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Written by Eric Winters

It happened again last week. It usually happens a couple times every prepay season so by now I should be used to it. I’m sitting down with a grower, developing a plan for the upcoming season and they ask the question “well, what do you guys do on your farm?” A simple question for sure, but as an agronomist I view it as a loaded question.

As agronomists, we have the opportunity to review and evaluate countless combinations of chemistries and active ingredients to assist growers meet their production goals and objectives. The same idea applies to those of us who have a connection to a family farm operation. But when asked what goes on our own acres it makes me think a little before giving the answer. I often wonder if my answer is going to unfairly persuade them to use a product just because my family uses it. What happens if it doesn’t work? What if they are asking because they don’t think our fields look good?

The easiest way I have found to answer this question is to make sure that the discussion doesn’t stop with my answer, after all, every farm is different. What works for one farm may not work for another. No two farms are exactly alike and everyone has different expectations, cropping systems, budgets, etc. So to compare any one two operations is a risky move. I can understand that the perception for some growers is that if we use it then it must be good but, again, that is risky thinking.

The thing I try to stress to a grower when I tell them what products are used on our own farm is that we use what works best for us, or in the case of a new product, what we feel may give us the best return on investment. Sometimes that means spending less money on some parts of the program while spending more on others. For example, we don’t plant fully stacked seed corn. I’m not against fully stacked seed corn but since we use a full rate of soil applied insecticide, we don’t see the need for the extra traits in the seed. Now, that program works well for us, but I know many farms that this practice would potentially end in disaster. If I didn’t explain the whole story, the grower who asked us about our seed portfolio would have definitely not fully understood the rationale behind what we do. There are countless other examples to use here but I think the basic principle has been illustrated.

Prepay is one of the really fun times to be an agronomist, starting fresh with planning and setting the stage for another successful crop. And if you’re like me, every once and awhile, you get to answer the loaded question “what do you guys do?”


Eric began his duties with AFS in December of 2013 at our Fulda location. Eric is originally from Worthington Minnesota, and obtained his Agronomy degree from South Dakota State University in 2006. After college, his career started at a coop in southwest Minnesota as a sales agronomist before coming to AFS. Eric is married to his wife Sarah and together they have three children; Aubrey, Kendrick and Oliver. Eric assists his dad, and uncles on their family farm operation near Windom, where they also raise some hay. Sarah and Eric live on a farm just outside of Heron Lake, Minnesota and enjoy gardening in the summer, and spending time with family.