In this week’s AcreForward Podcast, Chief Commercial Officer Mike DiPaola sits down with StateLine Cooperative’s Jody Soma and Kelli Barnett to talk about what it takes to provide agronomic insights that make a difference for every acre.
“It’s about bringing the right products and interacting with the grower at the farmgate,” StateLine Regional Account Manager Jody Soma told Mike in this week’s AcreForward Podcast. “We want to ensure that our customers are going to get the highest level of customer service, but also the quality advice that really helps them maximize their performance and crops.”
Soma and Kelli Barnett serve in the same role on opposite sides of the StateLine Iowa-Minnesota territory. Both agree that customer needs don’t vary, customers need products that work, and all involved want to ensure that corn and soybean plants don’t see a bad day. Both leaders grew through agronomy retail opportunities, including seed sales, throughout their careers to position them to lead a team of agronomists that know what their customers need before the customers themselves do.
To ensure that their team drives efficiency behind the scenes for the farmers they serve, Soma and Barnett make accountability a vital part of their leadership.
“We make sure that we are holding our team accountable. We want to ensure that we give that extra two-to-three-week outlook as we forecast what we need to be looking for and project that out to our sales team of what they might be seeing in the field in those next few weeks,” Barnett says. “We want them to be able to have those conversations with growers to be on top of what needs are.”
StateLine Co-op is unique because the cooperative works within a diverse portfolio of companies; the team and business strive to deliver the best products with the value their customers need.
“We don’t hold our agronomy staff to having to sell a certain product from a certain company. We have diversity within multiple brands to ensure that we allow our agronomists, in their local markets, to do what’s best for their growers,” Soma tells us.
Helping to decide what’s best for their growers isn’t one that is taken lightly—a lot goes into making sure advice is solid and valuable. That’s why the StateLine team leverages data heavily to learn from what the numbers—from soil tests to yield monitors—are telling them. Their team understands that some things can’t be changed in a season, but what they learn better prepares them for future crop seasons.
“The beauty of being a good agronomist is being able to analyze different things,” says Soma. “We talk a lot in the industry about what a normal year looks like anymore—there isn’t such a thing. But we, as agronomists, have to use the tools in our toolbox to be the best we can be out in the country. We know that we can’t be perfect, but there’s a lot we can do to mitigate risk for our customers.”
Soma tells us that focusing on yield goals has helped agronomists reach for every tool available and notes that the results have been nothing short of impressive.
“We have been able to have high-producing crops in tougher years. It’s mindboggling that in two years of droughts, we’re still putting out over 200-bushel field averages; 20 years ago, we would’ve had 100-bushel yields on those same acres in these droughts. We’ve really made leaps and bounds to start achieving higher yields, and to do that, we’ve had to adjust our practices, which include looking at different fertility programs, different hybrid, and variety selections—micronutrient, foliar feeds, fungicide treatments—all of that and how we can do it on a bigger geography.”