Spencer Agronomy Services
In Ruthven, Iowa, an area saturated by cooperatives and big-name ag-players, such as Cargill, Spencer Agronomy Services (SAS) is making its mark in the industry as an independently-owned and relatively young agronomy company operating on a simple, yet sustainable principle: building relationships.
“In this business, what sets you apart is your relationship with farmers,” measures Pete Crew, owner and founder of SAS. “If you have good relationships and offer good services at a fair price, then you’ll be successful.”
In the last 12 years, SAS has emerged as a significant name in the regional agronomy market, competing with longstanding cooperatives and larger area companies. “I think farmers can relate to the fact that we’re small and independently owned,” considers Crew.
When Crew started SAS out of a shed in his backyard, he never imagined how much SAS could achieve in its infancy. “I grew up on a farm just south of here and like most farm children, I wanted to farm, too,” he recalls. “I went to Iowa State to get my degree in agronomy and graduated in 1993. Then, times were tough in ag, so I worked in southern Iowa for a cooperative for five years then for a smaller, independent agronomy business closer to home.”
Filling a niche and a need
At one point, Crew says he even thought about leaving the industry altogether, but it was what he knew best. “I started selling NK seed and a little chemistry,” he says. “I quickly learned there was a larger market for seed and crop protection products and fertilizer and many farmers wanted more services than they were getting.”
Crew says his agronomy and entomology background came in handy in 2003, just a year after initiating SAS. “When a soybean pest came and infected the area, farmers needed to know what to do,” he recounts. “Many people were saying not to spray, even the university, but we recommended spraying many acres and it protected soybean yields, which led to huge paybacks.”
With building farmer trust, SAS relocated to the west edge of Ruthven in 2005 to allow for growth and a more centralized location. The same year, SAS acquired a precision planting dealership and more employees. “The business started as a one-man band, but now SAS has 10 full and part-time employees,” notes Crew. “Employees have been central to our success, we have experience and young talent, eager to get in the field and learn the latest technology.”
As SAS has expanded its workforce and services, the company’s mission remains the same: provide the best agronomic products, services and unbiased recommendations at a fair price, tailored to each individual farmers’ needs. And it all starts with data collection and a custom plan.
From grid soil sampling and mapping boundaries, SAS submits soil, tissue and manure samples for testing, which it incorporates to prepare a production plan. “We encourage our producers to come in and make an agronomy plan,” explains Crew. “This includes review of soil test results, understanding their goals and applying agronomy advice to prepare a specific plan. SAS will make fertilizer, seed, herbicide, insecticide and fungicide product recommendations from our wide array of offerings. We bring in airplanes in the summer for spraying fungicides and insecticides, spread cover crop in late summer with the planes and bring in a helicopter to spray pastures in the fall.”
Since 2005, SAS’ precision planting sales have been a major source of helping farmers maximize yields. The company is a Precision Planting LLC-certified dealer. “Through Precision Planting LLC, we help farmers control spacing, depth and germination – the three key elements to higher yields,” says Crew. “This part of the business is growing rapidly, in fact, in 2014 we went out and bought a brand-new planter bar, and are in the process of building a high speed, central fill, multi hybrid planter.”
The planter allows different hybrids to be seeded across management zones in the same pass driving up to 10 mph with efficient seed spacing and depth. “Many farmers know, the seeding trip is the most important trip of the year and it’s the biggest payback we can see investment wise,” measures Crew. “What sets SAS apart is we have an employee who’s really good at servicing precision planting. He helps train farmers on the equipment and is available to make service calls in the busiest times. A lot of agronomy companies have the technology, but success is about having the right people to help implement it and offer education.”
At the end of the day, Crew says any new measures or technology SAS takes on is at the request and demand of its farmer customers. “All technology, products, services – it’s all driven by their needs and meeting them at a higher level,” he says. “It’s about making them more efficient and helping them best employ their equipment. That’s how we set ourselves up for growth.”
In a business where success is mutual, Spencer Agronomy Services is helping farmers achieve higher yields through a higher level of service and satisfaction.