Deerfield Farms Service Inc.
Equipment sales manager Brad Carpenter remembers receiving a $50,000 dollar check from an elderly farmer. “I’m looking at this guy with his leathery hands … and all I can think about is how long did it take him to save $50,000 dollars?” Carpenter says.
The experience left a big impression on Carpenter who says he now asks his colleagues to consider just how long it would take them to save $50,000 for a purchase. For Carpenter, it’s not enough to simply sell a product.
“Someone hands you a check for that kind of money and you know that he's entrusting you with a lot of responsibility,” he says.
The need to provide services, not just physical products, is especially relevant to businesses servicing grain farmers, who must count every penny to stay in business. For instance, a one- or two-cent shift in the market can cost farmers a fortune.
“We’re talking millions of bushels per year that farmers handle,” Carpenter says. If the price of grain drops by just a penny, Farmers can lose $10,000 on a million bushels.
These kinds of losses can be devastating to farmers who already pay thousands and sometimes millions of dollars for heavy machinery like tractors and planters, as well as fuel for that machinery and agronomic inputs like seed and fertilizer.
While Deerfield Farms Service (DFS) sells all of the traditional products and services that farmers need, the fact it offers virtually all of the services and products a farmer may need is very non-traditional. Not only does it have separate divisions for grain, agronomy and equipment, but members of those divisions visit farmers at their homes to look at their fields and tailor services.
“I don’t care what division you’re in,” Carpenter says. “You get hard-earned money from these farmers and your heart goes out to them.”
Deerfield’s divisions help farmers at every step
DFS applies this customer-oriented approach to its four grain elevators, where the quality of the grain it purchases is safeguarded. By storing grain, DFS allows farmers to hold on to their product and wait for the best time to sell it on the market. DFS will send its own trucks out to farms and haul the grain back so that farmers can continue harvesting. Once the grain is purchased, DFS uses a machine called a grain dryer to bring each kernel of grain to the proper temperature and moisture levels.
“We’ll dry the grain for them and hold it until the market price is advantageous for them to sell,” Carpenter says. “We then sell the grain to buyers requiring large volumes for ethanol and food production, some of which we ship overseas.”
Each of DFS’s divisions has a service-based approach, not just the grain division. In the agronomy division, DFS sends agronomists to work with farmers before they plant a single row. DFS’s consultants conduct soil samples, examining the nutrient and PH levels of a piece of land before recommending treatments to maximize yield.
Like grain and agronomy, the equipment department at DFS is a full service operation that not only sells grain bins and material handling equipment, but also lets farmers trade in their old equipment.
Carpenter says the Precision Planting division, headed up by colleague Dean Wolf, is currently offering a service through which it will find and completely rebuild corn planters with state of the art Precision Planting equipment to maximize yields. Precision Planting systems are installed on corn and soybean planters to provide data on the depth, position and temperature of each seed as it’s being planted.
Teamwork, as well as products, set Deerfield apart
In a business with so many moving parts, one of the greatest challenges facing DFS is shifting business between divisions so that if one department has low sales another division can pick up the slack. “Every division is going to have some really good years, but it’s doubtful that every year, every division is going to be successful, so we have to carry each other,” Carpenter says.
Though he has only been with DFS for two years, he says that he is already finding it easy to approach the company as a team. At times, Carpenter says he must “go from being an equipment person to pushing Deerfield Farms Service as an entire company,” and discussing a farmer’s needs for services from the grain and agronomy divisions.
So far, this philosophy has paid dividends. Deerfield Farms Service continues to expand in each division and recently expanded its product lines, offering grain bins from two major manufacturers, GSI and Brock. Carpenter is thrilled about this. “It’s like I’m selling Fords and Chevys both,” he says. “Having both of those companies behind me helps me better serve the customers.”
In his time with DFS, Carpenter has learned a thing or two about farmers. He knows that while they will gladly hand $50,000 to a company they trust, that trust must also be earned through great service.
“If somebody walks into the parts department and wants something for 5 bucks, you better get up and walk over to him and see if he wants a can of pop. Make his experience the best he’s ever had,” he says.