Agri Business Loans
To recognize agriculture’s impact on the region’s economic base, REED makes loans to support projects that add value to local agriculture production through innovation, improved services, further processing, or marketing. Loans are not made for traditional production agriculture.
All borrowers are encouraged to integrate energy efficiency in facilities and construction. Purchase of electricity from a REED member cooperative is NOT required to receive financing. For more information, check out Eligibility and Application, for qualifications and to obtain an application.
Category: Agriculture, Codington Clark Electric, Business, Featured
Local shop enhances quality and increases supply with new smokehouse.
It’s amazing what can happen when a business is able to streamline all of its production under one roof. The work is more efficient, challenges that arise are resolved more quickly and it means a higher quality product for the customer. That has been the result for Dakota Butcher in Watertown, South Dakota, thanks to the addition of a brand new smokehouse.
The local, family-owned butcher shop has built a solid reputation around the region since the grand opening in 2009. Owner Randy Gruenwald explained that earning trust was a vital component of the business. “I think our consistency is a big reason why our customers keep coming back, and why many are willing to travel longer distances to get our products,” Gruenwald says. “All of our meat is processed, cut and wrapped on-location. People know that when they buy from Dakota Butcher, they’re feeding their family a high quality steak, ham or pork chop. We’re proud of that reputation.”
The Key to Further Expansion: The New Smokehouse
Dakota Butcher earned its strong reputation. But to continue expanding, it needed more than just a solid name. It needed more capital. The REED Fund was able to provide that in 2017, and help Dakota Butcher move the base of its operations to a brand new smokehouse. The 8,200-square-foot building includes a processing room, separate wrapping room, and multiple coolers and freezers. The smokehouse is located near its Watertown West retail shop.
Gruenwald said that one of the benefits of moving operations to the new smokehouse has been more financial freedom. With help from REED, Dakota Butcher no longer had to invest the majority of its working capital into multiple facilities. Instead, the company could focus on producing more meat and creating even more efficient systems.
Since opening the smokehouse, Dakota Butcher has been able to grow its footprint substantially. In addition to its three retail shops, its meat is now sold in at least 15 other stores around the region.
The butcher shop also used the extra cash flow to hire more employees. Dakota Butcher started with three employees in 2009, and eventually grew to 30 as the business became more successful. Now, the business has 60 full and part-time workers. Gruenwald says the biggest beneficiary of the smokehouse is the customer. “We can do so much more in this smokehouse. Since everything is happening in one location, high-quality is even more guaranteed than it was before.”
Thinking Outside the Smokehouse
The increased profits have Gruenwald thinking about what else Dakota Butcher can offer its customers. The shop has three retail locations: Watertown East, Watertown West, and a store in Clark. The east side location also offers products including sandwiches, salads and deli meats.
“We’re still evolving and learning as we expand,” Gruenwald explained. “We’re seeing that people like having that ‘fresh market’ option. We’d like to offer more of that in the future.”
The company also operates Dakota Butcher Wine & Spirits at its east side location. But Gruenwald says the name will soon change to Dakota Butcher Steakhouse. “We realized that customers were coming in more for the smoked rib, steaks and hors d’oeuvres than they were for alcohol. That’s why we’re dedicated to growing that location to be much more than just a coffeehouse or pub.”
Growing The Footprint Again
Dakota Butcher is planning to open a fourth retail shop in the spring of 2019. The destination Gruenwald has in mind is in the city of Brookings, about 50 miles south of Watertown. “We’re figuring out the right concept and we’re going to run with it.”
You can check out Dakota Butcher’s meat offerings as well as the restaurant menu at its Watertown East shop by clicking here.
Category: Agriculture, FEM Electric, Featured
Nathan Genzler got an early start in his career. As a child, he would visit Tulare Country Meats, the butcher shop where his dad worked, after school. When he was about 8 years old, he was told that if he was going to be there, they were going to put him to work. “I’ve been here ever since,” he says.
Owners Rick and Jane Whitley started talking about selling the meat processing business in Tulare, South Dakota to Genzler years ago. In November of 2017, with the help of a Northern Electric REED fund loan, Genzler acquired the business, along with its equipment, inventory and accounts.
Tulare Country Meats hasn’t changed much since the Whitleys sold the business. It employs 13 people, including Genzler. Most of the employees stayed on with the transition of ownership.
Customers can expect to find the same high level of quality meats and processing services at the locker as when the Whitleys ran it. “It’s done the way it always has been. They taught me how to do it. Anything I know how to do, they taught me,” says Genzler.
The locker provides custom processing of domestic livestock such as beef, pigs and sheep as well as wild game. It operates out of a leased facility in Tulare, which has a retail space in the front. Tulare Country Meats also has a shop in Huron to enable direct to consumer sales.
The business is known for its jerky and wide variety of meat sticks but it has a range of offerings such as chicken, steaks and brats. “When people come here they buy a little of everything. Most of them are return customers,” says Genzler.
The retail portion of the Tulare Country Meats business is unique. Genzler points out that there are other meat locker plants in the area, in Redfield and Mellette, but they only do processing, not retail sales.
This niche helps make Tulare Country Meats a success. Genzler points out that if his business wasn’t in Tulare, a town of about 200 people, customers would have to travel elsewhere to buy and process meat, taking money out of the community — to the town’s detriment. “If you don’t have businesses like this in a small town there won’t be a small town anymore,” he says.
Northern Electric’s REED fund was one of four loans that, when combined, enabled Genzler to buy the business. The 28-year-old says this financing was crucial. “I’ve lived in Tulare all my life but I don’t have a lot of money saved up,” he explains. “Without the lenders offering help with the loans, I would never been able to afford it.”
Category: Agriculture, FEM Electric
Prescription Agronomics creates customized fertilizers to help farmers save money
Winter is on the way. Dropping temperatures used to mean a slower season for the team at Prescription Agronomics, which creates customized fertilizers for regional farmers. Director of Operations Jon Gilbert explained that the company’s operations used to decrease during wintertime because their facility was not up to the task.
“Our old plant didn’t have heat,“ Gilbert said. “We weren’t able to do as much blending as in warmer months, so that definitely cut into our potential profits.”
That all changed in 2017. Prescription Agronomics built a brand new, state-of-the-art facility with help from FEM Electric’s REED Fund. The new facility not only allows the company to operate year-round, but Gilbert says it has dramatically increased their output.
Moving From Antiquated to State-of-the-Art
Prescription Agronomics launched in 2001. Gilbert explained that the company initially took over an abandoned building. “Our old plant was in tough shape. We fixed it up and made it work for 16 years. And we’ve had tremendous growth over the years. But as we grew, that plant just wasn’t large enough anymore. We needed more space.”
A REED Fund loan helped the company build a new 22,000 square foot facility. Gilbert said that the additional storage space alone allows them to be more efficient and blend more fertilizers, because they can keep a much larger quantity of ingredients on hand. “We now have five times the storage space. We don’t need to stop and restock as often as before.”
Gilbert also said the equipment in the new facility has improved operations. “The pumps work faster. It’s hard to put a number on it, but we’re probably 5 or even 10 times more efficient than before.”
Customized Fertilizers: How Prescription Agronomics Saves Farmers’ Money
Prescription Agronomics specializes in creating customized fertilizers. The first step is reviewing soil tests for customers. They work with the farmers to figure out which nutrients would work best for that particular crop or field. The team then uses that information to blend the fertilizer.
“This keeps costs down for the farmer because they only need to buy one product,” Gilbert explained. “Before, they may have needed to buy multiple fertilizers. Now, we mix all of the necessary ingredients into one fertilizer. We blend only what the farmer needs.”
Gilbert added, “Farmers are able to get the product right here local instead of having it shipped from hundreds of miles away. They can eliminate freight costs.”
Future Goals: Keep on Expanding
The new facility has allowed Prescription Agronomics to increase its productivity. The company can produce far more fertilizers, in larger quantities, than ever before. Gilbert says the game plan is to continue expanding their footprint.
“We’re focusing on increasing our wholesale business. Agtegra Cooperative is an owner of Prescription Agronomics and also our largest wholesale customer. The coop was recently formed when Wheat Growers and North Central Farmers Elevator merged. There is a lot of potential for growth of our current product sales to them and also several new products that we are working on together.”
Prescription Agronomics is also dedicated to continuing to provide customized services to local farmers. Gilbert says the company is encouraging farmers to test their soil now and start planning ahead for spring planting. Check out their website by clicking here.
Category: Agriculture, Agralite, Featured
It’s estimated that independent businesses return an average of three times more money to their communities than their competitor chains. The REED Fund has long been investing in local companies to help build businesses —and ultimately more resilient local economies.
Some of REED’s loans support projects that add value to local agriculture production through innovation, improved services, further processing or marketing. Western Consolidated Cooperative (West-Con) received funding through Agralite Electric Cooperative in 2017 to expand its Appleton, Minnesota grain storage facility.
West-Con was formed in 1983. The locally-owned cooperative stores, ships and dries grain. It offers value added agronomy services as well. The expansion project funded by REED enhanced West-Con’s Appleton, Minnesota rail loading facility and vastly increased its storage capacity.
With the improvements, the Appleton facility has access to four different railroads, and the added 2.75 million bushels of storage allows the company to better accommodate three crops: wheat, corn and soybeans.
“The additional space was huge for us. We really needed that to make it easier to handle all three commodities and without having mixed grain,” General Manager Dean Isaacson explains, noting that REED’s reasonable financing option was important in helping make the expansion a reality for West-Con.
The company employs about 100 full-time workers, plus up to 40 part-time seasonal workers. Besides Appleton, West-Con has other Minnesota locations in Holloway, Kensington, Ortonville and St. Leo as well as one in Twin Brooks, South Dakota. West-Con also received REED funding in 2005 through the Whetstone Valley Electric Cooperative in Millbank, South Dakota.
The cooperative has been working to improve its core facilities in terms of speed and efficiency. Its Holloway fertilizer plants were also just upgraded, increasing loadout by 80 percent and doubling their blending capacity.
According to Isaacson, West-Con takes pride in offering good service and competitive prices. “We’re always thinking about how we can get more money into the farmers pocket,” he says. “We’re a locally owned co-op with earnings that go back to the producers. We’re not a multinational company where profits disappear to bigger cities. We return an awful lot of cash to the local community.”
In keeping with this community-mindedness, West-Con makes regular contributions to support community essentials such as local ambulance services, fire departments and healthcare facilities. “As a company, you can’t just take from a community, you need to give back too,” says Isaacson. “We’re pretty proactive about helping in our communities when needed and we encourage our employees to volunteer.”