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Daylight Farm Supply Inc.: Building Trust with Bushels of Corn
Marty Finney founded Daylight Farm Supply Inc. (DFS) in 1980 to bring a highly technical perspective to crop protection. Headquartered in Evansville, Ind., DFS takes pride in being a partner to farmers and providing the technical expertise to tweak a crop protection program to suit specific field conditions. Unlike farming cooperatives though, DFS specializes only in ag-chemistry as well as starter and liquid fertilizers. However, the team also offers complete agronomy consulting services, so customers receive informed and unbiased recommendations for the greatest crop yield.
“Our philosophy has always been to use a rifle and not a shotgun,” laughs Finney, president of DFS. As the company grew and markets changed, Finney grew the company by targeting niche markets that were most compatible with his own professional background. Finney graduated from Purdue University’s Agronomy program and was among the first wave of Certified Crop Advisors in Indiana. In turn, DFS takes pride in focusing exclusively on a handful of niche markets instead of trying to be all things to all people.
In total, DFS offers agronomy consulting services, lawn and garden services and erosion control services through its sister company, Daylight Land Management. This is all in addition to selling bulk ag-chemicals and starter fertilizer application equipment. Every aspect of the DFS operation is geared toward the local market and the needs and challenges of its clients, who are typically located within a 35-mile radius of DFS headquarters.
In turn, the services DFS provides are heavily focused on the science behind crop production programs and ensuring that only the most effective chemicals and application methods are employed. Rather than throwing a variety of solutions at a problem, DFS’ team of professional agronomists work to identify the root-cause of the problem and make a recommendation based on the specific conditions. DFS employs two professional agronomists and a staff of 15 to take soil samples and make recommendations according to soil fertility levels, production and profit goals.
DFS is committed to representing only the best technologies and products available on the market suitable for the local region. In turn, DFS opts to use a zoning model for its soil sampling and consulting service, which the team believes offers better insight into more sublet variations on a field site than a traditional soil sampling grid. Spots with drastically different nutrient utilization and water retention characteristics can then be broken into smaller regions, enabling DFS to compile a complete program with variable application maps. Because DFS is not a supplier of dry phosphorous and potassium fertilizers, clients rest assured that the recommendation is unbiased.
Simultaneously, the DFS team works in tandem with leading companies like Pioneer to test new products and application methods on 45 acres of test farm. Currently, DFS dedicates roughly 30 acres to test Pioneer’s products. DFS uses the remaining 15 acres for its own independent research projects so customers rest assured that every recommendation DFS makes is backed by industry leading technology and proven results in a local setting.
“We have the ability to bring a new product to market and bring it exposure fairly quickly because of our expertise in chemistry. It’s about putting the right product in the right setting and effectively communicating the benefit to the farmer,” expands Finney. In recent years, markets have shifted away from products like Round-up, which have become ubiquitous in agricultural production programs over the past decade. In fact, it was because of the introduction of products like Round-up that Finney expanded into erosion control services. In agronomy and erosion control alike, customers are now moving towards tailored production regimens that can be tweaked and adjusted continually and designed to work with the soil conditions.
More specifically, the DFS team is focusing on biological and ecological factors that many farmers never even considered. “Across agriculture and our erosion control service, we’re beginning to think about the role fungi and bacteria play in creating healthy soil conditions,” explains Finney. Additionally, DFS’ customers work in a no-till area, which has significantly reduced soil loss. As part of that effort, DFS has begun introducing more cover crops into its agronomy and erosion control programs to support the microbial activity within the rhizosphere and thereby reduce soil erosion and boost soil nutrient content naturally.
A Partner in Agronomy
Though DFS doesn’t necessarily sell the products that comprise a total agronomy program, the team believes strongly that the extra research will help keep customers on the cutting edge of technology and solidify client relationships. In the early 1980s when DFS was just starting out, 200 bushels of corn an acre was quite the feat, but agronomy and technology have advanced so far that 200 bushels is standard. Farmers are now racing towards the 300-bushel-mark even faster, and the team believes DFS will play a significant role in that effort.
“We succeed when our clients succeed. If we can develop a program that helps our customer outperform the competition, he will grow his business and help us grow in the process,” says Finney. As farmers in Indiana and across the country begin nearing the 300 bushel mark, DFS will continue to focus on its strength in chemistry and customer service for growth, which has carried the company far since its inception.
Most recently, DFS began manufacturing its own fertilizer application equipment for sale to the general public. The equipment was originally developed for DFS’ starter fertilizer application services, but before long, customers began inquiring about purchasing the kits and the company moved to fill the market gap. So far, production and distribution has been limited, but the additional revenue stream has helped keep DFS’ professionals busy during slow winter months and ultimately helps strengthen its client relationships.
As technology advances and agronomists incorporate new techniques into crop production programs, DFS will be standing by as a partner for Indiana farmers. Bolstered by a strong background in chemistry and a commitment to each individual client, Daylight Farm Supply Inc. will help farmers overcome common challenges and finally reach that 300 bushel goal.