Written by Harlan Asmus
My first year as an employee at Asmus Farm Supply was almost thirty years after the beginning of the company. By then, the company had built up a reputation of its own, but my personal memories and knowledge of the early years has shaped me into the person and the employee that I am today.
My father Harvey, had introduced to our area a new way to farm in the late 1950’s. Chemical weed control was not a foreign concept, but it certainly wasn’t adopted by the masses. Yet, within the first decade of existence, Asmus Farm Supply flourished in the new era of farming. It was a simpler time in the late 1950’s when he struck out to knock on doors and promote a new way of farming. “Chemical weed control? Why should we do that? I’ll cultivate like I always have and get by just fine”. This was the reception of the new idea.
Change was embraced, customers prospered and agriculture progressed. He started out small where his office was the kitchen table in the house. The original 24’ x 24’ storage building, now called “the bean shed”, gave way to larger warehouse space. It was then used to store commodity soybeans that were raised on our farm. The original building is still standing parked back in the grove at our home-office here in Rake, Iowa.
Hard work was no stranger. Every bag, can or barrel of product was offloaded by hand into a storage warehouse and then reloaded by hand into the customer’s vehicle. I thought it was neat as a kid to ride on the electric belt conveyor that transported products in and out of trucks. Sixteen foot sections of roller conveyors could be hooked together to save steps carrying products to the back of delivery trucks.
When I graduated from Iowa State University in May 1987 to prepare for my start in the business, the office had doubled in size to a 16’ x 32’ space. A second desk and a few chairs were added making the whole project cost $3,300. It was that simple, but business is not simple. When you represent change, there is always resistance, hesitation, skepticism from customers. We all like proof up front that change offers improvement. Numerous times, we put our faith in new products that offer something better. Most of the time, they perform as advertised and sometimes, they burn a bad memory into our mind. Products like Sceptor, Broadstrike Dual, Exceed were “too good to be true” and they proved that of themselves by hurting the crop they were designed to protect, or by hurting the next year’s crop by persisting in the soil. But, a little bit of bad was dealt with to receive a lot of good. Do you remember using those excellent products? Wow, what a change.
I remember back in the early 1990’s, DuPont experimented with a formulation of a product that would be distributed in tablets. When you put them in water, they would fizz and dissolve like a common indigestion medicine. That concept never made it to market. Also in the 1990’s, Rhone Poulenc launched a new formulation in gel form, packaged in water soluble packages. Simply put them in water and watch them dissolve. That concept didn’t last more than one year in the market.
Working hard to adopt change that offers improvement is still very alive. Maybe we aren’t so skeptical after all.
Harlan is a second-generation Manager of the family business. He joined AFS in 1987 after graduating from Iowa State University with a Bachelor of Business Management degree. He has held various job titles since starting with the company, including Warehouse assistant, seed sales, crop consultant, CCA agronomist, purchasing agent, and chemical programs administration. Harlan is now the company President and manages product procurement and pricing for the chemistry department. He also spends considerable time nurturing relationships with manufacturing suppliers and continues to encourage integrity-based relationship selling amongst the staff. Harlan is married to his wife Amy and together they have three children