If you’re following the AcreForward Podcast, you know that Mike has spent the last several months visiting with and learning from the agriculture industry’s movers and shakers–-those companies and individuals moving both the farmer and the acre forward through their progressive and out-of-the-box approach to tackling some of ag’s biggest hurdles.
Across the sector, few are more progressive than farmer-owned cooperative Landus, led by Matt Carstens, who serves as the company’s president and CEO.
With a little over three and a half years under his belt, Carstens says that his family’s love of Iowa and his commitment to his family’s deep-rooted tradition with the business brought him to Landus.
“My father served on the board for over 30 years, and I have a cousin that farms with my father and his dad (Carsten’s uncle) that was vice chair of the board up until my arrival here,” Carstens says of his dedication to Landus. “But the thing that really excited me the most about coming back to this community was the fact that retail has got such a powerful opportunity to really win. And when we’re talking about agriculture, there’s no better place to do that than a retailer that’s owned by the farmer.”
Rising Tides Raise All Ships
Carstens says that he has never shared the extent of how deeply involved his family is—Landus’ employees are. The business comprises families and friends, and that subject, Carstens told listeners, is something that many companies shy away from. Conversely, Landus embraces it and has made its people’s close-knit objectives and service a platform for operation and service that goes beyond inputs and agronomy.
“Although most companies shy away from sharing how involved family and employees are with the business, we go the other way. We’re in rural America, and we have to hire friends and family. My wife, our kids, and our friends have been so instrumental in being part of our Landus journey,” he says. “What makes us different is the family, friends, and farmers that are coming together to do something special. We are on a journey that I think when people look back 10 or 15 years from now, they’ll be able to see our transformation.”
Carstens says that “rising tides raise all ships,” and the number of regional, independent, and national retail providers doing great things is increasing, and, ultimately, the farmer will find the fit that best serves them in the retail marketplace.
If Not Us, Who?
DiPaola notes that in the many times he has listened to Carstens speak, one central message has risen to the top: If not us, who?
It’s a message he shares that resonates with him and many farmers and industry leaders. The broader approach to serving all the pain points farmers face sets Landus apart as more than an ag retail provider.
“We went back to the core of where we started, why we are here, and how we can do for the farm — for the farmer — what they can’t do on their own. The core business principles got us through the last hundred years, but it isn’t going to get us to tomorrow. Farmers’ needs are changing. Landus is built around the farmers that are seeing the journey from the farm to the consumer.”
Landus, Carstens says, is an acquired taste that not all farmers are on board with, however, he and the team he leads and continues to build are okay with that.
The company is the definition of progressive, reaching beyond the confines of inputs to the health care benefits most full-time farm families struggle to secure.
“When we’re meeting as a team with some of our families, talking with them and their families, and health insurance is the number one thing out of their mouth every single time, clearly there’s an issue. And I’m appalled to tell you and your listeners, I had no idea what they were paying. I had no idea it was an issue. But I can tell you that (Landus) is taking an aggressive approach to the problem to find a solution we can legally implement. I believe health insurance will be an offer that we’ll be rolling out very shortly.”
Farmers own Landus, a distinction Carsten is clear in making. The cooperative is not a membership, but a true cooperative of farmer-owners. And to serve farmer-owners, he says he and his team have an obligation to get their ownership into the future, and health insurance isn’t just about getting costs down and better matching needs it’s about allowing people on the farm to be where they need to be.
“If we can get this (health insurance) under control, that spouse that may be better at merchandising or selling and hedging grain can come back home full time. That son or daughter can come back from college or graduate high school and join the farm right away. That’s powerful, and people shouldn’t have to take jobs off the farm just for insurance. We are better than that as an agricultural community — as the United States of America, for people that provide the feed and fuel for us all. We have to do better. Landus has a lot of passion around that,” Carstens says.
Focus on the Future
You’ll hear the Taranis team talk about delivering the game tape and what it provides not just this season but seasons into the future. It’s about decision-making and finding the solutions and providers that work both for and with your operation. There aren’t one-season conversations happening around the table at Taranis or the partners we work with — a fact Carstens says he loves.
“What I really love about Taranis and AcreForward is that you’re sitting at the table with us talking about three years, five years, ten years from now. You know this isn’t enough. This is the starting point of something big, and Taranis and Landus have to lean into this for the farmer to see what’s coming next.”
For more on what’s coming next and how Landus and Taranis are teaming up to tackle those challenges for the farmers they serve, watch the full podcast in the video above or dig in via Apple, Google, or Spotify.