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Written by Harlan Asmus

Have you ever stopped to think about how we got to doing the things we do today? How did we get to “now”?  What advancements in our world have changed your life?

One of the most profound changes in Asmus Farm Supply (AFS) has been the introduction of bulk herbicide. Liquid products have always been a type of formulation available to use. Throughout the 60’s and 70’s, AFS distributed liquid products in 5 gallon cans, 30 gallon barrels and 55 gallon barrels. These were the only options, so it was normal to expect that when the application season was done, you would be left with a pile of empty steel containers to dispose of. All sorts of things happened to these steel containers, most of which I completely disagree with by today’s standards.

As a young boy, I watched can-by-can be carried from inside the delivery truck to the back of the truck, lifted off by hand and stacked by hand into organized stacks in the warehouse. Barrels, tilted at an angle on the bottom rim, were rolled to the back of the delivery truck, laid flat and rolled off the truck onto a pile of used tires, then rolled to their resting place in the warehouse. It didn’t take long for the thinkers of the world to improve that situation. Soon, palletized and wrapped truck loads were delivered, pulled to the back of the truck with a chain and lifted off with a forklift.

I liked to play outside whenever the chance presented itself. There was no internet, no video games, no “devices” of any kind and cartoons were only on TV on Saturday mornings. So I had to make my own fun. The small warehouse Harvey had at the time offered plenty of opportunity to climb onto piles of bags, cans or barrels and dream of mountain climbing. As the business grew, the warehouse “space” had to flow out into our yard. Many, many two-pallet stacks of 55 gallon barrels filled our yard starting in late February for products that did not freeze. They could be stacked next to the snowbank, snowed on and buried, then to be left in the spring sitting on muddy, thawing ground that a forklift would get stuck in trying to move them. As the spring season warmed up, freezable products could be delivered and set outside as well. What a mess. A gravel yard was considered a luxury back then, and AFS needed more of it for sure.

But in the mid 1980’s, bulk herbicide was introduced. What a change! No barrels? How is thing going to work? I remember Harvey saying that “this idea will never last”, but with his innovative spirit, purchased his first bulk storage tank to give this new idea a try. One of the most popular products of that era was Lasso EC from Monsanto. The use rate ranged from 4 quarts to 6 quarts per acre. It was extremely popular because of its effectiveness on weeds and safety to both corn and soybeans. AFS distributed many gallons of this brand. So, naturally, the first brand to sample the new idea of bulk distribution was Lasso EC.

Our first bulk storage tank was a horizontal, stainless steel, 1,500 gallon tank. It was the shiniest thing on our yard as it sat outside proudly displaying the fact that AFS now could offer the option of bulk herbicide. The shiny finish definitely discouraged climbing, even touching, because it was so beautiful. Customers readily embraced the idea of bulk herbicide and soon, the era of barrels was gone.

Today, AFS has over 1,000 times the storage capacity for pesticides than that first 1,500 gallon tank offered. Our world has changed. The current world has its challenges too, but everything worth anything does. Right? I’m excited about the future for AFS. We are committed to improving the ability of farmers to raise more crops in a sustainable way for the environment.

How did we get to “now”? With an idea that there was a better way to do something. Boy was that person right. Here’s to 2017.


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.