In Chester, Montana, the team at Stricks Ag is helping to revitalize the local agricultural community. Stricks Ag serves as a merchandiser of high-quality, high-demand grains and a source of expert knowledge in grain markets. The company also offers trucking services designed to meet the needs of area producers. Since forming only four years ago, the young, enthusiastic leadership team at Stricks Ag has made a mission out of moving premium, quality grain around the world.
Jill Streit, co-owner and financial controller of the company, and her husband Tyler Streit, general manager of Stricks Ag, are Montana natives, raised in the small town of Chester with only about 850 year-round residents. The Streits are joined by co-owners Patrick Wicks, farm manager and Whitney Wicks, human resource manager, as well as Robert Pulst, operations manager, Jennifer Habets, office manager, Brad Kantorowics, logistics coordinator and merchandiser at Stricks Ag and a handful of other dedicated employees. “We have a very horizontal leadership team and we all work as friends and family,” says Jill.
The Stricks Ag team sees an opportunity to revitalize the area known for producing some of the highest quality grain in the world. “The Golden Triangle in this area of Montana is regarded for the product it produces as one of the best milling quality grades you can find,” says Jill.
A unique opportunity for startup
While the leadership at Stricks Ag consists of fifth generation farmers with roots in homesteading, the partnership between friends and now business owners actually began in owning and managing an area bar. “We were younger and we thought, ‘why not buy a bar,’” recounts Jill. “It was my father’s bar and growing up, it was the Supper Club in Chester. But the bar industry is difficult, the hours are late and we changed modes from being 21 years old to wanting to settle down with families and have children.”
In early 2011, the foundation for Stricks Ag began to build when the four partners expanded their already deep agricultural roots. They established a farming partnership that started out with 200 acres they had traded for their bar. The timing was right and as commodity prices started to increase, a new door opened for the partners and Stricks Ag began to buy, and lease more land from landowners who had their land retired in the federal governments Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).
“In the late 1990s and early 2000s, this area went through a horrible 10-year drought enticing many area farmers to enter the CRP Program,” says Jill. “Many of these farmers sold off their implements and their children left the area looking for other opportunities. We knew that we would be able to provide a service to those who needed someone to lease their land.”
The difference with Stricks Ag is the partners behind the business come from agricultural families that continued to farm through these hard years. They branched out into custom harvesting, real estate and many other ventures to continue to diversify in order to maintain their way of life.
“It was difficult through many years, but by continuing to farm the land, our families kept their implements updated and evolved their farming practices to fit todays demands,” explains Jill. “This, as well as the solidarity of our partnerships, gave us the ability to fill this new void created by expiring CRP.”
“CRP was a game changer,” adds Tyler. “We made a point to get the niche market out there – whether it be organics or Duram, high-protein and higher quality grain to service mills domestically and foreign.”
Connecting farmers with millers, exporters and buyers
The company grew exponentially over the next two years and in the next step of evolution, Stricks Ag purchased a grain elevator. “In 2012, with the deregulation of the wheat pool in Canada, we saw a lot of grain going south of the border and since we are located so close to the border and nearby feed lots, we knew we could move grain from the newly reformed Canada market to Montana and vice versa,” explains Tyler.
Today, Stricks Ag focuses on connecting its producers to smaller processors and mills. “We do work with some Fortune 500 companies, but generally we target smaller mills and processors,” says Tyler.
Created by farmers for farmers, the small, 10-person team at Stricks Ag understands the challenges regional producers face in marketing grain and getting the best value for their crop. Through vertical integration, Stricks Ag offers marketing and transportation logistics; both of which can be a farmer’s biggest hurdle.
The company also sources products for commodity buyers. “We’ve built an exceptional network of top-quality producers and retailers within our region,” says Whitney. “Our elevator is located at the intersection of Highway 2 and U.S. Route 223. Being situated in the heart of the Golden Triangle and along the U.S.-Canada border allows us to move products by truck or railcar.”
All in all, Stricks Ag prides itself in moving the best quality products and doing it through lasting relationships with both producers and buyers. “We get to know our producers and their farming practices,” explains Patrick. “This means frequent field visits to gather firsthand knowledge of cropping conditions. With this hands-on approach, we can forecast regional availability and marketing trends earlier.”
Starting with field expertise and building on a vast network of producers, millers, exporters and commodity traders, Stricks Ag continues to source premium quality grain and provide the highest quality customer service.