Brown’s Fertilizer & Chemical LLC

A family venture in farm-supply for more than 50 years
Written by: 
Tom Faunce
Produced by: 
Sean O’Reilly

Since 1961 Brown’s Fertilizer & Chemical LLC has provided fertilizer and chemical products to the Midwest farming community. Headquartered in Ridgeway, Illinois, the company has remained a family-owned and-operated business since its inception.

Initially founded as an egg and feed business, the company was originally known as Brown Feed Store. From humble beginnings in a one-room facility, Archie and Mike Brown grew the business and expanded its products to fertilizer and chemical. Since then, Brown’s Fertilizer has become one of the largest independent retailers in the Midwest with six locations.

“When it comes to the farm-supply business, I don’t think we do anything different; we just do it better,” says owner Mike Brown. “We’ve been in business for more than 50 years and our business just continues to grow.”

A father-son team

Brown began working for the company at the age of 15 when his father founded it. The father-son team remained partners until Archie passed away in 2013. The family atmosphere that his father established continues to be a key contributing factor to the company’s success. “We’re a family-run business and we treat our customers like family,” Brown explains. “The investment in quality equipment and service has definitely paid off.”

As a full-service retailer, Brown’s Fertilizer sells quality feed for all agricultural needs. From fertilizer to pesticides, the company is capable of handling all crop input needs. The company also has the ability to apply all crop protection products, including anhydrous ammonia, dry and liquid fertilizer, pesticides and all aerial application needs. Brown’s Fertilizer also utilizes its fleet of 24 semis during post-harvest to transport grain to elevators. The services that Brown’s Fertilizer performs provides 100 full-time jobs for southern Illinois residents.

“Our most valuable product is our people,” says Brown. “Our history and customer service is what sets us apart from our competition.” Focusing on corn, wheat and soy bean farmers, Brown Fertilizer’s customers populate a 50-mile radius of the company.

Brown’s Fertilizer has reached three generations of the family. Brown’s son Greg currently assists his father in running the company. “The best things about this job are the customers and the fact that the business changes every day,” says Greg. “With the weather and world markets constantly affecting our customers, their needs change every day. One he could be looking to plant a corn crop in the spring and the weather or market could change and all of the sudden he needs to change over to beans. No two days are the same in this business. Fortunately we have the knowledge and the experience to help the farmer adapt to those changes.”

Setting goals

The success that Brown’s Fertilizer has experienced has surpassed Brown’s expectations for the company. “Every time we set a goal for the company we exceed it far beyond our expectations,” says Brown. “One of my first goals was to do $1 million in business in a year and now we’re doing $44 million a year. I also had a goal of owning a semi and now we own 25 of them.”

The company has made some additions to its facilities in the past two years. Expansions include three new fertilizer buildings as well as a new office and warehouse. Brown’s Fertilizer is also in the custom aviation business. “We crop-dust 200,000 acres a year,” says Brown. “We’ve recently built an airplane hangar to store our three planes.”

Looking ahead

The constant expansion of the company has presented a few challenges to Brown’s Fertilizer. “When you get to a certain size, there are a lot more hoops you have to jump through to keep the government happy,” says Brown. “We’ve gained a large geographical footprint and we want to keep everyone happy so we’ll continue to do whatever it takes to make that happen.”

With cautious optimism for the future of the U.S. economy, Brown insists that you have to be willing to take a risk in business in order to reap the rewards. “To be successful in this world you have to take a lot of chances,” says Brown. “You have to stick your neck out there every day. Luckily we’re in a business that will never go away. The nice thing is that my customers start over every year so we’re happy to revisit everything when that happens.”

As the company continues to see generations enter the family business, Brown’s Fertilizer & Chemical LLC will continue to set the standard in quality and customer service.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Dow AgroSciences