Steve Sinkula, AgriSecure CEO

Steve has 15+ years of experience in driving growth with both multinational and start-up agribusiness firms through focused strategy execution, strategic alliances, and innovative service delivery. He grew up working on his grandfather’s dairy farm and is passionate about serving growers. Steve is a graduate of Beloit College and received an MBA from the Darden Graduate School of Business at UVA.

Price premiums. They’re a compelling reason to dedicate some or many of your acres to organic production. However, they’re not enough to ensure the success of your organic farm. Just like any other business, making a profit depends on choosing the right inputs, crop rotations, and more. To make those key decisions, we recommend calculating your organic breakevens. It’s simply a way to determine how much money you’ll have to earn in relation to how much you can spend and still “break even.” Breakevens based on bushels It’s most common to consider breakevens in terms of bushels.  You can calculate based on expenses: If you spend $900 to grow an acre of corn, and you expect to produce 180 bushels per acre, then your per bushel breakeven is $5.00 corn. Put another way, $5.00/bushel times180 bushels = $900. Or you can run the numbers based on yield: When corn is going for $7.50/bushel, your breakeven is 120 bushels if you spend $900 to grow it. That is, $7.50/bushel times 120 bushels = $900. It’s all about the numbers It goes without saying that you need accurate data for your calculations. To that end: Research Use actual or historical data to see what you’ve spent in past years. Tap into databases and other resources to find average yields in your region. Grain marketing The organic market is currently more difficult to navigate than conventional. Consider an advisory service. They have experts who understand what impacts prices and can help you decide when to lock in contracts. Objective review Consider asking a trusted friend or professional to review your breakevens – and ask them point out overly optimistic assumptions. Plan for success In organic farming, long term planning is key to success. Organic breakevens can show what your profitability will be on a per acres basis and also for your overall farm.  It’s worth noting that improved soil health, a benefit of organic practices, translates into higher yields over time. By studying your organic breakevens, you’ll also see you don’t need the highest yields to profit. Less production doesn’t mean less money when you combine smart crop rotations and management with realistic numbers. Need a hand with organic breakevens? AgriSecure can help Many factors influence organic breakevens including, “Where is the nearest manure source?" and "How much will my fuel costs increase due to extra field passes for weed control?” If you need help with your breakevens, call us . Our team has first-hand experience in organic production and has worked with organic farmers across the country. Reach out today to learn how organic breakevens can boost your farm’s profits.

Getting the 36-month transition period right is key to the  short and longer-term success of your organic farm. Don’t think of it as something you have to endure – we encourage you instead to think of transition as an investment. Here’s our advice for ensuring the transition period leads to a long and profitable future with organics.  Articulate your goals There’s many reasons farmers decide to transition to organics or to scale up existing organic acres. More profits is usually one of them. But so is independence from Big Ag, better soil health, the ability to pass the farm on to the next generation, more diverse revenue opportunities, etc. So even though the transition period can be challenging, remembering your ultimate goals will help keep you focused on the prize. Transition for tomorrow Organic crops bring premium prices. And every organic bushel you harvest after certification could sell for twice (or more) the conventional price. You won’t see that profit during the transition, of course, but you will reap the rewards later. Similarly, your investment in organic weed management equipment will pay off with higher yields in the many organic harvests to come. And while cover crops probably won’t bring in high prices, your investment in improved soil health, increased nitrogen levels, and more will be realized when you plant organic cash crops. You can also make the transition an investment in yourself as an organic farmer. Use this time to improve your knowledge base and learn how to push boundaries with new approaches to farming. Keep it real One of the biggest challenges of transitioning to organics is leaving behind conventional assumptions. You won’t just be growing corn and soybeans anymore! So the core investment you need to make is a plan. And more importantly, a plan that is realistic. What crops will work well on your acres? Which ones won’t? How much capacity do you have to manage your fields while learning new approaches and taking on new challenges at the same time? Need an expert? As mentioned, organic farming can be challenging. But it’s also an amazing opportunity to learn new modes of production, increase profitability, and ensure the long-term success of your family farm. Luckily, there’s many resources you can tap into: University websites and courses Conferences hosted by state-based nonprofits Seed company reps Other businesses that cater to organic producers Other organic farmers in your county and beyond AgriSecure can help Another resource is AgriSecure. Our company was founded by experts with first-hand experience in large-scale, row-crop organic farming. We’re ready to help you make the transition so you can set up your farm for financial success. In the meantime, download our free organic transition playbook for more tips and insights. Contact us today for a free consultation .

Labor and time constraints are some of the biggest challenges faced by organic farmers. But several entrepreneur-minded businesses are now offering autonomous farm equipment that just might be the answer organic farmers are looking for. One of these companies is Sabanto Ag. Founded by Craig Rupp, Sabanto provides supervised autonomous farm equipment for a range of tasks including fieldwork, planting, cultivating, rotary hoeing, vertical tillage, tine weeding and more. Autonomous farm machinery can help organic farmers manage time and labor crunches Rupp says many of the farmers they work with feel like they have to push themselves and their work force too hard during the busiest times on the season. “Time and time again, farmers would tell me labor is a problem in agriculture. I wanted to fix that problem, and I’m convinced autonomy is going to fix that problem.” - Craig Rupp, CEO Sabanto Ag And now autonomous farm equipment provides a never-before-available solution. When Craig deploys machinery to a farm, it can run all-day, every day and all-night for as long as it takes to get the job done. The owner of the operation doesn’t even have to be on-site to monitor it because the Sabanto Ag team can supervise the equipment remotely. Other benefits of autonomous farm equipment Utilizing equipment like autonomous tine weeders gives organic farmers more time to focus their energy and time on essential work that has a big impact on farm profitability. Sometimes it creates space for equipment repairs and other times it provides the opportunity to step back and make well-considered agronomic decisions. For example, Sabanto Ag recently handled the tillage work for one of its clients. While the equipment ran in the field, the farmer was able to focus on harvesting while other members of the farm team completed work that required specialized experience and knowledge. Rupp says the equipment made it possible for the farmer to keep his personnel focused on more important tasks. In addition, innovative autonomous farm equipment will soon be able to capture data with imagery, sensors, and other devices. And organic farmers will be able to analyze that information and use it in their decision-making process. The future of autonomous equipment for organic farms Autonomous farm equipment is constantly being improved. Rupp says Sabanto Ag has already made great strides forward with navigation systems, monitoring, path planting, and supervision. As the equipment gets better, it’ll provide even more benefits to those leading-edge famers who take advantage of it. Sabanto Ag currently runs autonomous farm equipment units in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. Learn more at . AgriSecure can help Are you struggling with labor and time crunches on your organic row crop farm? AgriSecure can help you figure out the best solutions, making it possible to manage your fieldwork for a profitable outcome. Reach out today for a free consultation. "The views expressed in this article are the author's alone and not those of Farmer's Business Network, Inc., its affiliates or members." Photo credit: Sabanto Ag

At the end of the day, all farms run on numbers. Input costs, grain prices, land values—finances are an unavoidable part of any operation. Many growers look at organic farming as a possible income boost, thanks to the high premiums often seen in organic grain. But the financial aspect can also be one of the largest barriers to entry. The learning curve of new practices, combined with the 36-month transition period to get fields certified organic, can be daunting to the pocketbook.  Finding a good lender for your organic transition That’s why it’s important to have a good lender who understands the challenges—not to mention potential for success—of going organic and can walk with you as you take your next steps. Want to know more about the finances of organic farming?  So what are these lenders looking for? Here are few things to consider: 1. What is your plan? It doesn’t have to be set in stone, but the key is to show an awareness of what it’s going to take to get through the transition period. Banks want to see that you see the risks, have a plan to work through any learning curve and are comfortable starting small .  2. How much equity do you have? With recent low commodity prices, it’s tough to have enough cash laid away to make the transition stress-free. But if they’re going to lend you their money, banks need to see some built-up equity in the operation and/or your ground to leverage any losses. 3. Do you have a partnership? Whether it’s with an organic consultant—such as AgriSecure—or your banker, lenders want to know that you are willing to ask the right people for help and are realistic about your operation’s potential for the project. Get the support you need for your organic transition Some ag lenders have created options specifically for farmers interested in transitioning to organics. They know what it takes to make an organic operation successful, and their goal isn’t just to get you through the transition but to help your farm succeed—and create a legacy for years to come. If you need help creating a plan to transition to organic farming, contact AgriSecure today .