The Ground Work series shares the perspectives of U.S. soybean farmers as they observe how the U.S. Soy industry lays the groundwork to grow innovative, reliable and sustainable solutions for people and communities around the world.  

They say it’s not what you know, but who you know. I’m not sure who “they” are, but I continue to learn how important business relationships are, especially when I am representing thousands of other small businesses like mine.

As a third-generation farmer, I farmed with my parents, and now I farm with my son Nathan. We grow soybeans, corn and wheat and raise beef cows and calves near Prairie Home, Missouri. Our farm sits near the Missouri River, about 115 miles, or 185 kilometers, east of Kansas City, Missouri, and about 155 miles, or 250 kilometers, west of St. Louis, Missouri,

That location has made our farm a convenient stop for trade teams of soybean buyers visiting the United States to learn more about U.S. Soy. In the past few years, we have hosted four different international groups, who view our family farm as representative of the thousands of other U.S. farms supplying soybeans to global customers.

In 2023, both groups that visited included soybean buyers and soybean users from countries throughout Latin America. One group visited in early summer, when I shared about the dry start to the season. With the other group, I focused on sustainability, showing them the terraces built in one of our fields in the 1940s that still successfully prevent soil erosion.

Then, in late November 2023, I represented U.S. Soy farmers at the Americas CrushCon 2023. The U.S. Soybean Export Council held this event in Lima, Peru. Decision makers for companies that buy, distribute and use soybeans from throughout North, Central and South America gathered to learn about the advantages and solutions U.S. Soy provides.

I shared about the sustainability of U.S. Soy on our farm. This work started with the terraces I showed visitors to my farm earlier in the year and continued with my parents. Today, we use no-till, which means we don’t disturb the soil, and we plant cover crops over the winter.

Sustainability has progressed with technology, and now we use precision technology to provide just the inputs, like fertilizer, that the crop needs, right when and where they are needed. All these efforts protect our natural resources.

After I spoke, a customer who visited my farm that summer came to ask about the rest of the growing season. He remembered our discussion on my farm about the dry spring. Another customer wanted to know if my family and I would still be in business in 10 to 15 years, so we would continue supplying soybeans. That was his definition of sustainability.

In both conversations, I was the “who” that mattered to these customers more than what I know about raising soybeans. The people and relationships within the business are just as important as the product.

However, I am proud of the high-quality, sustainable products we offer to customers like these.

Throughout CrushCon, I had the opportunity to reinforce the quality of the soybeans farmers like me produce. Our climate and infrastructure protects the quality of U.S. Soy compared to soy from other countries. We store soybeans at the ideal moisture level to minimize damage, and that makes a difference for the final products these customers make.

One solution shared was the value high oleic soybean oil brings to foodservice. One presenter showed the research explaining how the extended fry life of high oleic soybean oil compared to other vegetable oil saves money for just one industrial fryer. Potential customers were encouraged to consider the value, and then plan ahead at least two years so that U.S. farmers can grow the right soybeans to supply the oil they need.

The conference also highlighted industry uses for soybean oil and how it can replace petroleum-based oil in many everyday items.

The trade teams visiting my farm spent just a few hours with me there. I spent just a couple days in Lima with U.S. Soy customers. But during those short times, I helped build trust in the quality and sustainability of U.S. Soy. I appreciate the chance to be part of those relationships.