360-degree view of the ag space that you have, is there anything you think growers should know that they don't? They're a pretty smart bunch, I would turn that around the other way, I would say we need to learn more from the growers. We need to learn more about the things that they face every year and the new innovations that are coming to them. I think the answer to the question that you originally asked is that it's important for growers to understand what businesses are doing to help make agriculture successful in our community. I think the relay of information is a complimentary deal.
Is that line of communication between those two groups of people pretty open right now or are there some difficulties? I would say it's open when the opportunity arises. Certainly, there are certain times of the year where it's very hard to get the actual grower to the table with how busy they are. However, if the time of year is right, we don't get a lot of resistance from growers when we ask them to come to speak or participate.
What are some things as a community we can do to help out the causes you're trying to put forward with the committee? I think one of the things we could do a much better job of is starting to educate people at a younger age about the impact of agriculture. I know K through 12 schools don't address agriculture much anymore.
I can't say there have been any huge surprises. However, through my position, I do hear some interesting topics of conversation from entrepreneurs. I'm seeing them do things that are new or new to me as far as how they fit into the ag world. They're changing agriculture, making it more efficient and more economically driven.
CEO of PowerPollen Photos provided by PowerPollen 36
Q& A By Brady Drake
With Growing Game Changer Todd Krone
Dr. Todd Krone spent more than 20-years leading seed and biotechnology advancements at leading agribusinesses, including Corteva Agriscience and Bayer. In these roles, he helped apply innovations to improve crop productivity for farmers around the world. In fact, several biotech traits he helped develop to improve insect control and herbicide tolerance in multiple crops and geographies are still on the market today. Krone has remained passionate about solving some of farming’s most difficult challenges to meet food demand in a more sustainable manner. Today, Krone is the CEO of PowerPollen, a company changing the way growers pollinate by allowing the storage of corn pollen for preservation and later application. FUTUREFARMERMAG.COM
application process in action.
How did PowerPollen come to be? KRONE: While innovation has focused on seed genetics and crop inputs, the process of making hybrid seed is largely unchanged. Seed companies and farmers continue to rely on wind to pollinate crops. Since the 1930s, many have tried to preserve and store corn pollen in an efficient, scalable manner and failed due to its fragile nature. Despite extensive efforts by the seed industry to improve male sterility methods, hybrid seed production relies on decades-old planting methods that are inefficient and costly. Current protocols rely on planting delays and mechanical treatments to help synchronize the reproductive timing between the male and female plants, which is difficult to achieve. In 2015, during which time there was tremendous change happening across
the ag industry, I decided to take a leap of faith and become an entrepreneur to focus solely on solving the pollination challenge. Together with my co-founder, Jason Cope, who brought unique expertise in ag engineering, we were able to attract other experienced talent that shared our excitement to tackle this challenge. Using our understanding of plant breeding, physiology, and extensive research and field testing, we invented a breakthrough technology to collect, preserve and apply pollen at commercial scale. Together, we formed PowerPollen, which has since secured several U.S. patents for our pollination process and technologies. By leveraging specially designed equipment and pollen preservation, PowerPollen has successfully applied our technology across thousands of commercial seed corn acres
and increased yields on our customers’ commercial hybrid corn seed production fields. We are now looking to expand into other critical commodity crops, such as wheat. What are some roadblocks you faced along the way? KRONE: Like many start-ups, the challenge is to ensure your vision truly solves a problem. In the case of pollen preservation, we knew this was one of the last unaddressed challenges of plant breeding and the benefits span not only improving both yield and purity, but also land utilization and other sustainability impacts. Seed companies and farmers who have seen our technology operating in the field are eager to access it. Satisfying such a large market quickly is challenging. We have worked hard to remain focused on each step in the process to scale while maintaining the highest level of customer service.
With such an innovative product, did you have a hard time getting growers to buy in?
What are some tips you have in this area, as far as getting people to be willing to try something so new?
KRONE: Preserving pollen in crops, such as corn, wheat and rice, has been the holy grail for many plant breeders so our customers were excited to implement our technology. Once we demonstrated we could preserve pollen and maintain its viability, customers have been very willing to continue to scale it to have the biggest possible impact. We recognized this was a challenge we couldn’t do alone and appreciated working with seed producers to scale our operations.
KRONE: As with many things, “seeing is believing.” Having customers working alongside our scientists, engineers and many others on our team, allows us to improve our pollination technology to further demonstrate in-field results and lets customers see the results in their own fields. The most rewarding experience has been showing customers our technology and watching them get as excited as we are!
In 2020, after years of field testing, we signed collaboration agreements with several global agribusinesses, including Corteva and BASF. In the next several years, we plan to expand to offer the technology more broadly to benefit farmers.
How will PowerPollen change the way we grow? KRONE: Preserving and applying pollen unlocks opportunities and efficiencies never before achieved in production agriculture. Having the power to control and move pollen FUTUREFARMERMAG.COM
opens the door to seed fields of only female plants, with the pollen being supplied from storage. Ultimately, this could greatly improve land use efficiency. The increase in yield means we produce more per acre than ever before. PowerPollen’s technology also increases genetic diversity by enabling seed companies to produce new hybrids that couldn’t exist without pollen preservation. These are just a few of the many changes that occur when pollen can be preserved. For farmers in North Dakota, PowerPollen’s technology, already proven in corn, has the potential to increase pollination efficiency for hybrid wheat production. Commercialscale hybrid wheat has been the goal of wheat breeders and seed companies since the 1950s. PowerPollen’s preservation and application technology expands the potential for hybrid wheat and improves productivity and profitability for wheat farmers. Together with BASF, we are working to further develop and apply our pollen preservation technology to wheat and accelerate hybridization of this staple crop. What’s the worst piece of advice you ever received? KRONE: To eliminate all risks. Human tendency is to overestimate the downside of risk and spend inordinate resources eliminating them. I flip that advice to say: “properly assess the impact of risk.” Once you do that, you can decide which risks to spend time on and which ones to ignore. This process led me to take the leap to co-found PowerPollen. What’s your why? KRONE: Like me, the team at PowerPollen has dedicated their careers to improving agriculture and to increasing food security and the sustainability of food production. We see the tremendous impact modern science and technology can have on our food supply and our land. The opportunity to solve the problem of pollination is incredibly inspiring.
Do you have any book recommendations? KRONE: As an entrepreneur in the ag industry at this unique moment in time, I’ve found that it’s critical to think out of the box and in many cases “out of the industry”. Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries outlines how many inventions that changed the world, like immunotherapy for cancer treatments, took many decades and many near death experiences to eventually get traction. They were the right ideas from day one, but it took grit to bring them to fruition. To learn more, visit powerpollen.com
Dakota Dirt Coffee Company is creating delicious coffee right in America's heartland.
akota Dirt Coffee Company is a business you want to root for. As a North Dakota based company, its products are a direct result of its founders and the American heartland. Their coffee is delicious but also signifies the hard-working North Dakotan whether they are working on the farm or in a cubicle. Much of that is thanks to the founder's upbringing. Wyatt and Landon Mund and Beau Goolsbey all grew up in Milnor, North Dakota. Becoming quick friends at a young age and into college, the trio always dreamed of starting their own business together. They wanted that business to be a representation of them and their small-town roots. What they all seemed to bond over is their love for coffee. So, the Mund brothers and Goolsbey decided to start their own coffee company in March 2020. They spent six months test roasting, branding, developing a selling strategy, facility setup and other business operations. All of these efforts contributed to a successful public launch on September 1. The three pillars of the company became Midwest attitude, direct-to-consumer and product integrity. Dakota Dirt Coffee Company makes sure to stand on those three pillars. The trio gets beans from around the world at market price from a Minneapolis import company. They then roast the beans within the week of being shipped. That freshness has helped the company succeed despite the COVID-19 pandemic. One thing is for sure, these three are North Dakotans you want to see succeed. Not that they are going to see themselves fail anyway. We discussed all things coffee and more with the Mund brothers and Goolsbey.
How did you get to the point where you wanted to start a coffee company? Especially in North Dakota? Wyatt Mund: Honestly, we all really liked coffee and we've all really wanted to start a business together for a couple years. One day, we kind of put two and two together. Let's start a coffee company. Beau Goolsbey: What happened was is we all hang out as a group. We play basketball together and a lot of times, it'd be Thursday night league at the wellness center, or whatever and then we go out for beers after the league. We'd always toss around the idea of starting a company of some sort. Finally, one day, it kind of clicked that we all love coffee and we should experiment with it. That's why we started experimenting with it and then it just led to a business idea.
I think some people when they want to start a coffee company, specifically, it's either we do a brick and mortar front or just sell it online. How did you guys go about deciding on e-commerce as your foundation? BG: One of the factors was that we all have full-time jobs. Both me and Landon, it's like we have two full-time jobs before this company. We couldn't spend the time setting up a shop and being there every day. Wyatt is really good in the marketing field and he knows how to push a product online. That was one of his strong points. We figured me and Landon could work on the roasting part and Wyatt on the marketing, website and everything else. We tried it that way first and it was kind of a no-brainer for us to start with e-commerce and see how it goes. How did you guys go about the roasting process? Because I think people probably look at it and say 'oh, it can't be that challenging'. Is it something that you guys have experimented with before starting the company? Landon Mund: We first started researching, that is the first thing we did. During the time we were putting together the plan of how we were going to launch we really started just researching. We were roasting down in my basement in Fargo on this popcorn roaster. We realized quickly upon both the research and the actual experimenting with it that it wasn't going to be a good result. So we ended up graduating to a one kilogram roaster. We really spent hours and hours just trying to practice different techniques. WM: I mean, there's a rabbit hole of information on coffee roasting, right? BG: It's that sort of thing where you get caught up and all that sort of stuff. The thing is, too, is all these different
master roasters, they have all these different techniques. It was kind of challenging because we were looking at all this information and going, 'wow, this is complicated'. I remember the first time we roasted a small batch on that little roaster we had, it tasted great. We were thinking that maybe it's got a lot of people over-analyzing this process. We thought maybe it's not as hard as we actually thought it was. Then we really dug into putting the hours into it and feeling out the roaster because that has a lot to do with it for a successful batch. Just your level of experience behind the roaster. LM: There's a learning curve with each roaster too because now we have had three different roasters and they're all a little different. That takes a little learning as far as the roaster itself goes. BG: We have two of them right now that are one kilogram. We have put 1000s of hours behind these roasters and now we're going to go and get a bigger roaster that's 10 kilograms. That will probably end up being a whole new learning curve. So that'll be a challenge for us. You mentioned it, but you can get super overcomplicated with simple things like flavor profiles. How did you figure out what your flavor profiles would be? Was it just things that you guys liked to drink? BG: We'd all kind of had our own coffee that we liked before we started. Our mentality was that we wanted to try and make something that tasted better than those coffees. If we did that, we knew we were on the right track. We got there pretty quick to where we personally liked our coffee better than the coffee that we were used to drinking. That was a big factor
for us and a big stepping stone to saying we're ready to sell now. WM: We can get fixated on trying to come up with all these different varieties, flavors and signature blends. We really just said, let's grow diverse single-origins like Costa Rican, Colombian and really sell that idea. We're learning a lot and coming up with our own signature lines. That way, we're not waiting a year to come up with these plans. Then we're rolling out with the signature blends as we develop. BG: We're letting the customer decide if it is a good coffee or not too. We started with five origins and we would get feedback from the customer. While we were selling the coffee, we would get feedback and sort of know what different origins people like better. That way, maybe we can add that origin to a blend we're working on. It's just a lot of feedback from a customer. This is a relatively new venture for you guys in terms of business. I mean, what are some of those challenges beyond just the roasting process? LM: I would say the biggest thing is trying to divvy up what each of us is capable of, and what our strengths are. Like Beau said, as far as Wyatt, he's good at the marketing and sales side of it and customer relations. Beau and I have our own strengths too, but it's playing to those while making sure we cover our bases too. BG: I come from a business background. I knew a little bit about starting a business and running it. Of course, it's a totally different business. There's a lot of different things that go on with it, but it translates a little bit to
the previous businesses. Landon, he's been farming and so he's seen how a business runs right and operates. Right. We just tried to translate that to coffee. How have you gone about balancing farming, running other businesses and running this business? LM: I also do crop adjusting, but for me it's all about the season. It works out really well with farming and crop adjusting. It's just something where it's busier in the summer, whereas our farm is not so busy in the summer. We're busier in spring and fall and then those two paired with coffee roasting, it's been chaos to start. It's been long hours for sure, but it's been flexible. It's not like your typical eight to five because it's more seasonal. BG: I have a lawn care business and I also own apartments and rental housing. Like Landon, I've got some free time in certain parts of the year. That works well, but then again, when the busy season gets going for one of us, that's when we'll probably have the other pick up the slack. LM: At some points, we're both not very busy. The winters are really prime time to try to lift the company up for us. In the summer he'll get busy and my workload probably will increase with the company. Like any start-up, we all need to step up when called upon too. WM: I work at Sunbutter full-time so I'm doing that from eight to five. We're all doing these jobs, but we all knew it was going to happen with doing a start-up like that. BG: Anything I've started in the past, it takes a lot of groundwork to get it going. We all knew that we were gonna have to put in another
30 to 40 hours a week on top of the regular hours. None of us cut back at our original job, right? We just added on the weekend and odd hours of the day, right? I mean, roasting aside. One good example is every day, I bet we spend an average of one hour on the phone with each other. We're not always in the same seat together and so we'll have a conference call or whatever. WM: For the marketing side, I'm used to working with external partners, agencies. With this company, you have to do a lot of that stuff yourself like video editing and coming up with content. We're doing it all. Hopefully, the plan is to hire some people and this spring we'd be looking to hire some part-time help.
Building up that social media platform is such an underrated part of starting a business. What have been some of the challenges in building a social media following to get people to your website? LM: The number one thing for us has been working in our favor is that we're all from the same small town. That really created a nice foundation for a company because we had a lot of support from those in Milnor. It's built up a good, local following. BG: Word of mouth is pretty good, too. Content is hard to come up with sometimes though. WM: I mean, we have fun with our content too. We may have a new variety coming out or it's a pumpkin spice season, right? These guys are
good actors for stuff like that. I'll have a script, but it is timeconsuming to do all that stuff. It's so crucial too. Even big companies have a hard time doing that. Has a multimedia background been beneficial for you guys? Has it helped you jump into that deeper marketing water faster? WM: I think definitely has because I love doing that stuff. A lot of the stuff I've learned at Sunbutter has translated quite nicely and vice versa. I've been able to bring things on there. BG: It helps we've all been around film a little bit. I mean, these guys were making videos when they were in high school. LM: Wyatt's done a lot of video work as
a hobby and editing and filming both. That's probably been just as important. I feel as though marketing these videos has helped and people love the videos. One thing that I hear from people from small-town North Dakota is that you must have this 'grind it out' mentality. You're just conditioned a little bit differently. Do you guys share that sentiment? BG: We don't let ourselves fail. We'll just put in more hours. LM: I think the nice part for us is that it's only three of us to start. We each know each other very well and we can hold each other accountable. It's been nice that way to kind of
know what each person's role is and our expectations all around. BG: We can handle adversity pretty well. We all come from a sports background too. I think that's helped a little bit, too. I mean, we're used to working hard, and stuff like that. We've learned how to work hard from our family. It just translates to what we're doing now. How do you guys want to set yourself apart from other coffee companies? LM: We want our coffee to taste good. We want to represent the Midwest. As a whole, that is how we want to stand out in many ways. BG: We want to be active throughout this whole process. For example, we don't want to
just hire somebody to do the video or just hire an actor. We want to be the face of it. Are you surprised by the correlations and the parallels to coffee and agriculture? You buy coffee beans just like someone would buy crop? Were you surprised at how close those two are related? LM: I would say I was surprised, but I don't know why. They are both commodities, but it is surprising because you've got all sorts of people consuming this commodity of coffee every single day, which is just like any agricultural commodity. What are some tangible goals that you guys have set for yourself? BG: One big goal is that we're going to build a facility. We're getting this new roaster too that's
Use Promo Code SPOTLIGHT at checkout for 20 percent off your order! going to speed up our production probably 10 times. That'll be the next step. After that, towards the spring, we want to build a facility and we want our first facility to be in Milnor, our hometown, to start roasting. We've got some plans in the works for a facility. WM: Then we actually have new packaging that we're working on getting here in the next month or two. We want to focus on the Midwest and we want our packaging to have those characteristics of the Midwest. Is it a goal to find yourself in more local stores to push more distribution in the future? WM: We do want to keep the e-commerce top of mind. We did get into SCHEELS over the holidays and we hope to continue going in there. We would like to be in at least one store in every small town. We've been working with all the mom and pop shops around. Are there any specific roasts or flavor profiles that you want to see yourself roast in the future? LM: I think we all saw the company as we should be plain Jane and just try to stick to black coffee. I still feel like that'll be the majority of the company. Over the course of rolling out some of these roast profiles, we've messed around with different flavoring. That's become actually pretty popular.
BG: We're honestly open to every aspect of coffee roasting. We're not dead set on doing one thing. We want to expand and we've rolled out a few seasonal blends, and we want to keep doing that. WM: We're not going to go away from single origins. We're going to sell them. We're going to start introducing our signature blends and there's going to be a wider spectrum. Is there anything else our readers should know? BG: I mean, all in all, we just want to represent hard-working North Dakotans to be honest. We want to do it with a product that we all love. LM: I would say two things we strive for in roasting coffee. How you roast is obviously important. I think the quality of the bean we're getting is equally as important. Also, our freshness, we're grinding it right after we roasted it and we're shipping that the same day. We take pride in having some of the freshest coffee around.
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Prairie Ag Products Offering help on the farm in various forms.
By Josiah Kopp
L Landon Vogel Founder Prairie Ag Products
Landon Vogel is a Fargo business entrepreneur who founded Prairie Ag Products in the summer of 2019 when he had the opportunity to branch off a local seed company. He was working at Agassiz Seed & Supply at the time, working in the industrial supplies and crane testing division. Vogel graduated from MSUM with a degree in Industrial Distribution Technologies. FUTUREFARMERMAG.COM
We can recondition the meters and turn them into what they were in the 60s and 70s–and when they come in we can also show them the new technology that's out there." - Landon Vogel
The vision for Prairie Ag Products was to take an already great base from Agassiz and put a personal spin on it, utilizing new ideas and building an online presence. One opportunity Vogel saw was the potential to reach younger farmers through web and social media. "There's a big mix between the old and the new," says Vogel, when speaking about the farming and agriculture industry. "Some of the older guys still like to use catalogs, whereas some of the newer guys are getting online." For Vogel, it's not just the expansion into the online world that gives Prairie Ag a unique edge–it's the equipment itself, specifically the testing equipment. "It's a kind of a niche thing with the grain testing equipment," says Vogel. "Whether it's moisture meters, protein testing equipment, or anything that requires any type of grain grading– there's just not a lot of people out there that do it." Growing a healthy crop begins long before the seed is planted in the field. For Vogel, that process begins with the right testing equipment. "I think when you're in the agriculture world, you always see moisture meters or protein machines sitting at the elevator, but you don't really think much about where they come from," says Vogel, who prides himself in his high-quality
testing machines. The Perten 5200 series moisture meter is one of Vogel's bestselling products. These machines measure and identify the proper moisture level of the seed, especially for proper storage when it's not being planted. "It's a very important piece of equipment for the elevators even for farm guys," says Vogel. Selling superior testing products and equipment isn't the only thing Prairie Ag Products offers. Vogel also prizes his business in service and repairs for old testing meters. For him, it's an opportunity to showcase the high-quality services Prairie Ag Products can offer, while also introducing new industrystandard products and technology to customers. "We get a lot of compliments in it," says Vogel while speaking of their repair services. "We can recondition the meters and turn them into what they were in the 60s and 70s–and when they come in we can also show them the new technology that's out there." It's no surprise that COVID-19 caused plenty of struggles for businesses across the United States, but it also presented unique opportunities to implement new strategies for success and keep businesses open and serving customers. For Vogel, the biggest struggle the pandemic brought was being able to travel to customers and provide on-sight service.
"I tried to find the best marketing tools–get more into social media," says Vogel, who has a vision for expanding his business into the world of social marketing. "Recently, I put together a catalog to send out to a bunch of customers–just letting them know where we are at." For Vogel, it's about staying connected and engaged with his customers and finding creative new ways to reach them. When choosing a location for Prairie Ag Products, Fargo was a no-brainer for Vogel. "I've been here for 20-plus years, and I love the community," says Vogel. "I like to cover South Dakota and Minnesota as well– Fargo's [location] is a real bonus point." Vogel is currently just a team of one, so Fargo becomes an essential location to reach the most customers within a reasonable distance. Starting is a business is something that rarely happens overnight, and for Vogel, it was an interest that took years to manifest. "I always felt like I enjoyed the business world," says Vogel, when talking about his journey to start Prairie Ag Products. "I enjoyed working with people– I felt like I wanted to do more; I started listening to books when I was on the road all the time and started reading things." However, it's not all sunshine and roses when starting a business; there's plenty of intimidation as well. "There's just
a lot of unknowns," says Vogel. "At least there was for me because I hadn't been on the finance side of the world before." Vogel believes you don't always need to start a business from scratch, and his advice to other entrepreneurs is to not overlook some of those other opportunities, such as buying a division of a company, which is what he did with Prairie Ag Products. "There's a lot of opportunities out there of all these older people that maybe want to retire," says Vogel. "Maybe they want to get out of it, and they don't have somebody that can take it on– So don't overlook those opportunities, either." Vogel's future vision for Prairie Ag Products is to expand the business into the social marketing world, in hopes of reaching a new demographic of customers. He hopes that with a combination of quality products and new ways of marketing, he can reach the next generation of farmers. Learn more prairieagproducts.com
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The Genesis of Genesis Feed Technologies
How a phone call launched a company that is reshaping the feed industry.
By Marisa Jackels In the 1920s, livestock producers discovered a little “protein pill” known as the soybean. This little bean quickly became a go-to option for protein content in animal feed formulas. This meant that the cost of soybeans were determined by one thing: the protein content. For a time, there was no tangible issue with this trading model — the higher the protein, the higher the cost. However, recent studies and the experience of Genesis Feed Technologies co-founder Matthew Clark found this to be an erroneous trading standard — one that has cost the industry millions of dollars to correct.
Peter Schott and Monte Peterson, Director of U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC)
Nutritional Value Calculator platform
They were right about the protein content, Clark posited, but what they didn’t realize is the crucial importance of amino acids and energy as well. This “protein-first” emphasis built a trading standard that the industry has spent decades and millions of dollars to correct. It didn’t just affect soybeans. Other ingredients — including corn, distillers grains (DDGs), wheat, and full-fat soya have been victims of this method of trading. The result? The real value of the ingredients is lost and everyone from the grain farmer to the animal producer loses money. And how to solve this problem?
The initial idea was born out of a phone call between Matthew and Peter, two ag-enthusiasts with a hankering for innovative ideas. Peter was working at a mobile technology company at the time, and having spent his career working in agriculture, he was interested in ways mobile technology could be utilized in ag. Matthew was in the midst of one of his tries at retirement, while also running FeedGuys, his consulting and IT solutions business for the animal and feed industry. The two knew each other through Peter’s work at Cargill over the years. It had been some time, but when Matthew saw the call while at his home in Malaysia, he picked up.
“It was an accident.” At least, that’s how GFT co-founders Matthew Clark and Peter Schott describe the initial beginnings of a solution they now call the Nutrient Value Calculator.
“Out of the blue, he called me. I don’t know how he found me, but he did,” Matthew says with a chuckle.“ He was looking for some mobile technology projects within the ag industry, and I was helping a client
get back on track by understanding and managing the cost of their feed.” Matthew explained that his client had made “disastrous decisions” in buying raw materials. When the margin for feed businesses hover between 2 - 4%, he said, “you absolutely must know your cost.” “We had a web platform, and I just happened to be sitting down looking at all this code,” he said. “We were an ideal candidate for a mobile solution.” Matthew and Peter began discussing what it would look like to create a platform that would help feed buyers find the most cost-efficient way to meet the nutritionist’s formulas. They brought on Phil Reindl, a long-time friend of Peter and software developer with 30 years of experience. “One day, Peter asked if I was interested in
a little side project,” Phil said. “Next thing you know it was a whole company.”
already being used in more than 17 countries from China to Peru.
The company is Genesis Feed Technologies, and what they’ve built is a platform called the Nutrient Value Calculator. This is a platform that uses data gathered from boots on the ground all across the globe. GFT works closely with industry partners in over 17 countries to keep everything up to date. When making purchasing or marketing decisions, it’s critical to understand the feed ingredient usage, ingredient price, and formula composition for each region. Seemingly minor differences in these numbers can lead to large changes in the ingredient value.
“I speak with ingredient buyers around the world on a daily basis. Two things ring true from the conversations. First, there is a desire and need for alignment between purchasing and nutrition. Second is a misunderstanding of the basic spreads between soybean meal origins. Both of these problems are costing companies greatly and they usually don't realize the impact it has on their bottom line. Using the Nutrient Value Calculator is eyeopening and a valuable experience for them all.
Ingredient buyers can now use the Nutrient Value Calculator for immediate access to cost analysis data. This data, which takes hours to manually compute, allows buyers to make smarter purchasing decisions. This can save their enterprise up to $25/tonne on soybean meal purchases and $3-$5/tonne on feed costs. Today, the Nutrient Value Calculator is
However, as with any startup journey, developing Genesis Feed Technologies has not come without its fair share of trials and iterations. At first, the platform existed as a complicated Excel document chock-full of data, one that Matthew had been building for years. Matthew then turned it into a desktop application, and with Phil’s help, they pivoted to launching it as a web platform.
“Presenting the data was the problem. We had various A-ha moments where we hit things that really did work for a limited number of people, and things that didn’t,” Matthew said. “This is the trick in business—understanding what is a single customer reaction as opposed to a trend.” Despite the setbacks, they forged ahead with full belief that what they were building was on the right track. As Matthew put it, “Where common sense fails bloodyminded optimism prevails.” Sure enough, with the launch of the refined Nutrient Value Calculator in 2014, the ag industry began taking notice. It wasn’t long before they partnered with the U.S. Soybean Export Council and began connecting feed enterprises from around the world with the GFT software. As the new software is implemented, feed enterprises are seeing an ROI of up to 3% of their income. Ingredient buyers and
nutritionists are able to work together, rather than operating with separate goals. “When we first built the platform, I was really focused on the calculator we built for decision-making,” Peter Schott said. “But what I get really excited about now is we have this network of market intelligence data from around the world built into our platform. People from all these countries that are important to US Soy Exports are updating the ingredient prices, formulations, and ingredients being used in this platform on a regular basis. I get really excited about the possibilities of what that can do, combined with the tools we’ve created to take advantage of that data.” Ultimately, Peter, Matthew and Phil are dreaming up a world where the interaction from grower to ingredient buyer is a seamless funnel of direct communication, where ingredients like soybeans are traded based on their complete nutritional value — not just protein. Peter paints this picture: “Imagine a world where a farmer is harvesting his crop, at a premium quality, and he gets a notification from an ingredient buyer that they would like to purchase that crop at a premium price. They recognize that the crop is highly nutritious, and they are willing to pay more for that premium. The farmer accepts the offer, and the crop is purchased before the farmer’s even left the harvest.” Naturally, as any farmer knows, working in the ag industry requires flexibility and adaptability. As the GFT team continues to grow their platform, they understand that it must eb and flow with the demands of the industry. But one thing will remain — a commitment to leading agriculture into a future of technology and innovation, by providing solutions that save feed enterprises money, and provide better, more nutritious products for the world. “We have to remain flexible and move with the industry requirements. Problem awareness. Industry trends. I believe we are equipped to do that,” Matthew said. “I very much believe that what we’re doing with GFT is the future.”
FARM STORIES FOR ALL TO ENJOY
Norwegians On The Prairie: Ethnicity And The Development Of The Country Town
Sheep: Life On The South Dakota Range
Mapping The Farm: The Chronicle Of A Family
Eggs In The Coffee, Sheep In The Corn: My 17 Years As A Farmwife
The Grand Farm is growing and the folks at Emerging Prairie have their eyes set on 2021. In each issue of Future Farmer, Emerging Prairie offers up insight into what's new and notable in the cross-section of start-ups and agriculture. This month, they gear up for 2021. They have 10 reasons why growers will benefit from the Grand Farm and a deeper dive into the project. They also sit down with one of the leading experts in connecting farm and food. 76
10 Things Grand Farm Will Do For Growers
Grand Farm is meant to solve the biggest problems in agriculture but we recognize that unless we’re solving problems that growers are facing, we’re wasting our time. That’s why we’re building Grand Farm around growers. Here are 10 things Grand Farm will do for growers.
Michele Payn Michele Payn is one of North America's leading experts in connecting farm and food, serving as a resource for people around the plate. Michele encourages all of her clients and audiences to find people's hot buttons and speak their language – whether it's growing the “farm and food” conversation, developing an advocacy strategy or discussing mental health.
83 Grand Farm: Deep Dive Project By facilitating connections between innovative organizations from around the world, the Grand Farm continues to see success.
10 Things GRAND FARM WILL DO FOR GROWERS By Andrew Jason, Grand Farm Special Projects
Grand Farm is meant to solve the biggest problems in agriculture but we recognize that unless we’re solving problems that growers are facing, we’re wasting our time. That’s why we’re building Grand Farm around growers. Here are 10 things Grand Farm will do for growers.
1. Connections Grand Farm was borne out of the idea that great things happen when people come together to celebrate innovation and discuss real problems. By creating a public space with a number of events, Grand Farm hopes to be a neutral ground for growers, industry professionals, academia, government officials and curious individuals to come together and discuss ideas. Upcoming Season This year, we have a series of events where people can make connections. To view our full calendar of events, go to grandfarm.com/ events. • Grower Roundtables • Mission: Identify pain points facing growers and give the ag industry an opportunity to listen to these pain points. • Audience: Growers and ag industry leaders.
• Field Days • Mission: Highlight the work being done on the test site this summer and the mission of Grand Farm. • Audience: Grand Farm partners and those interested in Grand Farm mission. • Innovation Days • Mission: Highlight innovation being done in agtech, connect policy makers with industry, grow the innovation ecosystem and make the Red River Valley an innovation hub. • Audience: Ag-tech companies, policy makers and growers.
2. Identification From sustainable practices to an aging workforce to grower profitability, we know that there are a number of real world problems facing growers everyday. While Grand Farm is focused on solving some of the biggest problems in agriculture, we recognize it’s all for naught if we aren’t solving problems growers face everyday. That’s why we’ll work with growers to source pain points and identify real problems they are facing. The main way we’ll do this is through our Grower Roundtables. These events are designed to bring industry and growers together around a specific topic in a discussion around problems facing growers. We’ll take those pain points and publish a report that will be shared with industry and the public as well as help steer the direction of Grand Farm.
the following subjects. Go to grandfarm.com/events for dates and information. • Farm of the Future Design • Autonomous Systems • Crop & Soil Management • UAS/UGS • Sustainable Practices Check it out Make sure you read the 2020 Grower Pain Point Report in the Oct. Future Farmer Magazine.
Get Involved This summer, Grand Farm will host five Grower Roundtables around
3. input Growers deserve a voice. That’s why all partners at Grand Farm will have access to Grand Farm’s grower network. By connecting growers with the Grand Farm network, we hope that industry will receive real-time input on the work they’re doing to ensure that the solutions they’re creating are applicable to growers. One of the biggest feedbacks we’ve heard from conversations with growers is that growers often feel that industry is not solving real problems and are out of touch with grower needs. By creating this input loop, the goal is that growers can help shape the work being done in the field.
plug and play grand farm partner
Growers are at the heart of the Grand Farm network.
4. appreciation As we know, growers have a demanding and important job. Despite this important work, the work growers do is often misunderstood, scrutinized and overlooked. This is exasperated by the fact that, according to the U.S. Census of Agriculture, almost 70 percent of growers are over the age of 45 and almost 30 percent are over the age of 65. Simply put, the current workforce is aging out of the job.
Future Plans Grand Farm’s ultimate vision is to create a campus where real world trials can happen, people can gather and educational tours will take place. (Think EPCOT Center for agriculture.) We envision every third grader coming through this campus and getting hands on experience with farming.
Knowing this, we want to celebrate the important work growers are doing. By elevating and highlighting their mission, Grand Farm aims to showcase the good growers are doing for the world. By creating more exposure and awareness of growers, we hope that more people will be attracted to getting into farming.
5. real world applications Last year, Grand Farm hosted more than 40 projects from nine different partners. These trials ranged from creating augmented reality maps of Grand Farm to research around corn husk enzyme and soybean fertility with induced salt burn. All these projects will have real world impact and applications. Innovation can be a slow process but by creating a space for collaboration to occur,
we recognize that this innovation will trickle down into work being done throughout all of agriculture.
6. demonstrations We are on a path to have more than 1,000 acres for Grand Farm. This space will not only give us the space for numerous trials and an innovation campus but will also allow us to host a number of demonstrations. Through our global network of agtech companies, we hope to bring the most exciting technology and equipment to Fargo for hands-on demonstrations. This will give growers the opportunity to experience the newest equipment that will be in the fields in a couple years. Real-Life Example On Oct. 8 last year, ND Dept. of Transportation demonstrated their first fully autonomous, which is used in road construction, truck at Grand Farm. Senator John Hoeven took the first ride in the truck. After the demonstration, Grand Farm hosted an event connecting policymakers with the autonomous industry on how North Dakota can become the most autonomous friendly state in the country.
7. collaboration It is our hope that innovation and collaboration will not only occur at Grand Farm. By connecting growers with the Grand Farm network, we hope collaboration will occur with growers. This can take the form of industry listening to growers needs or even for growers to host trials and projects at their own farms.
8. Industry and Commodity Growth Last year, soybeans, corn, sugarbeets, sunflowers and wheat were planted at Grand Farm. Each one of these test plots had trials and research being done on it. This work will trickle down into advances made in these commodities. We are also fostering relationships with the major checkoff groups to ensure that North Dakota’s main commodities are being focused on at Grand Farm.
See if for yourself If you’re interested in seeing what was done at Grand Farm in 2020, go to grandfarm.com/grand-farm-innovation-site and you’ll be able to see a 360 tour of the farm and click on each field to learn more about the projects that occurred there.
9. Economic development
Innovation always creates more opportunities. This will be true for economic development as more companies are attracted to the region through work being done at Grand Farm. New businesses will also pop up because of collaboration and ideas that take place at Grand Farm. This will create a trickle down effect that will create new jobs, better livelihoods, impact other industries and create more opportunities for everybody in the region.
Plug and Play A real life example of economic impact is that Grand Farm helped actively recruit Plug and Play – the world’s largest accelerator – to open an agtech branch in Fargo. They will bring in dozens of new startups to our community every year for several months as they go through the program. While no startups were able to physically be in Fargo in 2020 due to COVID-19, the hope is that by bringing these startups to the community and engaging them in the ecosystem, they will remain in our community.
10. get involved
This is going to be a busy year for Grand Farm. We have plans to host more than 60 events, host 50+ projects and increase the exposure of Grand Farm. Here are a few specific ways growers can get involved with Grand Farm this year. a. Events: There will be more than 60+ events that occur at Grand Farm, many of which will be free to attend. You can view the full schedule at grandfarm.com/events. Here are a couple you should be aware of. i. Grower Roundtable (see topics in item 2) ii. Cultivate Conference (Conference around innovation in agriculture. Hope to have half growers, half industry professionals in attendance.
b. Storytelling: Grand Farm is always looking for innovative farmers to tell their stories by highlighting them at events or sharing their story via Grand Farm channels. If you are interested in sharing your story, please reach out to Andrew Jason (firstname.lastname@example.org). c. Grand Farm Tours - Grand Farm hopes to expand its reach by bringing innovation and ideas to other fields. We hope to expand our outreach across the region by bringing events and activity to other farms. If you are interested in working with Grand Farm on hosting an event, demonstration or trial at your farm, please reach out to Andrew Jason.
Go to Grandfarm.com for more information or reach out to Andrew Jason (email@example.com) with any questions or to get involved.
Turning Geospatial Data into Digital System Integrations
By Alexandra Dillard
By facilitating connections between innovative organizations from around the world, the Grand Farm continues to see success.
uring the 2020 growing season at the Grand Farm, there were 41 projects conducted, including the work of nine partners. On August 20, 2020, William Aderholdt, PhD of Grand Farm and Stu Adam of Agronomeye co-presented findings from one of these projects. This particular case study utilized geospatial data from throughout the growing season for digital systems integration. Grand Farm’s success is built with an ecosystem of forward-thinkers working together. Yes, advancements in agriculture technology are the outward goal of the project, but the beauty of the Grand Farm lies in its mission to facilitate conversations and opportunities between industry, researchers, and thought leaders in AgTech. The conversations, connections and collaborations are the linchpin behind the overall demonstration-based mission. Alongside Grand Farm and Agronomeye, Field of View, CHS, NDSU Precision Agriculture, ND Agriculture Experiment Station, Be More Colorful, Ellingson, Raven Industries and iSight Drone Services were engaged in this project.
To start the project off, time-series geospatial data from the Grand Farm had to be collected. The Grand Farm Program Management Office worked with David Dvorak, CEO of Field of View; Dr. Caley Gash and Joel Bell of NDSU Research Extension; and Dr. Paulo Flores of NDSU Precision Ag to collect these images. The data compiled in this phase included both UAVcollected and ground-collected data. This included insights into soil conductivity, soil moisture, soil cores, high-resolution imaging, RGB, NVDI, thermal and RTK. These total findings encompassed 10 demonstration, capability and research projects on the Grand Farm site. To bring this initial data collection to life, CEO of Be More Colorful, Matt Chausse, created a 360-degree map of the Grand Farm. This map was created with geospatial information provided by CHS Field trials by CHS Agronomy’s Devin Wirth. The subsequent step in this project was to move to the next level of digital system integration. To do this, Grand Farm enlisted a mapping software company, Agronomeye. Agronomeye is a Sydney, Australia-based augmented reality company focused on digitizing agriculture. By using geospatial maps, Agronomeye’s
thermal Image Using Agronomeye’s mapping software,
farmers can make better insights from the information being collected by sensors and UAVs. This example shows how thermal imagery of crops can be combined with water flow maps (using elevation) to understand why crop yields might have been lower in certain areas of the farm.
thermal + water flow
Want to dive in deeper? Check out
a video of Aderholdt and Adam’s presentation by searching “North Dakota AgTech Innovation Day: Agronomeye” on Plug and Play Tech Center’s YouTube page.
The Grand Farm is a place, but since this [project], it changed from Grand Farm being a place down the street in south Fargo to more of a global ecosystem. It’s this global ecosystem, rather than being confined to a single geography.” - Dr. William Aderholdt, Grand Farm’s Director of Program Management 86
Dr. William Aderholdt (Director, Program
Management Office) presenting virtually with Stu Adam (Founder of Agronomeye) at Grand Farm’s Innovation Day on Crop and Soil Management. Adam was presenting virtually from his office in Australia.
technology helps growers and landowners look at their entire farming system through one lens. The company was brought into Grand Farm’s attention upon engaging in the first cohort of Plug-and-Play North Dakota.
when you’re trying to evaluate the health of your land and crops, but how do they all work together? Aderholdt presented Agronomeye with Grand Farm’s collection of this raw data and Adam got to work to consolidate it in a visual, strategic manner.
Stu Adam, Co-founder of Agronomeye, and Dr. William Aderholdt, Grand Farm’s Director of Program Management, collected and integrated the aforementioned data into Agronomeye’s system. This integration led to an augmented reality map of the Grand Farm. This interactive map allowed data layers to be viewed over different time periods. “What geospatial and these types of applications provide is the ability to take the information that you're pulling off of your land and consolidate it into a single application where you can then view things through layers,” said Aderholdt.
“These applications allow for a visualization of the data that wasn’t previously available. You’d have to open up many applications at a time, and then you couldn’t overlay them, so it was a lot of guesswork going on. This just makes it very easy for someone to see and to understand what is going on,” said Aderholdt.
Previously, if farmers and land-owners wanted a holistic view of their land, they might have to drive around in their truck or hope that Google Earth captured a recent image of the site. With this technology and application, they now can look at this map and manipulate it to add layers and show a real 3D image, similar to that of augmented reality. Throughout the Grand Farm demonstrations, a lot of satellite and drone imagery, soil maps, NDVI (Normalized difference vegetation index) and such have been collected. All these things are very important
Speaking on some of the goals of this particular geospatial and augmented reality project, Aderholdt added, “It’s being able to show how we were able to take these initial conversations and demonstrations and tie them all together with a single project.” The second big goal of this project was establishing an international presence. When presenting the project’s findings at Plug and Play’s AgTech Innovation Day in August, Aderholdt and Adam co-presented to a live audience. The recording of the presentation got shared on LinkedIn and Facebook, quickly accumulating over 10,000 impressions. What the Grand Farm team found most exciting was that over half of those impressions came from outside the United States. “It quickly
Stu Adam, Founder
of Agronomeye, a digital mapping company based out of Australia.
gave us global outreach and elevated the conversation. We were all of a sudden presenting in Germany, in Australia, in Denmark,” said Aderholdt. “I don’t think that would have been possible without the contribution of Agronomeye and being able to bring together our other partners’ work into a single format through our platform.” This global attention is sure to grow the scope of opportunities for the Grand Farm’s future work. Off the tail of this one demonstration, Grand Farm partners are continuing conversations with the Australian government and the Australian equivalents of Grand Farm.
“The Grand Farm is a place, but since this [project], it changed from Grand Farm being a place down the street in south Fargo to more of a global ecosystem. It’s this global ecosystem, rather than being confined to a single geography,” said Aderholdt. “That’s where we shift our perspective a little bit, because we do have the test site where we bring people and we do projects, but we facilitate those projects from around the world. It doesn’t matter if they’re on the Grand Farm test site or if they’re in Australia.” The next phase in this large-scale project is to add in even more partners. In 2021, this project will be elaborated on with the addition of Ellingson Companies, SatShot, and iSightPro.
Ellingson Companies, a construction company focusing on water technologies, will use these initial 10 projects for integration into their insight application. iSight Drone Services will join in to add to the foundational data layers. And SatShot will provide detailed satellite imagery throughout the growing season.
Plug and Play is a global accelerator that recently opened an agtech accelerator in Fargo. Grand Farm realized that an innovation platform was a key component of its initiative in order to attract talent to the ecosystem. That’s why Grand Farm played a role in recruiting Plug and Play to open their North Dakota branch. Along with corporate partners CHS, Microsoft, OCP and Bremer Bank, dozens of startups are being connected every year and solving major problems in agriculture. plugandplaytechcenter.com/ north-dakota
MICHELE Michele Payn is one of North America's leading experts in connecting farm and food, serving as a resource for people around the plate. Michele encourages all of her clients and audiences to find people's hot buttons and speak their language – whether it's growing the “farm and food” conversation, developing an advocacy strategy or discussing mental health. Payn knows agriculture because she lives agriculture, growing up on a dairy farm and holding degrees in Agricultural Communications and Animal Science from Michigan State University. She is past president of MSU’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Alumni Association and had the impact of her work featured in one of the first Spartan Sagas. Career highlights include a Regional Directorship for the National FFA Foundation, where she sold over $5 million in corporate sponsorships and led campaigns to develop community support. She has also marketed and sold dairy genetics to more than 25 countries, managed e-business accounts and presented training programs in developing countries. Michele still holds her firsthand farm experience as the best contributor to her work. She also has almost 33,000 Twitter followers, making her one of Croplife.com’s “15 Twitter Accounts Every Ag Professional Must Follow.”
PAYN She is also the author of three books: No More Food Fights!; Food Truths From Farm to Table and Food Bullying. She is also the Co-Host of the Food Bullying Podcast and founder of Cause Matters Corp, which focuses on addressing food myths, developing science communication and connecting farms to food. And...she’s a farm girl. Michele Payn is widely recognized as one of North America’s leading experts in connecting farms and food and she shares some of her story here. FUTUREFARMERMAG.COM
You have a diverse background. Your career could have gone many different directions. Why did you choose to focus on ag and food? I grew up on a dairy farm in Southern Michigan and fell in love with beautiful black and white cows (Holsteins to be clear) at a very young age. I bought my first animal when I was nine years old and I had
been breeding them across my lifetime since then. So to me, working as a speaker and an author about agriculture is very much about a calling, not necessarily a career. Twitter isn’t the most-obvious way to reach farmers or the ag community and yet you’ve made several lists of “Best People to Follow” and have almost 33,000 followers on Twitter alone. And that’s in addition to your website, podcast, books and social media channels. Tell us about your audience. I have been in social media since 2008 – a long time ago – and my purpose has always been to form insights and inspire conversations around the food plate. So clearly agriculture is my target audience, but so are dietitian, consumers and people who are foodies and the like. My goal is to try to inspire people, to have the conversation, to incite people or provide information that is evidence-based. I probably am a little bit different than most agriculture people because I, from the start, have built a very clear focus on connecting with those that are different than us. Having said that, clearly I enjoy talking cows with people when I have the chance. So it's not as though I've tried to leave any of the ag folks out, but when I started the ag chat and food chat back in 2009, it was to serve those two or those three purposes that I talked about: insight, inspire and inform conversations. Through the different communities that I have been a part of since that time, I have continued to find great new people, including many of the guests on the food bullying podcast. Many of the contributors to my three books come from my Twitter connections specifically, but really across all of my social media connections. You advocate against many cliche words to sell food...like “all natural” or “clean.” Is that what you mean by “Food Bullying?” Food bullying really focuses on the way that fear is leveraged in food marketing, and neuroscience studies clearly show that our brains are being manipulated, as are our perceptions around food...and therefore farming. So it's really interesting to take a step back and look at some of those claims – as many of them have “health halos.” I consider them all to be BS (“bullspeak”), but labels such as “clean” and “family farm raised,” I would include the “non GMO” label in that as well as “all-natural,” “superfoods,” “whole foods,” “cleansing foods,” “sustainable foods” – because those labels lack meaning since they lack measurement.
It's really important when you consider the opportunity around food. I believe that food should be about celebration. It should be about nourishment. It should be about family tradition. It shouldn't be about condemnation. It should not be about fear-based marketing. And at the end of the day, food bullying is really preying on people's fears. And, as I had mentioned, that our brains are being manipulated, which is a little scary to me. On your podcast, you often refer to “BS foods.” What are BS foods? So BS food basically refers to the crap that's on food labels in the way that people are making you feel about food. So bulls peak refers to the bad behaviors – the stuff that is labeled with claims and all the other unnecessary drama surrounding our food plates. Food today is a $5.75 trillion business. That is a significant opportunity for marketing. When you go to a grocery store, as an example, if you look at the average grocery store, my estimate is that there's around 200,000 claims that we have to sort through. That's overwhelming. That's confusing, especially when they are filled with BS. There's no way any of us can sort through 200,000 claims, whether you spend 10 minutes or 50 minutes in the grocery store, trying to make food choices for your family. What do you see ahead for farms, and food itself? I see opportunities for farms to continue connecting with consumers and to help the non-farm public understand where their food comes from. I firmly believe that we have to take our responsibility within agriculture to be more proactive, less defensive and to do a better job listening. That doesn't necessarily mean we need to change every practice, but we need to be able to more-effectively communicate about today's practices. I consider that opportunity – the opportunity to share your farm story – to be a best business practice today, whether you are 25 or whether you're 55. It truly has come down to that because consumer perceptions – the same perceptions that are being manipulated – are absolutely going to allow us to farm the best way that we see fit or not. I could point to any number of case studies about how those misperceptions have costs for farmers, whether it's regulatory, through limiting practices or omitting practices. It goes all the way through to contracts and having product exemption in the grocery stores and restaurants. So that would be my long-winded take on the future of agriculture, and the future of food is going to be interesting because I really sense that we are at a bit of an intersection. FUTUREFARMERMAG.COM
The example that I like to use (that I used in my book, Food Bullying) is that we want exact answers. Consider ancestry.com. People want exact answers on their heritage for a variety of reasons, but yet when it comes to food, they seem to turn away from the same technology (genetic technology) that they will implement in their own lives. So I think we need to find a way to better communicate that technology. Likewise, consumers (my hope is) is that the future of food will perhaps contain some more… let's say sex appeal around science, perhaps? Because we are going to continue to see an increased amount of food science. Clearly that's happening, whether it be in some of the nouveau products, whether it would be a nutrition science? But really my hope is that we will turn to bringing more evidence-based and utilizing those with firsthand expertise, such as farmers and dietitians, because that's really where we have to be able to get our information about food. Because of podcasts and channels like Netflix and YouTube, it seems like we have advocates for food that we’ve never had previously. You’ve done so many great interviews where you have been the interviewer. Do you have an “aha moment” from one of those? Or someone that surprisingly made a lasting impression? Oh, I've learned so much. I mean, I can't begin to tell you. The lasting impression is that agriculture is amazing and diverse! We all know that, but it is an amazing business. I'm a dairy girl. I clearly have a bias towards dairy. But, for example, yesterday I was interviewing a wheat farmer from Idaho and we talked about gluten and biotechnology. And a couple of weeks ago, we interviewed Derek for the podcast... he has a huge following and he talks to cows and it's hysterical. So when I think about the aha moments and agriculture it really comes down to learning the specific site. I'm in a very privileged position because when I wrote Food Truths from Farm to Table, I interviewed 55 different people. The majority of those were farmers and ranchers, but also veterinarians, doctors and dietitian. But I literally would 94
sit there with the farmers for usually at least two hours and have them go through every product and every practice that they use from planting to harvest so that I could understand it well enough to make it digestible to readers. And likewise, on the food side, when I interviewed dietitians about food bullying and when I interviewed dietitians for some of the different podcasts, I always learn a really interesting perspective because they look at it from a different angle – and the same with chefs and consumers. The one that stands out the most to me, because it's been the most challenging for me to learn, is my interview is around neuroscience and psychology. Dr. Tyler Davis, down at Texas Tech, did the research that is featured in food bullying about how brains process information about new food technology. Dr. Davis did two different podcast episodes for us. I think it might've been the first one in season two where he shared really remarkable information. I spent a lot of time trying to digest that information, particularly in his initial research, when I first had access to it because I am not a neuroscientist. My degrees are in Animal Science and Agricultural Communications, so it was a huge challenge for me to learn this.
Michele Payn’s books are available on her website: causematters.com Michele’s Food Bullying Podcast: causematters.com/foodbullyingpodcast Follow Michele on Twitter: @mapaynspeaker
I think there's a lot of opportunity for all of us in agriculture to better understand that people aren't necessarily trying to insult us when they're asking questions about food. They're just trying to understand and make the best choices they can for their family. The more that we can support that through science, and in this case, I mean by understanding how people's brains process the information, I think we can then be a lot more effective.
2020 WAS FULL OF TURMOIL
FROM THE TAX EXPERTS
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