Suregrow Agricultural Products
Founded in 1999 by Randy P. Stephens, Suregrow Agricultural Products is a wholesale and retail distributor of crop protection and nutrient products. The Stephens family has been in the agricultural fertilizer and chemical business since 1961. Located in Comanche, Texas, with sales representative offices in Celina and Flint, Suregrow’s product lines consists of Dow, DuPont and Syngenta and many others.
A family tradition
Growing up on his father’s farm helped Stephens to become familiar with the industry. “My father also ran his own crop protection and nutrient company,” says Stephens. While living on his family’s farm Stephens developed a passion for the business before going off to college. When he graduated from Texas Technical University in 1991 with a degree in agriculture, Stephens went back to working for his father’s company. When it was bought out in 1998, he and his wife Kris, decided to start their own company and Suregrow was born.
Stephens lives with his wife and 14-year-old son on their own farm, which he says helps his company to empathize with its customers. “The fact that we’re farmers, as well, really puts us on the same level as them,” says Stephens. “We know where they’re coming from when they have an issue that they need resolved. If our customers are profitable, we are profitable.”
The farm operation that Stephens and his wife run consists of 800 cattle. Combined with his brother and his father’s farms, the family has a herd of about 5,000 on a total of 15,000 acres. Stephens says that due to the drought, his volume of cattle is down. “We’ve been down about 20 percent since the drought,” Stephens explains. “We’re usually operating with more than 1,000 cattle on my farm alone.”
A different market
Suregrow thrives in a specialty market. “Rather than just the commodities such as corn, soybean and cotton, which we do participate in, we also work in specialties such as pecans, peanuts and watermelons,” Stephens explains. “We sell pioneer corn seed as well as all of the products from the big chemical companies like Dow and DuPont.”
When Suregrow first started Stephens’ company was an early adapter in the biotechnology seed business. “It carried over from my dad’s business into mine,” says Stephens. “Unfortunately that isn’t a very profitable part of the business anymore. The profitable aspect of seed is in production.”
As Suregrow continues to grow, the company is expanding its operation. Having recently purchased a former Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) facility, the company will use the space for cold and dry storage. “We’re now using treated urea,” says Stephens. “It’s considered to be a safer material than nitrate. We believe the nitrate market will be transitioning to this safer material so we’re using a 2,000 ton dry urea warehouse to supply the local market.”
The urea that Suregrow is using comes from all over the world. Once imported into the United States, urea is treated by Gavilon, a commodity management firm based in Omaha, Nebraska.
The drought Texas has been experiencing has been the biggest challenge that Stephens’ company and industry have had to deal with. “We’ve really been in a drought for about the past 15 years and it has progressively gotten worse,” says Stephens. Suregrow has also had to overcome the challenge of the labor pool with the shale oil boom in Texas. “It was tough because people were jumping on board with the oil fracking. We’re starting to see the labor pool really come back around.”
Despite the drought in the Midwest, Stephens is happy to see his company continue to grow. Providing a stable environment for people to work and progress professionally and individually gives him a sense of pride in his work. “I enjoy providing a place where people take care of other people,” says Stephens.
As the company progresses into the future, Stephens sees his company continuing to grow. Once a year, he attends a seminar at Harvard Business School about growing a business. “It’s a pretty amazing agro-business seminar with agricultural companies from all over the world,” says Stephens. “It emphasizes the fact that if you’re business isn’t growing it’s dying, so we have to grow. The seminar is a great resource for people in the ag industry to meet and network.”
While the operation continues to grow, the company will continue to provide the quality and service that has made Suregrow Agricultural Products successful for the past 25 years.