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Larson Grain Company: Partnering with Customers for Success
Larson Grain Company (Larson Grain) originated as a small North Dakota operation in 1981. Since then, Larson Grain has grown to serve multiple sectors in the agriculture industry with three locations across the southeast portion of the state.
Ross Fugleberg, CEO of Larson Grain, explains that the company was founded by Carl and Rod Larson to fulfill the needs of the brothers’ own farm. With a couple of employees and a few grain bins, Larson Grain began with a mission to provide the customer service that Carl and Rod felt they were not getting from other area elevators.
Just over 30 years later, Fugleberg now manages a team of approximately 40 employees to provide agronomy, grain and edible bean products and services. Based in LaMoure and Adrian, the company’s grain team buys, dries and sells grain grown by local producers, including crops of corn, soybeans and wheat.
At Larson Grain’s Englevale location, the edible bean team buys, cleans and sells edible beans grown by local producers, mainly handling pinto and black turtle varieties. Meanwhile, the company’s agronomy team offers corn and soybean seed, seed treatment, chemical, fertilizer, custom application, crop scouting and soil sampling at all three locations.
Regardless of how large Larson Grain has grown, Fugleberg claims the company still maintains its founding principle. “It’s all about serving the customer and providing value to their operation,” he details. “We are different from the competition, in that we are a small, privately held company, which allows us to get intimate with our customers, yet we’re large enough to provide them with everything they need.”
At Larson Grain, it is all about relationships. “We want to be thought of as a partner by our customers,” Fugleberg continues. “We do more than just provide them with a product or a service. We want to deeply understand their operations and goals so we can best match our products and services to them and help each customer be as profitable as possible.”
Tradition of Farming
Though Fugleberg only joined the company in 2010, he has a lifetime of insight in the industry. “I grew up working on our family farm,” he says. Fugleberg’s father owns and runs a farm between Grand Forks and Fargo, so he understands the challenges that come with farming. “I still enjoy going home to help my dad on his farm,” he says. “That really helps me relate to our customers.”
Fugleberg went to work for a bank as an agricultural lender after he graduated from college. While in that position, he started working with Larson Grain as one of his customers. “I built a relationship with the company and some of its owners during that time,” says Fugleberg. “One day, out of the blue, they approached me with this job opportunity and the rest is history.”
Having an insider’s look at the company’s financials, Fugleberg felt comfortable assuming his position as Larson Grain’s leader. “I could see the company had a strong and proven track record along with a solid financial foundation,” says Fugleberg. “It was definitely a group of people I wanted to be a part of.”
According to Fugleberg, he sees an opportunity when many others may see a challenge. “We’re on the edge of a growing Corn Belt here,” he says. “That creates opportunities.” Opportunities are created for the farmers, as well as for Larson Grain, as everyone is experiencing the learning curve of growing corn and increasing storage needs to handle the bigger bushels at harvest.
“Growing corn is somewhat different from other crops we have grown up here in the past,” says Fugleberg. “It’s both an art and a science.” As far as growing is concerned, Larson Grain has focused its agronomy team on the partnering with the farmer to hone their corn-growing skills. According to Fugleberg, after hiring a couple agronomists who had been working in the Corn Belt, the company really focused on helping farmers improve their corn production by offering knowledge along with specialized products and services.
“They have been growing corn in the belt for many generations, compared to some who have only raised it for few years up here,” Fugleberg continues. “All of those years of experience result in valuable knowledge that we can share with our customers.”
Fugleberg goes on to explain the team at Larson Grain’s future goals. “We’re trying to be a leader in our market,” he says. Therefore, in an effort to stand apart from other area competitors, Larson Grain began testing its customers’ soil much more precisely.
“Our method of sampling examines only a couple acres at a time,” says Fugleberg. “It’s called grid sampling, and it allows the farmer to apply the exact nutrients that particular piece of ground needs to maximize production. We then offer variable rate application to achieve this. Grid sampling is much more precise and economical than composite sampling, which treats an entire field as one big piece. Farming is a big business these days, and to be successful, a producer must be as efficient as possible, and grid sampling along with variable rate application is just one more way to help achieve this. Our customers are seeing the pay off, as they are able to put their money where it is best spent and maximizing their return.”
An Ever-changing Industry
With the changing industry comes room for growth. “The industry is continuing to evolve,” says Fugleberg. “Larson Grain tries to stay ahead of competition by keeping a finger on the pulse of the changing needs of the producer and determining the best way to fulfill those needs.”
For example, Larson Grain reconfigured its grain facilities so farmers could pull in, dump a load of grain very quickly and get back to the field before the combines have to stop and wait. “We really focus on that, because we know it is very critical that our customers’ trucks get back to the fields as soon as possible,” says Fugleberg. “Time is money and we want to help them to make as much of it as they possibly can.”
As the industry rapidly changes, Larson Grain strives to stay ahead and provide the best possible solutions for its customers. “If we continue to provide value to our customers, we’re going to be successful,” Fugleberg says.
By focusing the team’s efforts with this simple principle in mind, Larson Grain is sure to achieve success. “We’re going to continue to improve what we’re already doing but also explore new ways to make sure we’re helping our customers achieve their goals and be as successful as possible,” Fugleberg says. “There’s always room for improvement and we’re going to continue to look for new ways to do that.”
Larson Grain is eagerly pursuing new opportunities in order to grow and better serve its customer base. The company will continue to grow, though Larson Grain Company will remain small enough to provide quality service for years to come.