10 Years of FBN® with Co-Founder Charles Baron

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FBN started as an idea among a group of farmers who wanted to create a better system — to make ag more fair, more transparent, and more successful for farmers by arming them with the best information and market access possible,” says Charles Baron, FBN co-founder.

Since its founding 10 years ago, FBN has: 

  • Grown from 0 to over 85,000 participating farmers across the US and Canada.

  • Built the first true ecommerce platform for the farm, providing crop protection, biologicals, animal health, feed, livestock supplies, and seeds — in an integrated way. 

  • Built one of the most trusted brands in generic crop protection, Willowood USA, available nationwide. 

  • Developed the largest aggregated, anonymized database of seed performance, input price transparency, and yield benchmarking available to farmers in North America. 

  • Become the fastest-growing sustainability technology platform for commodities. 

  • Launched FBN Finance, the fastest-growing non-bank lending platform in ag, and has provided over $2 billion in financing to date. 

Below, Baron sets the record straight on some of the biggest misconceptions about FBN, illustrates how the company consistently prioritizes putting Farmers First®, and offers a sneak peek into the future of FBN.

What inspired the founding of FBN, and why was it developed with farmers’ interests at its core?

Charles Baron (CB): Farmers were our guide from the start of FBN. As we spent time with our earliest founding farmers, hearing about their experiences and better understanding the challenges they were facing, we centered on their very deep frustration with the way they were being treated in the farm economy. 

There was a striking lack of transparency in seed performance and genetics, and pricing for ag chem and seed. They couldn’t even buy products out of their pricing zone or out of state because, there was low trust in generics and many blocks to a truly open and competitive markets. 

Farmers felt that the industry had gotten so big that it had lost the interest of farmers along the way.

At FBN our mission is to be Farmers First®, which fundamentally means creating a system that helps farmers run their businesses for the long term by having a more competitive farm economy.

With that goal in mind, we set out to create a network that would empower farmers by putting hundreds of thousands of farms together online in a system that allowed them to share information, buy as directly from manufacturers as possible, and have the market compete for them.

How do FBN’s free tools help farmers save time and money?

CB: Farming intelligently can mean weeks of office work, or sometimes feeling very rushed into high consequence decisions without enough information. 

The goal with FBN is to help make that as simple as a few clicks.  

This year we developed AcrePlan™ to help farmers plan their full crop year pass-by-pass, know their actual cost-per-acre at the start of the year, and automatically calculate the quantity they need for any product so they don't over-buy. And with our product comparison tools built in, farmers can see generic alternatives to popular branded products and easily compare labels and rates. 

The 24/7 convenience and ease of FBN’s online ecommerce platform is unlike any other system. Once a farmer told me his favorite part was he could get all his inputs bought online, while in his underwear without any BS!  

We’ve also developed new tools to support members as they strategize the future of their farm and consider scaling their operation. Farmers told us they wanted to know the true value of their land and land they were interested in buying. So we launched AcreVision℠ last summer, which uses our own custom algorithms and estimates of land value from recent sales, productivity potential of land, soil quality of the land, and yield forecasting based on satellite imagery to give farmers the FBN estimate of what a particular land parcel is worth. 

What do people often misunderstand about FBN?

CB: A very common misconception is that we sell farmers’ data. Competitors have always been running around saying ‘FBN is just here to sell my data.’ That couldn't be further from the truth and typically meant the competitor was afraid of what the farmer might find out about their prices or products when they joined FBN

Firstly, the data parts of FBN are all entirely optional for growers. Secondly, FBN is a platform that allows growers to share data with each other and then consume it in an anonymous, aggregated format, which many thousands of farms choose to do. It does not let you see anyone else's data, and no one can see yours. We do not sell a grower’s data.  We do create opportunities to capture new premiums for things like specific regenerative ag attributes of a farm through grain buyers, which growers are in control of.

Another misconception we sometimes hear is that ‘FBN isn’t local,’ when in fact 80% of our employees are in rural or farming communities in the Midwest and Canada. We operate 24 facilities around the Midwest and in Canada that are located in our farmers' communities. All our sales folks, livestock experts, delivery teams, loan advisors, and farm market advisors are in farm communities, and many are farmers and ranchers themselves. We’re very proud of the millions of dollars we’ve brought back to rural communities and to the most important local business of all, your farm. 

Can you share a moment of pride that stands out to you from the past decade of FBN

CB: All of my proudest moments are from hearing about the impacts and benefits we’ve brought to family farms: Farmers that saved enough on chem to buy a new sprayer or pay for college, those that saved enough on health insurance to allow a spouse to work on the farm full-time, farmers who refinanced land at a rate that will save for decades, or when young farmers tell us FBN Finance helped them when others wouldn’t. We help farmers protect and preserve farms that maybe have taken their families 100 years to build. It’s pretty special.

What does the future look like for the second decade of FBN? 

CB: We are here to stay. Yes, we're a startup in a sense, but we've been at this for 10 years now with tens of thousands of customers. We’re working to solve farmers’ hardest pain points, and we’re committed to continuing to put Farmers First® for decades to come. 

Become an FBN member for free today.


© 2014 - 2024 Farmer's Business Network, Inc. All rights Reserved. The sprout logo, “Farmers Business Network”, “FBN”, "Farmers First", “FBN Direct”, "AcrePlan”, and “AcreVision" are trademarks, registered trademarks or service marks of Farmer's Business Network, Inc. 

Fees may apply for certain product and service offerings other than FBN membership.

Financing offered by FBN Finance, LLC and its lending partners. Available where FBN Finance, LLC is licensed. Terms and conditions apply. To qualify, a borrower must be a member of Farmer’s Business Network, Inc. and meet all underwriting requirements. Interest rates and fees will vary depending on your individual situation. Not all applicants will qualify. NMLS ID: 1631119.

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