Transitioning to Organic Farming w/ Steve Sinkula and Bryce Irlbeck
Interview with Steve Sinkula, CEO of AgriSecure, and Bryce Irlbeck, Business Development Manager at AgriSecure
In this episode, we welcome Steve Sinkula and Bryce Irlbeck from AgriSecure. Steve and Bryce discuss transitioning from conventional farming to organic farming, as well as new ways growers can better scale an organic operation to increase farm profitability.
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INTRO: Welcome to Organics Unpacked, a podcast for the business-minded organic grower — an interview podcast where we hear from the top experts in the commercial organic industry, with a focus on the business elements of organic growing both in and out of the field. You will gain insight and grow your operation. This show is brought to you ad-free by Avé Organics, a Wilbur-Ellis company. To learn more about Avé Organics, visit our program notes. In the meantime, enjoy the show.
TOM: Hello, everyone. Thanks for tuning in today. Welcome to a new episode of Organics Unpacked, a podcast where we discuss organic farming from a practical view. I am your host, Tom Buman. Today, I’m joined by Bryce Irlbeck and Steve Sinkula. Bryce is the Director of Business Development for AgriSecure, and Steve is the CEO of AgriSecure. Bryce and Steve are going to share with us some of the information on transitioning from a kind of more traditional farming to organic farming and some of the services that might be available to farmers in helping them do this transition. Welcome to the program, both Bryce and Steve.
STEVE: Thanks, Tom. Glad to be here.
Transitioning to Organic Farming
TOM: So, Bryce, I know that AgriSecure, the company that you and Steve have started, largely has grown out of your efforts to transition from more of a traditional farming to an organic farming. Can you talk a little bit about what that transition was like and kind of the positives and maybe the negatives of what you found in transitioning to organic farming?
BRYCE: Yeah, I think one of the biggest things you learn is, probably five years down the road, that conventional is a set process, meaning we’re going to plant corn or we’re going to plant soybeans. We have to make very few decisions in conventional farming, and there’s a bunch of information around those decisions. In organics, none of that exists. It’s a revolving door. You think you have something figured out, and then something else happens, and you have to move again and to create a whole new ecosystem on each individual farm. When we started out, we transitioned through alfalfa, which we got lucky figuring that out, and moved into what we thought would be a corn and soybean rotation and quickly realized that’s not sustainable. We had to figure out how to get alfalfa and small grains back into the rotation. So it’s been a revolving door of information, learning, decision-making for the last about five years. I want to say, this year, we kind of have it figured out where we’re headed in the future, but I’m sure after this year, we’ll make a few more changes and switches. So it’s really that mindset that takes more than the actual work and actual production, of how you understand and how you think about things not in a conventional world but an organic world. Otherwise, you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to make everything perfect.
Reasons for Transitioning
TOM: So I understand, Bryce, from the sustainability portion and the soil health, why you want to trade over, but there must have been more in it for you than the sustainability part. Why did you actually make the choice to transition?
BRYCE: To be fair on the sustainability part, there are two sustainabilities. One is the sustainability of the environment and the social sustainability, which we strive for too. When I talk about sustainability in organic, it’s ‘being there’ in five years. A lot of people take for granted that they’re organic, but the ‘staying power’ in organic is more difficult than getting there. But as far as walking through our progression, and it’s very interesting following the other 70-plus producers we work with, I’ve seen this progression too. We started for the money. It was an economic decision, and I’d say it’s probably a 90% economic decision. Then, after the years, it really became because of what we wanted to do and the satisfaction of accomplishing something rather than planting, spraying and harvesting and hoping for a penny or two. It became solving problems and solving issues and creating value, that we get paid for our knowledge and hard work, and being able to do something different than what everybody else is doing. So I think a lot of people start for the money, and the people that stay in it are doing it for the actual excitement and the things they’re doing for their land.
TOM: Yeah, so is it fair to say it’s a way of life that pays pretty good?
BRYCE: It is. You have to be careful to not make it your whole life because it’s very easy to do that and to make it something that’s fun and enjoyable, not something that you dread every year.
Mixing Conventional & Organic Farming
TOM: So are you all organic on your entire operation, Bryce? How does that look?
BRYCE: No, we’re probably 70 – 80% organic. There are definitely fields in places that should never be organic per se, in a conventional or a row crop type of thinking, that we just couldn’t put them in there for tillage reasons and conservation reasons.
TOM: So you’re not a person that believes in organic or nothing. You have some crossover.
BRYCE: I think there are, probably, very few things in the world that’s 100% or 0%. There has always got to be that balance of what makes sense, and each farmer has to make that decision.
TOM: Do you find that most farmers that you’re in touch with, Bryce, kind of fit into that mold of some organic, some more traditional? How does that mix look, in general? I know everybody’s different.
BRYCE: I would say a majority of people we work with are economically-minded, business-minded, and are making decisions that way. I know there are a lot of traditional organic farmers that have been doing it for a while, and doing it very well, that started even before the premium was there. We work with a few of those guys, and it’s good to learn from them.
Certified Organic Farming
TOM: So I hear a lot about being a certified organic farmer. Can you be an organic farmer and be certified and be an organic farmer and not be certified? Or are all organic farmers certified? What is that process?
BRYCE: You can be an organic farmer and not be certified, but you can’t sell organic goods. Anybody can label themselves, but to sell with the USDA label, you have to be organic-certified through the NOP. So, technically, yes, but there are people that are organic farming that aren’t certified.
TOM: If I take my eggs or my produce to a farmer’s market and say that they’re organically raised, that’s one thing. But if I have a certification process, then those are kind of the same but two different things?
BRYCE: Yeah, so it’s getting into the technical details here. If you sell under $5,000 worth of revenue a year, you technically don’t have to be certified to be organic. Anything above that, you would have to be NOP-certified to put the USDA label on it.
TOM: Okay, so let’s talk a little bit about the certification program and when you went through it on your farm. I know anything that is government controlled is not always easy, right? There must’ve been some hurdles to go through or not. Is it a pretty easy process?
BRYCE: It’s not a difficult process. It’s tedious, and it takes time, and it takes a lot of organization, which, inherently, including myself, most farmers lack those traits. Going through it, if you’re going to spend all this time, we found, on our farm, why not be able to take this information and make it useful? That’s what we did at AgriSecure. So it’s not rocket science work. It just takes a lot of effort and time and organization to put it all together.
Data for Organic Certification
TOM: Okay, so I kind of think of that as a farmer that has the yield monitor and stuff like that. They have data they get, but they don’t always use it. You’re kind of saying the same thing, that this effort of becoming certified generates a lot of data. The question is how do you really use that to make your operation more profitable or improve your management?
BRYCE: Correct. We’re gathering way more data than the average American farmer, just inherently that we need for the certification process. The old way was to do it on pen and paper and to put it in a shoe box or in a binder. If we can take all that data and digitize it and utilize it, and it’s so significant because that doesn’t exist right now, we can go find a lot of information on when to plant conventional corn, when to plant conventional beans, when to put fungicide on. All that stuff is readily available, and we could find it in probably less than 30 seconds. Organically, that doesn’t exist, especially when we start talking about crop rotation, small grains, peas, all the agronomic data and understanding. That doesn’t exist very readily, and, statistically, it doesn’t exist. So the more information we can collect and understand about what we’re doing on our farms, and being able to utilize that, has higher ROI.
TOM: Okay, so tell me some of this stuff for organic certification that you need to collect that the average farmer doesn’t need.
BRYCE: Yeah, so we are keeping all the field level details for what went through that field. How many pounds were applied? How many tons were applied? What seed varieties, back to the seed tag, back to the invoice? All the loads that come off that field of grain, where they exactly go, at exactly what price they are sold at, at exactly what date? Every pass through that field, from rotary hoe to cultivation to combining to spraying to irrigation, and we keep track of all those costs, as well. There are some conventional farmers that do that, but it doesn’t all line up and connect every year, and very few of them do it at that level. Do you have anything to add in on that, Steve?
STEVE: I just want to hop in. And you have to have all of that data available if a certification agent shows up on your farm. So, when you’re certified, you agree to allow them to do unannounced inspections. Just having the data or having that information somewhere but not being able to access it and pull it up and answer those questions and verify it isn’t sufficient. You have to be able to be ready for those sorts of annual certification audits and then unexpected or unannounced audits, as well. Just one other thing. I want to go back and just take a step back. So Bryce mentioned that the certification process isn’t tedious. It isn’t anything that most people can’t do, but it’s really tedious and a lot of work. The other thing is that the NOP, the National Organic Program, covers everybody in the supply chain, and so the rules aren’t necessarily black and white. There’s some gray, and that’s where working with somebody that can help you interpret what’s in bounds and what’s out of bounds is really important because we find a lot of farmers. It’s just kind of like your taxes. If you do your own taxes, you think you did it the right way, but sometimes you’re uncertain, and that creates a little bit of anxiety. If you do it the wrong way, there’s a penalty to pay, and the same thing with certification. You think you’re doing it the right way, especially in transition. You think you’re transitioning the right way, but if you do something that’s out of bounds, it could eliminate you from being able to certify those acres. Or if you are organic, it could mean that you couldn’t sell that crop organically because you did something wrong. So that’s where that uncertainty, I think, creates a lot of anxiety or stress for organic.
Staying Organic Certified
TOM: So I sense it’s not just a matter of being certified as an organic farmer, but there is a follow-up that you need to continue to provide information to somebody to stay certified. Is that correct?
STEVE: Correct. So, every year, you go through a re-application process where you have to, again, share everything you did the previous year, whether you were transitioning or organically certified. Lay out the plan, your Organic System Plan, or OSP, for the following year, including what crops you’re going to raise. So what fields you’re going to do it in, what crops you’re going to raise, what inputs you’re going to put in that field, including seed fertility and the other crop inputs, and what your program is to make sure that you’re maintaining all of the certification requirements from that first time you get in the field all the way to the point of delivery for grain if you’re a grain farmer.
TOM: So the inspectors can pop in, like you say, at any time. So I assume you need really good records of where your fertilizer came from, what was the source to prove that it’s an organic fertilizer to come through that entire supply chain. It seems to me like there might be a higher level of record keeping in organics than just saying I went to the local co-op, and I got so many pounds of anhydrous or something like that. Maybe keeping track of that supply chain is more important?
STEVE: Yes, you’ll have to. For that, you have to show in what fields you applied what product. Then, for fertility, you’re going to have to have a few things. You’re going to have to have the invoices, and the NOP doesn’t care about the cost. They just care about the fact that you actually procured fertility from a certain source. Then you’ll have to verify that, in that fertility, there are no prohibited substances. So, typically, that’s an affidavit from the fertility supplier, or if it’s an OMRI-labeled product, you have to have an OMRI label and the OMRI certificate associated with that. So that has to be a part of your record-keeping package.
TOM: Okay, so it does seem to me like there is a level of record keeping in certified organic farming that maybe you wouldn’t typically find in a typical operation that a commercial farmer, traditional farmer would have. So, Bryce, have you found to be, when you think about the acres that are in your traditional farming methods and your acres that are in organic farming, do you have a higher level of record keeping in one or other? Is it just different information that you keep?
BRYCE: There is a much higher level of record keeping in organic than conventional. Conventional, you don’t really have to do it. So a lot of that just kind of gets put by the side. In organic, you have to do it. So it’s just a much higher level, much higher traceability and credibility to what’s going on in the dataset.
Mission of AgriSecure
TOM: So let’s transition here from talking about what organic farming is and the certification process to your platform of AgriSecure. What is it? So a platform is a platform. You also must have some services that you provide along with the platform, but talk about what AgriSecure is, why you developed AgriSecure, why you started the company and what an organic farmer or farmer that is going to transition to organic farming, what do they get out of your products and services?
BRYCE: I’ll let you answer that, Steve.
STEVE: Okay. So AgriSecure was founded by Bryce and myself and two other farms that transitioned to organic production around the same time. Bryce and the other founders got to know each other and started sharing information around the transition process and, afterwards, looked around and basically said, ‘Why aren’t more farmers taking advantage of this opportunity?’ It has real economic benefits, and there are benefits for the sustainability of the ground, which is their biggest asset. It really came down to a few things. One, as Bryce mentioned earlier, there’s just not good information on how to transition and how to be successful with organic production in the long term. Second, record keeping and certification can be very time-consuming. There are a lot of unknowns, and their current record-keeping systems typically don’t work. So they have to invent something new there. Third, understanding the economics of organics over the long term is needed because, during transition, you’re making an investment to transition those fields. So understanding the return on that investment is critical, and then they didn’t know where to sell it. If you haven’t been selling organics, there are a lot of unknowns around who’s going to buy my crops and what my price structure looks like. So we launched, or we built, a system that has an online farm management tool that allows our farmers to build their fuel plants and track every activity and then upload and digitize all the documents associated with their farm. So they can have that information at their fingertips for certification purposes and pull it out to give it to their certifier to get their annual Organic System Plan approved. Then we couple that, and then that also collects the economic information and yields information, so they can understand what’s working on my farm, what’s not.
Then, we couple that with an account executive who can come in and do a few things. Depending on where you are in your organic journey, if you’re just starting transition or you’ve been organic for a few years, we can come in and help you understand. All right, what’s working on your farm? What are other farmers doing that are working? What are common mistakes to avoid and really kind of be a coach to help you build the right plan in the long term. Then we can manage the certification process for you. So, instead of being focused on making sure you have all your record keeping correct and filling out the application, or going back and forth with the certifier on a question, we manage that for the farmer. So the farmer can focus on, ‘All right, what am I going to do in the field, or what am I doing in the fields to maximize my production and maximize my revenue?’ Then, the final thing that we added on, based upon feedback from our customers, is an organic grain marketing advisory service. So we can help our farmers understand what’s happening in the market at a macro level and then drill that down into, ‘All right, what kind of marketing decisions should you make for your farm?’ So, when to sell, who to sell to, to maximize the revenue on your farm but also to manage the risks associated with price movement in the marketplace.
Helping Farmers Transition
TOM: So there’s a lot to unpack there, Steve. No, I mean, when I first ran into AgriSecure, I thought you were kind of like a precision ag platform where you kept records, but you are much more robust than that, where you start really helping a farmer think. I’m trying to paraphrase. If it’s not right, let me know, but you’re trying to help a farmer start transitioning from more of a commercial operation, or maybe a traditional operation, all the way through to being an organic farmer. Then helping them get certified and helping them with record keeping and helping them with production and agronomic information and then grain marketing too?
STEVE: Yeah, so, as somebody else at an organic conference said once, ‘In transition, there’s a transition that happens in the field, but there’s also a transition that has to happen between your ears because it’s a different type of farming.’ It takes a different perspective or a time frame to think about. That’s one of the things we’re really good at, helping you understand what works, what doesn’t work, but also to transition how you think about your farm and pressure-test your planning to make sure that you’re ready to succeed.
TOM: So do you call them agronomists, the people that are out helping? Is that the term that you use?
STEVE: We call them an account executive, and they do bring agronomy backgrounds and skills, but, really, it’s kind of taking a step back and also looking at a broader picture. So part of it can start with how many acres should I transition that first year, and what fields might I transition? As Bryce mentioned before, not every field is going to be a good organic field. So let’s take a look at your farm and figure out where you want to start. Then how do you sequence in the acres that you’re going to transition over time?
TOM: So, Bryce, if you would have had your services of AgriSecure when you were starting, how would that transition have been different for you? What would have been the benefit to you?
BRYCE: I would probably have grown corn the first year. I came out of alfalfa and probably would’ve made another $250,000, rather. It’s just understanding those simple concepts. I probably lost $250,000 the first year, not understanding how to do organic when I got started. It was just a simple thing that I always go back to. Even getting started on the simplest things and what rotation to grow out of, it can be huge numbers, even on a small amount of acres.
Geographical Footprint of AgriSecure
TOM: So what’s your geographic footprint? What crops do you cover? So you’ve got these account executives, and it must be hard to know everything from corn to beans to alfalfa to peas to lettuce and blueberries, but what’s your geographic kind of footprint? Then, what kind of crops do you specialize in, if that’s a fair question?
BRYCE: Yeah, our geographic footprint is mainly in the central Midwest with Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, South Dakota, Illinois, in those states. But we reach all the way from Colorado to Ohio, up to North Dakota and then down to New Mexico. The thing is we do a bunch of crops, and we’re not experts in all the crops, or probably not in any of the crops to be honest with you. It’s still taking the fundamental practices that we have learned and incorporating them into whichever crop you grow, how to build sustainable rotations, how to use data to understand if they’re working. Then how do you put an execution plan and understand if it worked or not? That execution plan was successful or wasn’t successful, and why did it not work? And how do I change it next year? It’s probably more important than for us saying, ‘Yeah, peas at this stage, you need to do a fungicide.’ There are plenty of people out there that know, already, that we don’t have to be experts on every crop, but we have to be experts on understanding what’s working, what’s not working and how to identify those things.
Staying Power in Organic Farming
TOM: Yeah, I got to believe that when you’re transitioning to organics, you can make some really big, costly mistakes. If you’re getting into it, it takes typically three years to transition to organic? If you get into year two or something like that, where you’ve invested a lot of dollars into transition, and you make a mistake, and then you throw the towel in and go back to the old way of farming, I’m guessing there can be some pretty tragic stories out there that can be told about that transition period.
BRYCE: Yeah, I mean, you can ruin a field any year by not being on the ball, letting weeds get out of control, not having a plan if they get out of control, what to do. Again, it goes to that long-term sustainability. The staying power in organic is more important than actually getting to organic. I think that’s one thing that we’ve learned at AgriSecure. A lot of people are just worried about getting there, but now you have to think about how to stay in it and be successful at it.
TOM: So how has your operation, Bryce, changed over time?
BRYCE: Yeah, I think we went from the economic thinking of short-term to tying agronomics and economics at the hip together. Looking at a 10-year view rather than a one or two-year view has actually made our lives a lot easier and more profitable in the long run than looking at the conventional ‘ag’ view. The economics in ‘conventional’ that we came from say, ‘How much money can I make this year? Then, don’t worry about next year.’ In organic, it’s, ‘How do I look at making the most money over 10 years while creating the least amount of work and the most amount of efficiency?’ That takes a lot of planning and execution from year one to year 10.
TOM: Yeah, and I got to believe that makes record keeping all the more important, right? If you’re just in it for one year, you just look back on one year of record keeping and say:,‘Hey, it looked like a good year or bad year.’ But if you’re in it for 10 years, it seems to me that you’ve got to start plotting out some trend lines and look at past years together, not as individual years, but together.
BRYCE: It’s balancing crops and workload and revenues and costs. If you take a look at having alfalfa in the rotation, you figure nitrogen, manure as a dollar a pound per nitrogen. If I create 125 pounds of nitrogen with my alfalfa, I can reduce my cost for next year’s crop, as well. So it’s how all that stuff mixes and matches together.
Helping Farmers Make Decisions
TOM: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, it’s hard enough, I think, in a conventional system. I got to imagine it’s even more difficult but more important in the organic system. So, Steve, how does the AgriSecure platform help kind of inform farmers of where they’re at when they’re looking at this longer term outlook? What type of products do you provide to really help with decision-making there?
STEVE: So I think there are a few different dimensions. One, part of it’s just being a part of a network of farmers. So, throughout the year, our members are trying new things on small scales on their farm. So part of it is sharing the successes and some of the challenges and failures that different farms have had, as I look at, ‘What can I do next to help continue to improve my organic farm?’ At times, that can be steering them away from things that might sound like a good idea but are very difficult to execute on. So that’s one part of it, and the second part is on the platform. We built in some analytical tools to help them both look backwards and also plan forward. So many of our farms have a rotation, kind of a rolling five-year crop rotation on each of their fields. When they look at that, you can look and pull out some information on expected revenues and expenses and say, ‘All right, how does this map out? Am I too corn-heavy in a couple of years, and if so, what do I need to do to balance my rotation?’ The other thing is that we have a planning tool that we call a fuel plan grid, which looks at how many acres do you have to get over by activity by time frame. So you can really look at that and say, ‘All right, man, do I have the capacity to get this much work done within May or June?’ If you don’t, then you either have to do a few things. You have to balance your rotation in a different way, or you have to add capacity in your farm. So some of those tools really help both on, ‘What do my economics look like in the long term? Do I have the right rotation from that perspective?’ And also, ‘Do I have the operational capacity to execute?’ Because in organics, when you get behind, it’s really hard to get caught up, if not impossible. Then they have that layer of looking at being part of a network where they can kind of benchmark and understand what others are doing, and they’re learning, and incorporate that into their farm. So it’s not just learning on your own farm. It’s expanding that out to a network.
Balance in Organic Farming
TOM: So I think it’s important to be able to always benchmark against other farmers that are kind of in that same position that you are, but I never really thought about the idea. Everybody knows that if you’re going to go organic farming, lots of things change, and you have more management, more labor. But balancing that labor out across your acres and throughout the year seemed like a really important thing, and a tool to do that seems like it could really be helpful to help farmers think through that.
STEVE: Yeah, I think it’s been something that a lot of farmers, when they’re first getting into organics, don’t think about that. We talk about, or at least I talk about, it in terms of it’s your rotation, creating capacity for you. So, by integrating alfalfa or small grains, the fact that those activities are asynchronous, does that mean that you can really focus on your corn and soybean crops? Or is it set up so there’s some real lumpiness, and, then, how do we balance that out? I think that’s where having somebody else take a look at your plans for your farm can really be beneficial because, sometimes, you can’t see the forest through the trees. You get too close to what you’re doing to see some of the potential challenges you might be creating. So, whether it’s AgriSecure or somebody else who understands organic farming, I think an organic farm really benefits from having somebody take a look at what they’re doing and pressure-test it.
TOM: So, Bryce, when you set out transitioning and you kind of started to develop the idea of AgriSecure, how close are you to getting to your vision of where you wanted to be? Is AgriSecure everything that you anticipated, or is there still more to come?
BRYCE: I think one of the biggest learning things is that less is better. When we started out AgriSecure, we wanted to be everything to everybody, and we quickly realized that less is better. So I think we are where we need to be. Obviously, there’s always an opportunity to add things on, but doing a few things very well is more important than having a lot of different aspects to the business. So focusing on making certification efficient and getting information to farmers that need it to make decisions, whether it’s farming or marketing your grain, I think are two places that we can make an impact on.
Getting Started with AgriSecure
TOM: When you start working with a farm, how many acres do you have in the system now and how do you even start connecting with AgriSecure? So I’m out listening to this podcast, driving down the road, and I’m like, ‘Well, how do I connect with you guys?’ What is the point of connection where I can find out a little bit more on what you offer, maybe get a personal connection going and find out some costs and things like that? Where do I start?
STEVE: I think the easiest way to do that is to go to AgriSecure.com. Go to our website. From there, you can learn a lot more about the services we offer. We also have a pretty robust blog there that has lots of articles about organic farming and important issues and our perspective on that. So it’s got a lot of good content but also plenty of opportunities to fill out a form to ask for a demo or for us to contact you. The other thing you could do is follow us on YouTube or Twitter. We’re active in those channels, as well. So, on our YouTube channel, we have some field days from last year where we’re talking about different crops and rotations. That might be interesting. Then Twitter is just also other things happening within the organic space.
TOM: So, Steve, I did notice on your website that you do sponsor some field days. Is that right? Where you go out to maybe some organic growers that might be different in the last year with some of the restrictions we have on getting together or limitations on getting together, but what do those look like?
STEVE: Yeah, so, typically, we’ll pick three to four farms throughout a summer, try to have them both at different crops and different locations, and pull together farmers from that area. Oftentimes, we get people traveling several hours to come, and we’ll get out into the field and talk about what we did in the field or the farmer for that field did. What’s working? What are some of the challenges? Then, oftentimes, try to find a gathering place close by to continue the discussion over a meal. This past year, we did those virtually because we weren’t able to get together. Our hope is that this coming summer, that we’re all able to do those in person. So that’s the plan as of right now. If you sign up for our newsletter on our website, we will also send you updates on events that we’re having, whether it’s field days, or if we’re going to be having webinars as we do throughout the year on specific topics of interest for farmers.
What Farmers Should Know
TOM: Well, it’s been a fascinating discussion, and I appreciate both of you getting on, but I always kind of end with a question, and I’ll ask each one of you a question a little bit differently. But Bryce, if you had two minutes in a room with a farmer that was not in organic, was not certified for organic, and they were considering it, in two minutes, what would you tell them that they need to think about or do in order to start transitioning? Why, just in general? What would you want them to know?
BRYCE: I think that it really starts with understanding how that farmer’s thinking about the transition, organic production, what all encompasses doing this. From the actual work to what equipment you have to purchase to the information learning that you have to be able to do to the phone calls. You have to be able to pick up the phone to get inputs to make sure he’s understanding everything that has to go on to do this. That’s the first step I like to go through with growers so they know the decision they’re making. For us in AgriSecure and everybody else in the organic industry, if you don’t know what you’re getting into and don’t understand it before getting into it, it doesn’t work out well for anybody. Then what I talk to a grower about after we’re understanding what we’re getting into is understanding what has to be done and how you think about the crop rotation. What’s the short-term transition through long-term organic crop production? I met with a young — not young, he’s actually older than me — but younger-in-farmer-terms individual. We had one discussion, and he’s doing three years of alfalfa, two years of corn. I know he’s going to be successful. A very high chance of success. If a grower tells me I’m going to do corn, soybeans, corn, soybeans for the next 10 years, we have to rethink that. So the big part is making them understand. The second part is what does the future hold for them? Seeing if they understand where I’m coming from, understand the importance of crop rotations, how you think about nutrients and all that go into this proper rotation. If they come through that with, I wouldn’t say, flying colors but their understanding that’s the direction they have to go, it’s getting into the nuts and bolts of building out what it actually costs to do a crop rotation in your area. For example, looking through where this individual was with alfalfa, there are a lot of cheap manures. So potassium and phosphorus are not high-cost. We go into another area where we recommend alfalfa, where phosphorus and potassium are high-cost, alfalfa might not work through it. So that third step is really dialing in to make sure organic actually works for you with all the costs and revenues that go into it.
TOM: Thanks, Bryce.
STEVE: So Bryce is going to parlay that two-minute question into like a 15-minute to 30-minute discussion.
BRYCE: That was two minutes, Steve.
TOM: No, Steve, I wanted to ask you. So you have two minutes in a room with a farmer, right? What do you want them to know about AgriSecure that would get them thinking about giving you a call?
STEVE: Yeah, I would want them to know that AgriSecure, the team at AgriSecure, has walked in their boots. As Bryce had mentioned, we launched AgriSecure because we didn’t want other farmers to make the costly mistakes that our founders had made. So we’ve designed the system, and we often say, by farmers for farmers. By farmers for farmers to help alleviate a lot of the pain points and a lot of the challenges and as much of the stress as we can in organic production. So they can have as much fun, and their farming can be as rewarding as possible. That’s one of the things that I really appreciate about what we do, that we have a great group of members within AgirSecure who are very passionate or becoming passionate about farming organically because they get to solve problems with good management on their farm. They see the reward, both financial and from a field health perspective, of their efforts, and many of them have said, ‘Look, this has made farming fun again.’ So we hope we can help them do that and do it as profitably as possible.
TOM: Thanks, Steve. Well, both Bryce and Steve, thank you for your time. Another great episode of Organics Unpacked. Really a lot of information to think about, and I’d encourage anybody that’s thinking about getting into organic farming or needs a little help, maybe to reach out and see what services these guys have available. With that, thanks for tuning into another episode of Organics Unpacked, where, next week, we’ll be discussing another exciting aspect of organic farming. Until then, keep ideas coming in. If there’s somebody you’d like me to interview, let me know. Thanks, everyone.
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