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.”
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.
Industrial parks are a valuable recruitment tool. But acquiring a large property and establishing the requisite infrastructure to attract companies is a major undertaking, particularly for a rural area.
The people of Faulkton, South Dakota have long prioritized economic development.
According to Trevor Cramer, economic development director for the Faulkton Area Economic Development Corporation (FAEDC), the town has had the goal of building an industrial park since the 1980s. The main difficulty was finding a suitable property close to city limits.
A site one mile east of town with a conservation easement was eventually identified. FAEDC went through a 15-month process with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to get the easement released so it could develop the property.
The 32-acre site industrial park east of Faulkton on U.S. Highway 212 was recently completed. It has 11 lots, one of which was just sold to Jensen Rock and Sand, a cement company with headquarters in Mobridge.
Jensen Rock and Sand had been looking to locate a plant in the area for some time. Cramer says FAEDC had the company in mind when it began the industrial park project. “We needed to get it done so they could come here. They’ve been patient,” he says.
The plant will start out with two full time and one part time employee. Cramer believes having a cement plant in Faulkton will spur a lot of growth. “This is huge for the whole community. Anytime you have a building project, so much time and expense goes into concrete transportation. This should mean less expensive projects.”
In addition, now that the industrial park has an anchor tenant, Cramer anticipates other lots will start selling. FAEDC is especially interested in attracting industries and businesses that aren’t currently represented in Faulkton. “Most will probably be ag related in some way shape or form. Maybe we’ll attract an auto-body shop or a meat locker,” says Cramer.
If all goes as planned, the industrial park will help promote growth in the town for years to come. “I’m pretty excited about what this means for future progress in our community,” Cramer says.
The State Board of Economic Development provided a $384,000 grant for the industrial park. The grant provided about 45 percent of the funds needed but its use was restricted to infrastructure costs. A Rural Electric Economic Development (REED) Fund loan, from FEM Electric Cooperative, covered about half of the project’s land acquisition and building costs. FAEDC came up with the remaining 5 percent to make the project a reality.
“REED was great to work with. You have to have partner, otherwise a project like this won’t come together,” says Cramer. “They were excited to do it right from the beginning. They’re comfortable with our community and we’re comfortable with them.”
This is FEM and REED’s third loan to FAEDC. Earlier loans helped fund a new community center/gymnasium and a mini mall on Main Street.