Schmitz Grain Inc.
Schmitz Grain Inc. is a full service agronomy business serving customers within 70 miles of its home base in Currie, Minnesota. Founded in 1970 by Norbert Schmitz, the company has earned its reputation as a trusted partner to the region’s farming community.
Employing 45 people between its four locations spread across the state, Schmitz offers a full range of agronomy services including feed, grain, fertilizer and seed. Schmitz mixes all of its own feed on-site, but buys certain things such as fertilizer, chemical seed and feed from a trusted network of suppliers.
With a focus on providing exceptional service to its customers in the agriculture industry, Schmitz Grain Inc. limits its geographical footprint in order to better serve those who depend on the company.
“We would do further than a 70-mile radius, but the trouble is that once you go further than that you can only react so fast and can’t service customers as well,” says Doug Schmitz, president and second-generation owner of Schmitz Grain Inc. “You’ve got to be Johnny-on-the-spot to cover these guys.”
Working in a region dominated by corn and soybean production, Schmitz is particularly in tune with its customers’ needs thanks to Doug’s own background on the farm, where he grows corn and soybeans.
Investing for the future
Doug joined the family business at a young 10 years old when he started helping out his dad. While Schmitz was initially founded as a grain elevator, the next generation of Schmitz has worked to diversify the company, expanding into feed, fertilizer and seed. He is also an owner in the clean energy ethanol and pork industries and the company’s main supplier, ADM Alliance, helps with its feed division. “That diversification definitely helps our operations because we actually run a farm operation ourselves aside from running all of our other entities,” he says.
Doug has also worked to expand the company’s footprint, setting up operations across southwestern Minnesota, including facilities in Currie, Slayton, Lake Wilson and Iona. “We’re in great area for raising crops here in southern Minnesota,” he says.
This commitment to reinvestment and diversification saw Schmitz build a new state-of-the-art agronomy center and fertilizer facility at its Slayton location last year, effectively tripling the company’s output capacity. “It’s working really well so far,” says Dan Schmitz, Doug’s brother and vice president of the company. “We can now load a semi every three to five minutes and we’re able to hold more products. Having it on hand when you need it and getting it out to farmers is key to a successful company.”
While there are constantly new products on offer in the agriculture industry, the Schmitz team is careful to practice what it preaches, testing out each new products/varieties before they make their way onto the company’s product list. “We don’t go out and sell to customers unless we’re confident in the product, so we use it ourselves first on our own farms,” says Doug.
Staying abreast of changes
Fluctuating commodity prices aren’t the only challenge facing the industry. With the number of qualified employees down across the country, employers of all shapes and sizes are having difficulty attracting qualified workers, but the trend is even more pronounced in a largely rural area such as the upper Midwest. “It’s a bigger challenge all the time because you just can’t keep these kids out here,” says Doug.
With its own fleet of 17 trucks, Mack trucks from NUSF Trucking Company and trucking partners that bring the total to more than 40 trucks, Schmitz is able to ensure on-time delivery and pickup for every customer, adding to the company’s reputation as a leader in service. “They can load 100,000 bushels a day and load them fast; most of my customers love me for that,” says Doug. “We also owe a big thanks to Ruppert Oil Company of Currie, Minnesota, for keeping our trucks full of fuel and ready to go.”
As Schmitz continues to grow and build on its stellar reputation, it is word-of-mouth that helps draw new customers. “I think that gets out to people because they hear we offer superior service,” notes Doug. “We also have to thank our lending institutions, Great Western Bank and Agri Financial for understanding our business and having the capital it takes to run a full-service business,” he says.
In the near future, Doug would like to increase his overall grain storage capacity to ensure that when a record crop comes in, he’ll have the space to handle it. “Right now we have 6.5 million bushels, but I’d like that to eventually be more like 8.5 million,” he says.
A commitment to customer service, emphasis on diversification and expanded grain storage facilities should see Schmitz Grain Inc. remain a leader in the southern Minnesota market year after year, harvest after harvest.