Podcast Episode 54

Building Wealth Through Tiling: Insights from Canada’s Original Installer

With Guest:
  • Tony Kime of BlueWater Pipe Inc, President

Tony Kime, President of BlueWater Pipe Inc, got his start in agricultural drainage at seven years old when his father started a company making corrugated pipe. Since then, he has spent his life in the industry. He joins Jamie to discuss how tiling is building wealth in our agricultural communities and why it could contribute to future advancements in water quality. 

Episode 54 | 49 min

Guest Bio

Tony Kime is the President of BlueWater Plastic Pipe in Ontario, Canada, which produces corrugated plastic pipe for agricultural and residential drainage applications. He has become an expert in the technology of corrugated plastic pipe because of his passion for the drainage industry.  Tony and Jamie have known each other for many years. The two have built a strong relationship based on a shared commitment to providing drainage solutions to their agricultural communities.

Jamie Duininck (00:02):
This is The Water Table.

Kent Rodelius (00:05):
A chance to hear the agricultural side of these issues.

Jamie Duininck (00:09):
Place for people to go find information and education.

Matt Helmers: (00:13):
Water management is just going to become even more critical into the future.

Jamie Duininck (00:17):
How misunderstood what we do is.

Kent Rodelius (00:22):
I would encourage people to open their minds and listen to this dialogue.

Jamie Duininck:
Welcome to The Water Table Podcast. Today I have a guest with me, Tony Kime. Tony and I go back over 20 years. We were just visiting before we started the recording about how long it’s been. And we could talk about that, but it was in the nineties. Probably mid to late nineties, the first time we met.
And Tony has a long history in the plastic pipe industry, his father started the company Big O up in Canada, in Ontario. After that they sold that company in the mid nineties and Tony went on to continue in the industry, owns a company profile pipe. That company was a company that he sold equipment from, both new and used equipment. Tony had another company after that called Adescor. Adescor was a company that manufactured downstream equipment for the plastic pipe industry.
And most recently, and still Tony’s in the manufacturing business. Owns a small company called Blue Water Pipe in Ontario, is a managing partner in that. And Tony just has a lot of knowledge about the plastic pipe industry, water management, is an entrepreneur. And wanted to just visit with him about a little bit of the history of North American drainage and about what he sees coming up in the future. So welcome to the podcast, Tony, fun to have you on.

Tony Kime (01:58):
Jamie, thanks for asking me. I’ve got to say your family have been a big part of my career. Or certainly I’ve known the Duininck family for a long, long time. And even prior to knowing you and Jeremy, a guy named Steve Rowe was involved in the industry and took me back to my late twenties when I started in the industry association. So Prinsco’s been around for a long time and good for you stepping up to communicate all the great things about drain tile.

Jamie Duininck (02:29):
Yeah, it’s been a lot of fun as over the years been so many conversations with people like yourself, people in the industry, people working at Prinsco just about how misunderstood our industry is, about how people don’t know what water management is in agriculture or tile drainage. And this suggestion came to me that we’ll do a podcast, start talking about the issues and just get information out there to educate.
And it’s been really fun for me to do, because I get to talk to people like you that I’ve known. We get to talk about things that we’re both passionate about, what we’re passionate about in the industry. We get to get information out there. And time ends up going fast. Now this is probably I think number 53 or 54, every other week. So we’re going on two years here, pretty quick, of always having topics to talk about. Who would think that you could come up with 50 different people to talk to about water management and agriculture, but it’s pretty easy when you’ve been in the industry and you’re passionate about what happens.
And you’re one of those guys that whenever we get in a conversation, there’s a couple of things that people should know about Tony Kime and one is he’s passionate about younger people in the industry. You were once a young guy in the industry and you were still passionate at that time about the younger people than you and getting them involved and engaged in the industry. And that hasn’t changed. Last time I saw you was in May at a industry association meeting. And you were wanting to make sure that I was introduced to some of the younger people than you and I now, we’re both getting to be on the older side. And people that are going to be the next generation of our industry.
So that’s one thing people should know and that I really appreciate about you. And then just your passion for what the industry can be, what it can do in the future, what the opportunities are, is another thing that is evident in every conversation is kind of that entrepreneurial spirit about what if we did this? What if we tried that? And it always makes for a robust conversation when you and I, or you and others, are talking. So thank you for that, for what you bring to the industry.

Tony Kime (04:52):
You touched on a bunch of things that are super fun for me now, as I’m at the part of my career where I get to pass my experience on to the young people. But used the word misunderstood. And that’s a word, I think the farm industry in general but even tile drainage, it is fully misunderstood as to the benefits that it brings to the general environment. And that it is a best management practice for water quality.
And there’s so many components that farm drainage helps do that people just don’t understand. Our industry of net, we just don’t have enough feet on the ground to get out and communicate to everybody the reduction of surface runoff, dirt flowing into creeks and rivers, the actual reduction of nitrogen, because we slow the release of nitrogen down by eliminating surface runoff into water courses. The best management practices of allowing farmers to better use their fertilizers by multiple applications and not having saturated soil conditions. And there’s point after point after point that has been well studied that shows why farm drainage is good for the environment. Yet we get painted in the corner so many times about bad; nitrogen coming out of tile outlets. But not compared to what other things would happen if the tile wasn’t there.

Jamie Duininck (06:40):

Tony Kime (06:40):
So misunderstood, that word just popped out at me when you used it in your prelude there.

Jamie Duininck (06:46):
Well it’s true, and let’s just stay on that for a little bit. You just named all the things that we’ve talked about in our industry for years around what the message we need to get out there, but as time goes on and as public perception changes and things, we’re even talking about things like carbon footprint. You can grow more bushels on less acres when you have a proper drainage system in place. You’re going to run that tractor across those acres, whether you have drainage or not. So if you’re going to get a hundred bushels an acre, or 200 bushels an acre, you’re going to use the same amount of carbon, same amount of fuel, same amount of labor. All of those things. So why not grow more with less? And that’s what we can do.
And then in so many of these communities, and it struck me back maybe a year, year and a half ago, pretty close to the beginning of this podcast. I interviewed Peter Darbishire, who was a colleague of yours in Canada and was the editor of Drainage magazine, and retired now. But one thing I talked about was, I remember it vividly because it was the first trip I went on after my first child was born. And she’s a little over 21 years old now. So it was about 21 years ago in June, I went and saw Peter Darbishire in Ontario. And what struck me about that trip was how agriculture goes from the Ontario, the I states, Illinois, Indiana and Iowa, and has moved west. And you can just see the wealth of those communities in Ontario and in Ohio and Indiana and Illinois being way ahead of Minnesota, the south in North Dakota.
And a lot of that’s because they had the proper water management systems in place long before we did here. And it just creates wealth for communities. And when you create wealth for communities, you know as well as I do what happens, it grows those rural communities. It builds churches and schools and hospitals through tax bases.
And it’s just much more powerful than just the farm. And that just hit me when I went there 21 years ago as Ontario is the epicenter of subsurface water management in North America, not necessarily in Europe, but in north America. And because of that is a big part of why they are ahead of where we’re at in the states.

Tony Kime (09:22):
Ontario has been certainly is one of the most intensely drained areas of North America. So Southwest and Ontario is sitting on a massive chunk of number one class farmland. And even though we don’t have that beautiful black dirt that you get in the Illinois, Indiana, or sorry, Indiana, Illinois if I’m going east to west, but area. We’ve got water, we’ve got the right pH, we’ve got clay based soils, we’ve got heat. So we’ve got all of the things of the 30 points that you do to rank farmland that makes it fantastic growing. But because of the clay soil base we’ve got here, water does not get out of the soil quickly. So Ontario farmland has had to be drained intensely to get the productivity that’s available out of the land. And that continues to go. I remember my dad sitting around the boardroom table with the team wondering when it was going to run out.
This is 30 years ago. Boy, it can’t last. How can we keep selling tile? Today I’ve got a small plant with my partner, Elaine [inaudible 00:10:39] in the Seleno group in Southwest and Ontario. And we continue to drain farmland that was drained 30 years ago. There’s still land that hasn’t been drained. But the value of the land, and you touched on the economy of drainage… We’re dealing with $30,000 an acre land in Ontario. And certainly in the areas that we have very intense drainage, we have combines that are costing a million bucks.
So the capital investment that it takes today to be in farming, you cannot cross that land unless you get the highest productivity out of it. And drainage is now known up here to be, if you don’t have it, why run across it? With the cost of seed, with the cost of inputs, this year the cost of nitrogen, cost of potash. You got to get it, squeeze every kernel of corn, wheat beans out of that acre you can get.

Jamie Duininck (11:37):
Whether it’s Ontario or whether it’s central South Dakota, central North Dakota, where some of the cheaper land is throughout the North American corn belt, the land prices, the machinery prices, all that have tripled or more over 30 years. Whereas our pipe prices and our installation prices combined, so to put pipe in the ground, buying it and installing it, hasn’t tripled. It’s not that much more than… So you’re looking at if you were paying $3,000 an acre for land 30 years ago, and now you’re paying 10 or in Ontario maybe you’re paying eight or 9,000, now you’re paying 30. Whatever that equation is, you can still manage the water by putting in a drainage system for roughly the same price. I mean, it might be up 50% from what it was, but it’s not going to be 300% up. So you might spend a thousand to $2,000 an acre doing that. Well, if your land’s worth $10,000 an acre, or 30,000 in your range, if you can squeeze more bushels out of that land, it’s far better to manage that land than to just go and buy more.

Tony Kime (12:51):
With the cost of inputs, and I haven’t seen our industry yet come up with a really cool spreadsheet that would look at input cost, land cost, and then cost of drainage. But I think most of us who know the numbers or get to see them often enough know that the return on investment, no matter what the land price is, it’s a no brainer. You’ve got to have intensive drainage, in Ontario that means 20 foot spacings. I’ve got customers doing 10 foot spacings in organic fields because it allows wheat. Believe it or not organic hay with 10 foot tiles facings underneath it. Why? It’s keeping the weeds out, alfalfa likes dry feet. That’s a lot of money, but they’re getting a lot of money off the value of that crop. And they’re in super, super tight clay. These guys are seeing intensive growth, five feet away from the tile runs. My farmer who does this said, fair enough. I’ll do 10 foot spacings. So he puts his own tile in. So if he does have the benefit of not having the installation cost, other than his time and labor and his kids learning a lot of stuff, but he does it every year. He is putting a 100,000 to 150,000 feet of pipe in and plugs away at it.
Anyway. At least in the Ontario market now, it’s just accepted. If you own land and it’s not down at a 20 to 30 foot spacing, you will continue to split tiles or put brand new grids in. And that’s just what’s happening in Ontario and I don’t see any reason it would stop.

Jamie Duininck: (14:32):
Yeah. And I think that it’s maybe a little bit more intense or drastic in Ontario, but it’s happening throughout the Midwest. That for the most part it’s understood that you need to have your water managed correctly if you’re going to… Number one, everything you spend on it you’re going to get paid for in yield increase over two or three years. And then you’re going to get all your money back when you go to sell it anyway. So it’s a wonderful investment, but it’s understood that if you want to stay in the business, you got to manage your water.

Tony Kime (15:09):
I put an article I read on the weekend out on Twitter, about the tomato industry right now in California, on a decline on output acres planted, water’s going to just not be available for that industry. Ontario is an area with abundance of water. We’re surrounded by lakes. I can see areas in North America, in the Midwest, in Canada that have ample water growing in high value crop intensity, because they’re going to have to. It’s a way to use the water where it is, grow the products and then move them to market. If we’re going to irrigate we also know that drainage is something that’s important to do. Otherwise, we end up with salinity. We end up with not enough oxygen down in the ground. I don’t know what you’re seeing in the Midwest, but I’ve got tons and tons of people looking at reverse irrigation systems now. Flat land, they’ve got a clay base. They’re going to flood it so they’ve got access to water.
So there’s all of these innovations that are in front of us that will create work. They create new technologies and they’re going to grow the productivity of agribusiness in the northern US and Canada areas, because these are the areas in climate change that will likely have less effect by heat stress on plants, and we tend to have more abundance water.

Jamie Duininck: (16:40):
It is interesting that people like you and I, we know it and we hear it all the time, but there’s no substitute for seeing it. One thing we always talked about is a healthy root system. You want to have that pipe in the ground so that your roots will grow deep. And when the stress comes of the heat of the summer, those roots are deep where the water is. There’s a field close to where I live, that was always one of the worst places to watch a crop grow. A few years ago, they tiled that whole field. And this year was kind of the perfect year to watch that because we had a very cold wet spring, probably didn’t get planted. And I didn’t actually look at the date, but almost everything got in between May 25 and June five, so it was very late. And then it turned dry and hot. Because if that field hadn’t been tiled, that root system wouldn’t have had to grow very deep, because it would’ve been saturated there. But it was tiled, pulled that water table down, forced the roots to grow early in the cool. It’s the best field on that road if you look at it now. It’s pretty amazing.
If you go just a mile and a half north, there was a farmer had taken out a hedgerow in the back of the field. So he had trucks driving across the field in the same spot all the last fall. And you look at that and you can just see where that road was. Because last time I went by there a week ago, that was the only part of the field that hadn’t tasseled yet. So again, there’s another one. We talk about compaction being an issue and you can see that issue so evidently when you see it out in the field and these are big deals when you’re talking about high price land, if it hits 10 bushels an acre here and 15 there for these different practices, it’s why you need to do this. So I just wanted to share that, because I knew you and I have talked about this stuff all the time. It’s there’s no substitute for seeing it.

Tony Kime (18:49):
Yeah. Well you and I live this, right? So always love getting together with you when we just talk about this. But you’re talking about root depths root system. You also talked about carbon capture in a comment earlier. So if we’ve got a nice dry, well-oxygenated soil, we have roots, a massive root system, 24 inches deep. And this is fiber and organic matter that is getting down in our soil, good soil health, but we’re getting carbon down in the dirt. There was a recent article in a magazine I wrote that talked about the amount of carbon capture that’s happening in grasslands, but every root system that we can promote in high density, healthy root systems is helping us get CO2 out of the year.

Jamie Duininck: (19:39):
Yeah. And we’re going to see a lot more of that. I talked about that on my last podcast actually, but the MPCA in Minnesota, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is targeting 70% of farmland have cover crops on it by 2030. Now I haven’t dug into that. I just heard that a couple weeks ago to know what is their plan? How are they going to do that? But I think we’re going to see that change rapidly. I mean, we’re already seen from five years ago today, a lot more cover crops and that’s really what we’re talking about. Again, it’s more just getting more roots in the ground and that’s creating less compaction, more areas for that water to get to the-

Tony Kime (20:22):
Or breaking it up. One of the things that we don’t seem to get as much anymore is the frost heat because we’re now dealing with relatively dry dirt that comes into the winters. So managing compaction is a super critical thing for people. But drainage is really a remedy for compaction in many ways. So it’s a deep rip. So anyway, a lot of discussion as to why everything grows so much better under a tile run, certainly the tiles there, but we’ve also done an awful lot of upheaving of the soil when we do this.

Jamie Duininck: (21:01):
Yeah. Well, Tony, let’s switch subjects a little bit and talk a little bit about your history and you do have quite a history in this industry as your family was really one of the first to get into the plastic pipe side of agricultural drainage, and I think the first in Canada. But tell me a little bit about that, what the timing was of that when others were getting into it. And then, you know what that was like from the standpoint that was real frenzy back then, because it was such hard work to put in clay pipe or concrete pipe and now this revolution of plastic pipe. Tell me a little bit about that.

Tony Kime (21:44):
My dad had an opportunity to start a towel plant back in 1966 and they were going to start a concrete plant because he was an accountant farmer and had a lot of customers that two year backlog to get clay tile. So he thought, okay, we’ll start a little concrete pipe plant making one foot concrete or 18 inch concrete. Within six months, somebody, a guy named Locraft who started craft machinery in a Michigan, showed up and showed him this piece of black bumpy pipe called corrugated pipe that had just been introduced by a small company out of the east coast US called a ADS. And my dad looked at it and said, oh my gosh, we made a mistake. We need to make this. They put the deposit on the concrete line, canceled the order, flew over to Germany, bought a Reifenhäuser corrugator. It showed up about a year later and Big O was making pipe in Hensall, Ontario.
So by then, that was in middle of 1967 I think by the time they got the corrugator. I was seven years old at the time, so got to go up there on the weekends when dad went up to do the books. Bunch of farm boys started the plant. None of them knew much about plastic. It was the bunch of rednecks trying to run all this high tech German equipment, but they survived it. They made it work. And every year there was another corrugator added. It was a hockey stick curve [inaudible 00:23:25] on the product, mainly because clay was not available. They couldn’t make it fast enough. And plastic could be put in a little bit easier.
Now, during those days it was wheel machines, spiker, trenchers, buckeyes. There’s a long list of the wheel machines that were out there, bucket machines digging dirt. But the drainage plow got invented, and actually I should know all the names on this, but this happened down in Ohio and you may have the history of this one a little bit better than me. A good friend of mine, Bill Waltermat was around as a junior student. Oh my gosh. Jamie, who’s the engineer that was involved in this? It was a hand core guy behind the scenes.

Jamie Duininck: (24:10):
Tony, I’m not sure I remember who you’re talking about. Could you be talking about Dr. Jim Faus?

Tony Kime (24:16):
Exactly Jamie. Jim Faus really was one of the fathers of drainage and super involved with the hand core group and did so much work. That was a foundation of this industry.
But anyway, the drainage plow all of a sudden hit the market, and this was in the early ’70s I believe, and that just changed the game. All of a sudden four inch tile was going in at 10, 15 times, the speed of clay pipe, much easier. And that’s really what gave corrugate pipe the growth curve, because it was a revolution of technology. It wasn’t so much the corrugated pipe.

Jamie Duininck:(24:59):
That wasn’t the Zor plow. Was it?

Tony Kime (25:01):
Yeah, no, I don’t think so. Zor was around, there was a long list of draining. Everybody was making them.
But anyway, so the drainage plow when it hit, very quickly was being bought by everybody. There were small contractors all over the place. And productivity jumped, tile plants were sold out and it stayed like that through the ’70s as people were draining and back then they were draining on 60 foot spacings. It was still a hard sell, but progressive farmers did it and away it went. We hit the 1980s period, so all the way through the ’70s, it was growth, growth, growth. Then we hit the high interest period of the early ’80s and wham it was just a massive contraction in the market. So, I look in the look at today’s… environment myself and say, “Holy smokes, is this where we’re going?” Because I remember the struggles dad went through when he came home at night during those few years in the early 80s about were they going to get through? They survived. Other companies didn’t, but they got through. I don’t think we’re in the same spot as what we hit in the 80s, but people should definitely be reflecting on things because we’re going to see a little bit of a change from what we’ve had in the last 15 years. But it’s not going to stop us.
But if we go back to… The industry just kept trucking along and little companies bought corrugators, guys who made clay pipe, bought corrugators, big companies bought the little companies. I’ve watched our industry expand and contract, I think three times in my career as all sorts of little companies bought, got in the business, they found out it wasn’t so easy and so difficult and there’d be a consolidation period, then there would be a few more companies jump in and then there’d be a consolidation period.
I think today, when I look at all the players across the North American market, they’re in the most part long term, established companies who have been making tile for a long time. A lot of them are still based on family businesses. Prinsco certainly is a family business. Aleno’s a family business. My roots are always being a fan, look at it from that way, there’s a good group of them still out in the north, Springfield Plastics, Fratgo, Timewell. I know you’re competing against some of these guys. But these are all community based groups that put back, so I think the corrugated industry have really done a lot. And that’s not to diminish ADS, who’s also up there as a leader.
I know at the community level ADS does a lot at their plants as well. So when you put all the dots on the map in North America of our little industry, we have all of these highly successful manufacturing locations that employ local people, teach young kids how to work, teach them skills. They may not work for us forever because sometimes working at tile plant’s pretty tough. But you train them, you teach them.
There’s nothing better that I’ve seen is when I’ve seen kids leave my business and go on and be successful because they learned from us and we taught them how to be good workers. And you have this scattered through the whole area. When I look at our industry, we still make things in North America. We’re a, I won’t say minority, but we’re a group of small businesses who have maintained our manufacturing skills, have maintained the involvement in your communities. And again, I know Prinsco’s super involved in that. My wife and I do the same thing. And I think it’s fun, it’s proud. I’m really proud that I’ve been in this career. I was lucky enough to land in it and stay in it.

Jamie Duininck: (29:29):
And that’s so true that an economy in my mind, an economy can’t survive by just being a service economy. You need people that make things that really generate wealth for communities. It generates a tax base and that as good purpose filled jobs in that way. And so it’s something that we think at Prinsco and even here at The Water Table on educating people and helping them understand what we do is so important to all of that, to the pride of a community, to people that are looking for a career. There’s great jobs in this industry, so I’m glad you mentioned that.
Just move back a little bit there, you talked about the 1980s and how tough it was. I’ll just tell you and for our listeners, I enjoy not only podcasting but listening to podcast and podcasts. There’s one called Escaping 1980 that’s all about the farm crisis if you want to listen to it, it’s really good about what happened and how it led up to and how good the 70s were. And it’s just very interesting.
And yeah, there’s very different, there’s things that correlate to what we’re going through today and then there’s things that are very different around how high interest rates went and things like that, that I don’t see repeating the same way, but there probably is some things that will repeat. We’ve had a lot of good years now in a row. And as we all know, farming and the agricultural industry is cyclical. We’ll probably see some kind of downturn, but probably not, hopefully not what the 1980s were. I’m glad you mentioned that. The other thing you mentioned, Tony, just I got to tell you, you knocked me off my chair there a little bit when you called Canadians rednecks. I’d never heard of a Canadian, I mean, they’re usually hosers, not rednecks. We’re the rednecks down here in the…

Tony Kime (31:38):
Okay, well look, when you turn a bunch of farm boy loose with German technology, you don’t know what’s going to happen.

Jamie Duininck: (31:45):
True. True.

Tony Kime (31:48):
And you’ve seen that and I’ve seen it, even in this day and age. And there’s a lot of German technology used in our industry, and even today we’ve got local young guys running it. I don’t think… It really was a whole bunch of farm boys when [inaudible 00:32:08] started.

Jamie Duininck: (32:09):
I just had to mention that. I thought that was funny. But no, I appreciate, and Big O is still around now in the form of its arm tech now and still probably the largest producer of plastic pipe in Canada. I’m not sure about that, but for sure the largest producer of pipe with all their metal interests. And so you’ve got a great history and one to be proud of. And like you said, you and I connected dots all the way back to the mid 90s and through associations and different things. And let’s talk a little bit about what I mentioned you being an entrepreneur and really thinking about the future and just always excited to talk about where you see the industry going, and talk a little bit about that and where you think the opportunities are going to be for our industry over the next 10 to 20 years.

Tony Kime (33:05):
Well, I think that environmental stewardship is a responsibility all of us have. And from taking care of environment, there should be business opportunities. If water quality, sorry, not if water quality, water quality is got to be a top priority in North America. Taking care of our water, okay, taking care of our environment, taking care of our air, these are all things that you know and I know we need to pay attention to.
And if we look at what we know about municipal infrastructure, we have tons and tons of water management techniques that are used in cities. I think that we’re going to see them applied in the agricultural sector to better manage runoff. We have incredibly intensive livestock operations throughout our country landscape, and we’re going to have water management systems built around these things. I think that all of us who are in the drainage industry need to expand our view of what we do.
We don’t just sell four inch tile that gets plowed into the fields. There’s no doubt about it. That’s a massive high volume business. That’s half a billion feet per year in the northern US and Canada, commodity product. But there’s lots and lots of added value products that we all have to pay attention to that become intertwined in it.
If we look at the electrification of North America, how can the rural sector play into and benefit from the massive growth that’s going to be in there? I’m not sure I see exactly how it’s going to happen, but there are ways to generate electricity out in the rural parts of North America, whether it be solar panels, whether it be methane, whether it be production of different things, geothermal applications. How do we get heat that can be used to generate things? We put pipes under the ground. Pulling heat out of the ground is a pretty common thing.
So are there technologies that evolve that all of us who make pipe can be used in that area. If we look at managing the runoff into holding ponds, this is a normal technique now. Do we change the infrastructure or how we manage the land? So when we get depressions and places that can be collector points, can we turn those into nice public areas that collect and manage the quality of the water?
In Ontario, I often wonder, to have drain intensive drainage systems like we have in Ontario, you have to have an underground piping system or an incredible ditch system to get rid of the water, otherwise you can’t have intensive drainage like we have. We have this wonderful ditch system in Ontario that could become, when we look at buffer strip technologies, which improve water quality, why can’t we come up with a way to set aside a hundred foot buffer along all of our ditch or some of our ditch systems that become public walkways and public use points, but the public pays the farmer for the use of those.
There’s all of these things, if you think a little bit out of the box, that we can do to increase or improve the environment, increase public satisfaction of using farm space. There’s just so many things I think we can do, but there’s so many people working in little boxes that they just don’t see the big picture or they haven’t traveled. If you travel to Germany, I’ve had the benefit of traveling a lot in Europe, and the Germans have done really, really an incredible job of developing a public infrastructure in the rural parts of their country that people can go and enjoy and share. And it’s done across farmland and the government takes care of it.
They make sure the farmers are not losing income because the public is using some of that land. So should we not look at some of these techniques and look at it? In some ways, to tell you the truth, I think the US is ahead of Canada in demanding water quality and demanding some of these things. But how do you take so many people with so many self-interests and actually move ahead with some hay or with some speed? I don’t know the answer.

Jamie Duininck: (38:07):
I like the comment about the ditch systems because I think it’s a little known fact. I don’t know what the laws are in Ontario, but in Minnesota and in the US we got pretty good ditch system here too. And those ditches are assessed to the landowner. So the landowner pays for that ditch and pays for the maintenance of that ditch. And it might be a win-win where they get told really how they have to use that ditch and there’s a friction there because they’re like, “Well, wait a minute, I pay for it. I should be able to do what I want with it.” But if we could change that paradigm a little bit and say, “You know what, you don’t have to pay for it anymore, but now you just got to let people walk on your land or use your land for recreational enjoyment,” whether it’s walking or hiking or birdwatching, whatever that might be. That might be a win-win where the farmer can save some money and the general public can have some enjoyment out of it too, so I like that.

Tony Kime (39:13):
And every time I talk to people about that particular idea, they say, “Oh, sorry, insurance stops it.”

Jamie Duininck: (39:19):

Tony Kime (39:20):
But it’s easy. Government takes over the insurance of that 100-foot buffer strip, so it’s not the farmer’s risk because as soon as you’ve got public use, you’ve got the risk of injury or the risk of something, now who takes over the insurance but that seems such an easy thing to deal with.

Jamie Duininck: (39:37):

Tony Kime (39:37):
It should not be a barrier to something like that, so boy, if this podcast could stimulate some thinking in that area, that would be an incredible thing because I think there is such better use of some of our areas that we could make for public enjoyment and good for farmers.

Jamie Duininck: (39:58):
It’s funny you say that too because it is interesting. One of the things I’ve learned through this podcast is that we know who’s listening and who’s … Kind of how many people are listening to each episode and it’s a pretty good spread between people that have … That are in the industry, like you and I, that are contractors that are listening but then people that are just … Want to know something that have really no connection and I … You could be discouraged by that because that isn’t the audience we’re trying to reach as our main audience, but actually, it is an audience we need to reach and so I actually am quite encouraged by that, just so they have a knowledge and understanding of what we do. So when these conversations come up at a bar or at a coffee table about somebody being frustrated about a ditch system, they know that the farmer pays for it now and maybe there’s a better way to do it. Because they just wouldn’t know that as an example so I’m excited about that and the ability to share this with the general public, not just our industry.

Tony Kime (41:06):
No, and I applaud you for making the time to do the podcast you’re doing because getting the word out is really so important and we’re such a small group and there’s so many of us that are passionate about it and contributors. Yet we’re running businesses, we’re taking care of our families, we’re involved in our community. So sometimes getting out there to really be part of the bigger solution is difficult. So anyway, how you connect all the dots, I’m not quite sure I figured it out, but opportunities like you’re giving me certainly helps a lot.

Jamie Duininck: (41:48):
Yeah. Well and I think … As time goes on and as opportunities arise that need discussion in this form Tony, I’m going to ask you back because it’s fun to just debate something kind of live here on The Water Table and hopefully it spurs thinking from people that are listening and they reach out and talk to us about it. So that’s what this is all about, starting conversations and educating. But thanks for your time today on The Water Table. Any last words for us of wisdom that you might have of your 40+ years in the industry?

Tony Kime (42:24):
I would just like to talk a little bit, if there’s parents out there listening or all of us, both you and I have raised kids. We both care a lot about our families and as I look at people who I … In my career I’ve watched, what I’ve seen is that with the children, they have consistently tried to make them accountable for something. They try to get them up and have them do things every day, so that they develop the pattern of doing stuff. And those kids who get to see their parents doing that as well emulate. So what I can say is I talk to young kids and I love to influence young kids. Especially kids who have trouble in school, because I was not a great student myself.
But I say, “Pick something and stick to it and get up every day and do the best you can, and do it over and over and over and don’t give up.” And if you do that and take care of people, don’t lie, don’t cheat, and you will be successful. So anyway, I really like to help kids out who have been in trouble, yet it doesn’t always work, but if we can find young people who have not been taught, haven’t had the opportunities to learn because they didn’t know how to learn in the system we have, quite often they’re very easy to help, just by giving them chances and giving them constant reinforcement they’re doing a good job and I could rant or I could sort of rant on this but I think we really need to focus on our kids because quite frankly today to get kids that want to come to work in a towel plant is difficult. They just don’t want to work.

Jamie Duininck: (44:28):

Tony Kime (44:29):
And I don’t know, I know you didn’t get to … You’re not a successful guy like you are without having worked every fricking day.

Jamie Duininck: (44:39):

Tony Kime (44:39):
And you and I have been lucky because we have been surrounded with people like that.

Jamie Duininck: (44:43):
Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely, and that’s a whole nother topic we could get into, that our industry, our world is facing but our industry is going to be in a challenge with so many younger people, they think differently about what they want out of their life and they don’t want to work five or six days a week. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that we started in this industry and it was very common to work six and seven days a week. At Prinsco we always took Sundays off but we worked six a lot and we still do when we have to but it’s a challenge to have people willing to do that and not only have we gone from six being common, now it’s not five, it’s I’m interested in four, or I’m interested in less than five, I want a three-day weekend and just our whole … And nights in the type of business we’re in, we’ve got to run 24 hours a day when you’re making pipe, and that’s going to be a real challenge for our industry to compete with other companies and other industries that a four day a week becomes common and that nine to five is only hours you’d work and you don’t have to work from midnight to eight or things like that. That’s going to be a challenge for us to navigate through as an industry.

Tony Kime (46:08):
As an industry, there’s no doubt about it. But I’m sure there’s cures. The one thing that our industry has the benefit of as pipe manufacturers is that labor is a relatively small component of the cost. So we’re better off than a lot of industries, and we’re also local employers, and we’re longterm companies. So that being said, the problem is it’s hard to teach kids that, “Hey, we may not pay as much as everybody else, but you’re going to get your full year’s pay working for us. We’re going to take care of you, we want you to be here, we want you to raise your kids.”
I’m lucky enough to have people that are working with me who’ve been around me a long, long, long time. And I’ve seen some young guys who started working with me 30 years ago now put their kids through school on my payroll or through the businesses that I’ve been involved in and when you get to my age, that’s pretty frigging satisfying to be able to see that longterm picture. Your corporation has done the same thing. You are getting people that have worked for Prinsco who are retiring after 50 years of service and they’ve raised families and they’ve got grandchildren that they’re taking care of and when you’ve had a career and you can see that, there’s a lot of satisfaction or pride that comes from that. But you only get that when you’re an old guy like me. It’s hard to see that when you’re in your twenties or thirties and you’re trying to make the payments and buy a house and today house prices are crazy and we’re in such a crazy environment at the moment. But you’re right, this is likely a completely different podcast.

Jamie Duininck: (48:00):
But that’s what’s fun about this is we … It’s just like two guys having a beer visiting about what they know, which isn’t a lot with you and I, but what we know we know a lot of, so …

Tony Kime (48:12):
Yeah. Well, a lot of people say, “Well Tony, you’re so smart,” and I say, “No, I’m not smart at all, but I’ve had so much experience.”

Jamie Duininck: (48:20):
Yeah. For sure.

Tony Kime (48:21):
And really that’s been my benefit in my career.

Jamie Duininck: (48:23):
Yep. Great life experience. So Tony, it’s been a pleasure to have you on The Water Table podcast. We’re going to do it again sometime and thanks for joining us.

Tony Kime (48:33):
Jamie, thanks so much.

Jamie Duininck: (48:34):
Appreciate it. Bye-bye.

Thanks for joining us today on The Water Table. You can find us at watertable.ag. Find us on Facebook, you can find us on Twitter, and you can also find the podcast on any of your favorite podcast platforms.