How a Bushel-Powered Co-op in Ohio is Changing the Way Elevators and Growers do Business for the Better
In 1843, a group of millworkers went on strike in Rochdale, England.
Like so many others, they wanted better pay, conditions, and quality of life. Also like so many others, it failed.
Their local economy was in shambles, and common folks faced an uphill battle just to put food on the table. Worse, shopkeepers had a nasty habit of adulterating their goods to increase their own profit margins from the already-thin wallets of their common patrons.
They mixed sand into the oatmeal on their shelves. They dumped plaster of Paris into their flour.
A group of 28 resolved it was time for a change, time to “sell honest food at honest prices.” They revived the hopes of the failed millworkers strike by forming the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society.
They leased a century-old warehouse that looked more like a silo than a store on 31 Toad Lane. They each owned a piece of this new shop, run by the people, for the people. Profits were returned to the member-owners, and a common model of cooperation found its way into the mainstream.
Today, this is known as the beginning of the modern cooperative movement.
It was a community that decided to take independent care of themselves and one another. This same spirit and structure of self-sufficiency made its way to the United States, and is now embraced by more than 64,000 cooperatives nationwide.
The Grain Industry’s Cooperative Past Fuels its Future
In the grain industry, cooperatives are a backbone of heritage as much as business.
This is the driving force of Legacy Farmers Cooperative in northwestern Ohio, near Lake Erie. With their storied history, stretching back more than one-hundred years, the co-op embodies our core belief at Bushel:
We believe that the future of the grain industry will be built on the strength of community—that if we all work together better, we can improve business for all.
Legacy is one of the 1,400+ grain receiving locations across the U.S. Bushel has the privilege of serving. Like so many others, their story, rich grower relationships, and willingness to blend bleeding-edge tech to change the way elevators and growers do business inspired us to tell their story.
“From the day we started having conversations with them, we could tell Legacy is more of a progressive leader.”
Camille Grade, Bushel VP of Marketing, explained, “From the day we started having conversations with them, we could tell Legacy is more of a progressive leader. They’re thinking about their approach to their work and refining it with technology.”
Chad Rosebrook, Legacy Grain Marketing Manager is hunting for something in the sky. He scans the horizon, squinting in the late-afternoon sun.
“There it is,” he says. He points three sections to the West, makes a right turn, and drums his fingers on the steering wheel.
Chad is chasing dust clouds today, a habit he formed a couple of years ago.
“When farmers are hitting the fields, trying to get their crops in the ground, they’re extremely busy. They’re doing the actual farming and not necessarily paying attention to grain markets or having conversations with their grain marketers.
“So, as I was driving from one farm to the next, I saw tractors in every field. I had this idea: if farmers aren’t coming to us, maybe we should go to them.”
“If farmers aren’t coming to us, maybe we should go to them.”
Chad continued, “I got my team to put together little care packages, loaded them up in our vehicles, and we hit the road, looking for dust clouds on the landscape. We found farmers in the field and just offered them water, snacks, and wanted to let them know to stay safe and we were thinking about them.”
Sometimes Chad and his team simply drop by, hand off the care package, and let the grower get back in the cab. for the tractor, and say a friendly hello.
“Other times,” he explains, “they might invite us into their tractor for a few rounds, and we have a discussion about their operation and the challenges they’re facing. It’s been really rewarding for us. And our customers and farmers have responded to it well.”
“Handshake People” for 100 Years
No matter how sophisticated combines, tractors, and industry metrics grow, the most enduring cooperatives have prioritized relationships. In fact, that’s what Legacy’s name is all about.
Five years ago, two hundred-year-old co-ops with shared geography realized it was time to share resources as well. This was the merger that created Legacy Farmers Cooperative — and that’s what their name is in homage to.
With the rise of chemical companies consolidating and volatile global markets on top of the evergreen challenges like weather and poor-yield years, smaller operations continue to shrink. Those were the conditions that spurred the merger.
As Legacy CEO Mark Sunderman says, “Together, we can bargain and bring a strong presence for local farmers that don’t have the necessary size and scope on their own. At the same time, we can be ‘handshake’ type of people and care about those we do business with.”
Data at Our Fingertips
One of the strongest benefits Legacy provides its growers is their ability to help them through end-to-end challenges, from precision agronomy to grain marketing to more efficient operations.
“We can do everything from beginning to end of our farmers’ operations,” Mark explains.
Woven through their process is a belief — and investment — in technology.
“The pace of technological change has tripled what people ask for,” he says. But even better, it’s also tripled what Legacy is able to provide.
Bushel has tripled what Legacy is able to provide.
How so? Enter Bushel.
Until a few years ago, everything at Legacy was done on paper.
- Scale tickets? Paper.
- Receipts? Paper.
- Contracts? Paper.
Paper is slow, cumbersome, and takes hours at the end of long days to keep organized. With Bushel, Sunderman says they now give customers “data at their fingertips.”
Not only are permanent digital records available, but phone calls can be far more productive. At Legacy, Bushel enables calls to be strategic rather than clerical.
“That’s what I like about Bushel: growers can be in their combines and know their contract has been applied.” He continues, “And I think that’s where we have our biggest potential upside: to have information travel simultaneously.”
The New Horse and Buggy
The technological advantages are enjoyed by the growers as much as the elevators, too. Take father-son duo Mark and Tyler Drewes of Drewes Farms. Their farming roots burrow deep into history, reaching back to the 1850s, when their great-great-grandfathers settled in Ohio.
“As long as our family has been in America, we have been farmers,” Mark recalls. This means his family has witnessed some astounding technological advances in the ag industry.
Mark says his father once told him, “Mark you’ll never see anything like the advance from the horse to the tractor again.”
That advance would certainly have been stunning to see, much less experience. Mark continues, “Every generation thinks they’ve seen the biggest changes ever on their farm. But I don’t think we’ve seen anything yet.”
He believes we’re seeing advances as significant as the move from horse-and-buggy to combine-and-satellite. So does his son, Tyler. And this is why he appreciates working with Legacy.
“Every generation thinks they’ve seen the biggest changes ever on their farm. But I don’t think we’ve seen anything yet.”
“Legacy is at the forefront of technology. And now with the Bushel app, it’s even easier to do business with them,” he says. “Bushel has made everything simple and streamlined.”
For example, imagine if we still had to call our banks to get our account balances, or visit a branch to make a transaction. Most of us would ask, “Why does it have to be like this when the technology is in place to do this from our phones?”
This is the status quo for agriculture.
Before Bushel, Mark says, “I had to go late at night, when we were done harvesting, and go through all my drivers’ slips.”
At the end of an already long day, with another in queue, he had to figure out by hand what Legacy’s Bushel-powered app now allows him to do with only, as he puts it: “a glance right from my combine.”
Plus, the technology Legacy offers its growers serves an even greater business purpose. Because no matter how efficient and streamlined a co-op can make its processes, nothing can replace relationships.
“Relationships are the key to any business, and farm businesses in particular,” Mark says. “You know, if you really stop and do a deep analysis of why you do business with someone, it’s because you trust them. They have to be likeable.”
For Drewes Farms, good business means good relationships. While the grain industry is highly competitive and big business, it’s still a lifestyle for many farmers.
“I am a sixth generation farmer,” Tyler says, “so it’s been in our blood and it’s our lifestyle.”
The history of co-ops like Legacy grow from the soil of strong community.
Whether it’s a small group of millworkers in industrial England, or two-century-old co-ops pooling resources, everyone benefits when linked in a common purpose. And when used strategically, technology has a way of strengthening this all-important social fabric.
It removes barriers between producers and elevators. It enables lighting-fast decision making with real-time data. Simply put, well-built technology allows more time for key relationships.
Well-built technology allows more time for key relationships.
Bushel’s Camille Grade explains it like this: “Our mission is to grow the relationships between elevators and their growers, to enhance relationships that already exist through easy-to-use software that provides valuable business information.”
The goal is not to be a middleman, but to grow the most relationships in agriculture: the ones between producers and their local grain facilities.
Just like Chad Rosebrook chasing dust clouds on the horizon, working to serve their farmers where they’re at, technology like Bushel enables the right information to be right in the cab with them.
That’s efficiency, peace-of-mind, and business growth available with just a tap. Early or late, it works when you do.
Early or late, Bushel works when you do.
To learn how you can have your business and relationships Bushel powered, request a demo or more information today.
Interested in learning more about Bushel?