Betting the Farm on Relationships

Given our magazine’s target market, I don’t spend that much time “down on the farm” itself. Typically, my interaction with grower-customers tends to come at various trade shows held throughout the year where farmer panels may be present.

Here, such as the one recently held in conjunction with the 2023 Tech Hub LIVE event in Des Moines, IA, this past July, grower-customers usually discuss the key market challenges facing their operations. At the Tech Hub LIVE grower panel, this included many of the usual suspects for anyone working in the agricultural world these days — concerns about data sharing, how to relay the complexities of the business to the general public, and of course, labor.


This past June, however, I had the chance to visit an actual working farm in my home state of Ohio. Sayre Farms was founded in 1969, when Stanley Sayre moved to Mantua, OH, from Pennsylvania, where he had been raising potatoes. His son, Chuck, now runs the family farm, and it was he who invited a group of CropLife® magazine representatives to stop by for a visit.

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According to Sayre, his father originally grew myriad products on the family farm, including vegetables. However, as labor issues became more of a concern back in the 1980s, Sayre Farms switched over to easier-to-manage row crops. Today, the farm primarily grows corn, soybeans, and wheat on “a little less than 2,000 acres,” said Sayre. The operation also conducts aerial crop spraying for customers using a helicopter.

In his mind, one of the key issues facing growers in 2023 is how to communicate with the general public about farming. “We’ve done a very poor job of communicating what we do,” said Sayre. “Older growers like my father don’t really like to talk with anyone about what we do, so most people see a tractor in a field and don’t realize that’s part of the process to get the food they have in their grocery stores.

“That’s something we’re working on improving,” added Sayre, pointing to his two daughters who are in line to take over the running of Sayre Farms.

However, perhaps the most interesting part of the discussion with Sayre concerned the farm’s relationship with its ag retailers. For many years, I’ve heard from numerous sources that interpersonal relationships between growers and retailers were the keys to the overall marketplace’s success and longevity.

Sayre Farm

Sayre Farm in Mantua, OH.

Sayre confirmed this was indeed the case. According to Sayre, Sayre Farms sources most of its crop protection products from local Nutrien and Sunrise Cooperative locations. However, the agronomist is the key.

“My dad started working with his agronomist back in the early 1970s — more than 50 years now,” he said. “Whatever that agronomist says goes. And if he jumps to another company, that’s where we will go.”

And, added Sayre, this tends to be the norm across the industry. “I think that’s what you will find with most farmers,” he said. “Whoever they are comfortable with, that’s who they will work with. It’s not only about price; it’s about relationships!”