Despite a change of ownership, Prairie Soil Services hit the ground running, meeting producers' needs in one of the earliest seeding seasons in many years, said Parker Summers, president and general manager. The changeover from Hudye Soils happened on March 24 and the seeding season began April 27, he said. Change can be difficult but the employees stepped up, did the work they know best, and were eager to serve the customers. "Everybody worked from the same page and they were energized."
The hectic season essentially ended on May 22 with most of the customers reporting that their spring seeding was complete, Summers said. Summers said he was especially proud of the staff. They did what came natural to them, providing the service on which the previous company was built.
Prairie Soil Services has a fleet of about 45 trucks, 25 applicators, 50 tanks and various specialized equipment for applying anhydrous ammonia (NH3), he said. During the peak seasons, as many as 40 employees work to serve the customer base and deploy the ﬂeet.
With about 50 per cent of the company's revenue stream coming from fertilizer, the emphasis on providing the best equipment available continues to be a priority, Summers said. As an example, one of the new pieces of equipment deployed this spring was the
Salford NH3 applicator which allows producers to put down NH3 at the same time as they work their ﬁelds.
With last fall being ideal for putting down NH3 and most of this spring's needs being pre-booked, what was required for this season was well-known in advance, he said. However, because the service is what makes Prairie Soil different from other suppliers, it is the co-ordination, especially during a short, non-stop seeding season, that becomes the challenge.
That's where Prairie Soil prides itself in always recognizing the customers' needs come first, Summers said. If the producers are working from sunrise to sunset, the Prairie Soil staff is also available. When Prairie Soil took over, the slogan was "new name but same great service" and that's a very accurate way of describing the changeover, he said. The Hudye family built the business over 32 years by developing a model of service. It's what the customer base expects and it's where the staff works to excel. "The highway sign changed but we keep doing what we were doing."
When asked to describe the customer base, Summers said it includes producers with hundreds of acres all the way up to those with 25,000 acres. The head ofﬁce is in Norquay but Prairie Soil has satellites in Sturgis and Kamsack. In addition to customers coming from those immediate areas they come from the south as far as Yorkton, west to Canora and around to the northwest to Rose Valley. Expansion is already being discussed.
Catering to the needs of larger customers, Summers estimated that the top 50 customers provide 90 per cent of the business. By not being tied to one or two suppliers, Prairie Soil can procure whatever products and services the customers' require. "Our company grows in direct response to what our customers need, and that will never change. Every one of our employees puts emphasis on service and is committed to our three part philosophy: helping you maximize your productivity; helping you maximize what you get paid for your productivity; and helping you build your balance sheet." The bottom line is helping the customers grow as many bushels as possible, Summers said. The price for the commodity may be ﬁxed, but producing more bushels means more proﬁt. For a new customer considering Prairie Soil as a supplier, the producer must consider the value added services which are part of the purchase price, he said. "We are not the cheapest – but we offer so much more." When a producer deals with Prairie Soil, a plan is devised to fit that producer's needs. Prairie Soil offers the best selection of products, provides the most current technical information, equipment and facilities, knows how to market its clients' products effectively, and gives them true value and superior customer service.
"Many of our customers employ intensive crop production thanks to our first-hand, local and international knowledge. Our agronomy department is a leader in the industry. We conduct a multitude of ﬁeld scale trials every year with complete, unbiased results. Our expertise pertains to the development, design and implementation of professional and strategic nutrient plans as well as crop protection with a focus on soil chemistry, plant physiology, crop nutrition and environmental sustainability. "We provide our customers with unbiased insight and direction in order to help them leverage grain marketing programs and make informed decisions about marketing their product throughout the growing season. We also help facilitate the logistics, tracking and reconciliations of getting grain to markets. "You'll gain access to information, from local and global markets, and benefit from a powerful network of commodity analysts, and progressive producers." Prairie Soil offers customers in-house credit, said Summers. "We offer unique and extended term financing, which can help with your input needs throughout the growing season. Semi-annual reviews and consultations will provide you with essential financial management tools and help you expand your operations physically and ﬁnancially."
Customers are learning to depend more on the agronomy department for advice on micronutrient application, which actually provides "the biggest bang for the buck," he said. When considering cost, it is actually one of the lowest investments but a $10 input can produce an extra $60 to $70 per acre. Micronutrients are applied at the same time as herbicide or fungicide spraying so the application cost in minimal. "It's like giving your crop a good multi-vitamin during the peak growing stage."
Prairie Soil Services Ltd. will continue on with Hudye Soil service's initiatives, such as 'Field of Dreams' and 'Helping Feed the World,' said Summers. It is through initiatives like Field of Dreams that the benefits of micronutrients have been proven. All the data gained from the field trials are available to the public. During the past few years, the emphasis of Field of Dreams has been on chemicals and fertilizers, but the emphasis this year is going back on basic agronomy, how to get the most production from a given piece of land, he said. One of the main trials this year will be with the Salford experimental drill and the focus will be on seed placement for optimum crop performance. Fertilizer rates and combinations will be tested along with various seed varieties. "We will test every aspect that can be tested to enable us to grow as many bushels as possible." The various chemical companies which have partnered with Field of Dreams in the past are back, but Summers emphasized that the research data achieved is public knowledge. Prairie Soil will also continue with the annual Canola King competition in which top producers are recognized and awarded for their efforts, he said.
When Prairie Soil became the new name of the company in the spring, the staff were informed that two investment funds SaskWorks Venture Fund Inc. and APEX Investment Fund II L.P., along with Summers, had purchased Hudye Soils. Ben, Greg, Braden and Fallon Hudye were no longer involved in the management or operation of the business. Since the Hudye Group of 11 companies used to be run out of the Norquay ofﬁce, the change allows Prairie Soil to focus its staff's energy more on its business and its customers, said Summers. Summers has been with Hudye Soil Services since 2004 and has been involved in virtually every aspect of the business. Growing up locally between Canora and Madge Lake it was a natural fit for him to return home after receiving his bachelor of business administration degree with a major in finance and a certificate in economics from the University of Regina. He became involved in a strategic management role in 2008. One of his first responsibilities was to implement a new, integrated customer, inventory and accounting system that provided the opportunity and challenged him to learn the entire "backstage," building the new processes, work-flow and systems around the already successful retail business. His many roles continued to evolve and grow from customer credit and accounts, I.T., H.R. and immigration, sales, product procurement, accounting and financial management, grain marketing, logistics and administration to overall business strategy and oversight of the company with his most recent role as president and general manager of the newly named Prairie Soil Services. As an integral component of Summers's continuing personal development, over the last five years, he has been attending the Strategic Coach Program – a renowned entrepreneurial focused quarterly workshop between Toronto and Los Angeles that is focused on goal-setting and 10-times growth. Summers and his wife Shanneen and their three year-old son Quin reside at Madge Lake.
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Prairie Soil Services
p (306) 594-2330