Acting on Results: A Farmer’s Story
- Todd Stanley, Farmer
Jamie Duininck and Kent Rodelius sit down with Northern Minnesota farmer Todd Stanley. Hear how water management has changed the way Todd farms and how the results he’s seen on the farm have turned him into a water management advocate.
Episode 2 | 51:01 min
Todd Stanley is a farmer and a drainage contractor from a northern Minnesota town, Grygla. 45 years ago, Stanley bought a farm about 7 miles from his childhood home. Since then, Stanley has worked hard to improve the land in his area by turning it into nice big square fields and efficient farmland.
This is the water table.
chance to hear the agricultural side of these issues,
place for people to go find information and education,
Matt Helmers 0:12
water management is just going to become even more critical into the future.
how missed understood what we do is.
I would encourage people to open their minds and isten to this dialogue.
Welcome to the Water Table Podcast. I have Kent Roedelius joining me again with Todd Stanley. Todd is a farmer and a drainage contractor from northern Minnesota from Grygla. And we’re going to have some really interesting conversations with Todd about how he ended up in northern Minnesota. What about his farming practices, his drainage practices and just kind of a roundtable discussion, and I hope it’s very educational. Before we start, I wanted to just share I’ve gotten a lot of really encouraging texts and emails from people just saying that this this podcast has been really needed in our industry and that they’re learning a lot. And so thank you so much for those other people have said, “Hey, you know, we just don’t know that much about Princo.” So, you know, always feel free to reach out to me. firstname.lastname@example.org, j-a-m-i-e-d, at prinsco dot com or our website Prinsco.com to learn more. And we’re just going to keep bringing you information on these podcasts. So hopefully, over time, a lot of the questions you might have get answered through the podcast. So I want to just start by welcoming Todd Stanley. Todd, good to have you here on the phone today. We’re just visiting about earlier a beautiful November morning in northern Minnesota. So welcome to the water table podcast.
Todd Stanley 1:58
Thanks, Jamie. Hi, Kent.
It is a it is a real pleasure to have you with us today. Todd. I was thinking about this podcast and how the great number of people I’ve met over my career and I have to say that you would be in the top list of people I enjoyed stopping and seeing and talking to sitting around the kitchen table so that was always good stuff. I one thing I remember about your house Todd is you had a milk cooler, commercial milk cooler in the house so you could just get a glass of milk anytime you wanted. And I thought that was always a pretty unique feature. But good memories. But the other thing I was thinking the number of people listening to this podcast, how many of them could take a map of Minnesota and tell us where Grygla is? Just a little burg up in northern Minnesota. It is spelled g r y g l a if you want to look it up. But what a unique place to live and wonderful place to farm Todd. But this morning, we thought we’d maybe start start off just by having you tell us a little bit about your family history, your story of how you ended up farming in northern Minnesota?
Todd Stanley 3:11
Sure, Kent. Both both sets of my grandparents lived in what’s now called the Red Lake Game Refuge about 25 miles east of Grygla. At the turn of the century, they put a drainage system throughout this area, surface drainage system, they call them judicial ditches and county ditches. And it was the the impetus in the first place was to create a milling district in Thief River Falls for sawing wood and milling wheat. The set all the land there was homestand. And of course so people didn’t pay anything for the land, but then they had to pay taxes to keep the to pay the ditch bonds off and a lot of people lost their land in the depression. So both sets of my grandparents did not lose their land. But when the government got this would be the state of Minnesota when they got a certain percentage of the land, they just forced the other people out and turned it into a game refuge. And so they relocated both sets of my grandparents to the to the Grygla area. And in 1937 my grandpa and grandma bought the place where my mother lives now. And they gave someone $15 to clear five acres by hand so that they can build a house and they built a new house and a new barn. And that’s that’s still a nucleus of our farm is where my mother lives. Drainage has always been a big deal to us. My grandpa did Soil Conservation Service ditching with a D for cat to D for cats he had in the 50s and my dad did some of it in the 60s with a D cat and us little ever spent two and a half yard scraper. And so that that was our starting drainage. And so we’ve been about improving land in this area and turning it into a nice big square fields and efficient farmland. It’s flowers and tabletop here, there’s no hills or anything to work with. So you have to create your own drainage.
Todd, how did how did you get started started farming? Did you work on work with your folks and just get into farming in that way?
Todd Stanley 5:34
That’s something you always wanted to do?
Todd Stanley 5:38
I was he was in me from the beginning. But as probably as what some people would call a silver spoon I. I was just out of high school and working out and thinking of moving away and my dad he thought I should farm and he told me he thought I should farm but we couldn’t find together we were both too headstrong. And so he helped me get started with a farm about seven miles from the home farm came for sale. A guy was retiring. And so we bought that. And Debbie and I have been here now for 45 years, it was the fall of 1975 when we bought this. And so my parents retired in 1997. So 1998 we rented their farm or most of it. And it’s been a good, good run for us.
It’s kind of interesting. You tell that story, Todd, I didn’t know when you started. But Kent and I, met you we drove up to to Grygla, in the spring of 2000. And so 20 years ago now, but Prinsco started in 1975. Also, so are our timeframes, as far as in business, you and your farming businesses and us in manufacturing are in the same year, so that’s, that’s an interesting connection also. But as Kent mentioned earlier, we Kent and I had some some really fun times together early on in my career, and one of them was taking that long drive north. I remember when we got to your house and we talked about, you know, we thought we were some slick salesman, and really good at what we do and when we finally ended up making that first deal with you, and I’m not saying this verbatim, but what you pretty much said is, “you guys showed up, nobody else does.” So I’ll buy from you. And that’s how our relationship started. But, you know, you and Kent expecially created quite a quite a personal relationship along with a business relationship built on trust and doing what you’re going to say you’re gonna do and so I’m, I’m really pleased to see. Prinsco’s about relationships, and it doesn’t have to be my personal relationship, but about our people building relationships with our customers. And so it’s it’s really gratifying to see that happening with good people like, like you and your family. So thank you for that. But I’d also like to just hear more, you know, Kent if you have anything to say about about that day when we went up there I can remember it doesn’t happen too often for us, Todd, it’s probably natural where you live but you made that long drive and sitting at the kitchen table and like Ken said the milk and your wife brought out some brownies and and just had a had a real conversation about what your dreams were for your farm when it came to improving it. And there’s a lot that’s been done in the last 20 years to improve your farm and we’ll talk about that in a little bit around what you’ve seen how drainage has impacted your farming operation.
Todd one of the things that always interests me is to ask people who have been the major influences in their life. What people have have helped you. What caused you to learn, you know, what things have all these people spoken into your life and given you opportunity or encouragement.
Todd Stanley 9:25
So I don’t have a professional education. I finished high school and that was I didn’t go any further in schooling but I in every whether I was in trucking, tiling, farming, there was always someone to be a mentor who was more than happy to give their expertise and their experience and their judgment to me and share it without expecting anything in return. They just put it out there. And and that’s the same in the tiling business. I mean, I didn’t know anything about it when I started. And so I got to meet some people who are really influential in tiling. Of course, we’re Steve Kroll and Roger Ellingson, Dell Determin, and you, Kent. And the guys from the University of Minnesota and NDSU they put on the tiling school engineers and stuff they were, if I had a question I could call and everyone always got right back to me and were very forthcoming. As far as influencers, otherwise, my exposure is maybe a little limited. But my parents had a grandmother who was a school teacher, she was always really interested in what I was doing. And so she gave me a lot of, what do I want to call them, little sayings that encapsulated the situation kind of made it reduced it down to six words, a lot of times that really applied.
What’s your favorite saying that your grandmother had for you?
Todd Stanley 11:09
Oh, well, my favorite one is, so she’s a tough lady and when she was 70 years old about her hips were shot. And she would if she stood up too fast, one hip would pop right out of the socket. And she’d stand on the other leg and you could just see the color drain out a very hurt so bad. And she’d grabbed that thigh and twisted around and pop that hip back in the socket. And then she’d stand there for a second. And she’d look at you and smile and she’d say “things are wearing out.” And then she went on about her business. There was no, she didn’t expect any sympathy or anything. She just it was a matter of fact for her.
It takes a lot of pluck to live up in that area. And keep it going. So good. Good stuff, Todd. Todd, I think switching gears here a little bit to talk about your start doing some some tiling or some water table management. I think you and I first met in Marshall at a tile clinic put on by the University of Minnesota, talking about the value of tiling. And from there launched our relationship, and eventually, like Jamie had said, we ended up at the kitchen table with you there on the farm and getting going on a long term relationship. But what are what are the events and circumstances that convinced you to start tiling your ground? What What were those things?
Todd Stanley 12:39
So it’s not uncommon, and especially before we raised any late season crops, it’s not uncommon for it to be really wet here at harvest time. And just struggle and struggle and wait for it to freeze and everything else trying to get your crop off. And of course, when you want that stuff to happen, it never does. And you’re out there day and night, putting new inventions on the combine trying to get it to go a little further in the mud and rice tires and duals and tracks, you name it. The conventional wisdom around here was that the soil is so tight, the tile won’t work. The water won’t go anywhere. And and what convinced me to try it, was in 1999 in spring or in a winter, I guess, we had a University of Minnesota had a it was a grant, I guess you’d call it. They sent a team of farm operation experts to look over your farm, your your operation, your accounting system, your management system, your forecasting all of that. And so we have two County Extension agents, we had a banker. I can’t remember who all is here. But the two County Extension agents that one of their recommendations was that we start tiling. Because when you looked at our profitability, and we all like to complain about low prices and low prices are certainly a factor. But the years when we had really bad years in farming here was the years we had no production, or low production. It wasn’t what was killing us was not the prices as much as the as the weather. And so when I said you know we don’t have much land we could tile even if we wanted to because our outlets aren’t deep enough and most everyone’s familiar with Hans Condell from NDSU. He was a Red Lake County Extension Agent at that time. And he comes from the Netherlands and he said if where I come from if we weren’t willing to pump water, we wouldn’t have farm land. So he said, the no outlet is not a reason. You can you can make an outlet with with a pump. So that spring then trying to decide where to go and I talked it over with dad and he, we agreed that we had a 180 that we it’s the only 80 we’d ever own in that section. So there’s no we wouldn’t have to figure out how to get an outlet for some land behind it. So we decided to tile that 80. And we hired field drainage. They came and looked at it. They said they could do it. And so we put in 80 acres of tile in the spring. And of course, just a fluke, but that fall was really wet. And so we struggled and struggled to harvest but that 80 we had harvested. And my dad wanted to work that 80 every other day because it was the only place on the farm that was dry. To double back a little bit, that summer we talked about tiling and he told me, “I know you’d like to tile this farm, but it’s just too expensive. You’re gonna have to get it out of your head. You’ll never be able to pay for it.”
This was your dad that said this? Okay.
Todd Stanley 16:20
Yeah. But after that fall, he was the one that every year he he was just pushing. This needs to be tiled. This needs to be tiled. And it all needed to be tiled was the truth. So but to pick and choose where we were going to go the next year was was a little more difficult. But anyway, after 1999 we tried to hire them to put another quarter in in the fall and they were too busy. They couldn’t get here. And then we made the decision to buy our own machinery and start doing our own. And so in 2000, we we bought a pole tie plow and a wore out back hole, and a stringing trailer and auto grade for laser, and hooked it all up to a john deere tractor tractor. And that’s how we titled the first fall. We tiled during the day, and we did all of our tillage operations at night. So we ran the tractor 24 hours a day.
Quite a commitment.
Todd Stanley 17:35
Yeah, and we didn’t, that wasn’t very efficient. And so the next summer, we ended up buying a D nine cat to pull the plow with. And that was a lot. That worked a lot better. We use that for 11 years after we bought that.
Yeah, did you find that it was just if you wanted to be a production drainage contractor, you needed to really get into better equipment to do so?
Todd Stanley 17:58
Well at the time, you know, we were only planning to do our own way we didn’t have intentions of doiyg anyone else’s. But so our farm is scattered over 20 miles at that time, we were farming 7000 acres. And so it’s time to change shifts, and you got one hour left where you’re at when you’re tilling in the morning. Well, if the guy stays there an hour to finish before he moves home, then you got your crew standing plus the day is wasting away on your tiling operation. And that’s on a schedule too. So it’s just so inefficient to tractor was back and forth a lot more than it should have been. And, and the other thing we found is that with ag tractor, it’s either moving or it’s not moving. There’s no torque converter, so you don’t get very efficient use of your pulling capacity. When you have something with a torque converter, you can match the the power to the load and you can just pull so much more.
Sure. Makes sense.
Sounds like a lot of work, Todd.
Todd Stanley 19:09
But everything’s a lot of work that that part. I mean.
Todd Stanley 19:14
Yeah, that’s right.
Who did you go to for advice and help? You said you had that group that came up? Did you have people that helped you with that aspect of learning how to tile or was it seat of the pants or experimenting or every piece of ground is different?
Todd Stanley 19:32
Every piece of ground is different, but honestly, we pretty much did it by the textbook from that tiling school the first year. That’s I mean, we didn’t know any shortcuts.
Todd Stanley 19:44
And I still have the books here that I got there for figuring out spacing and, and all that stuff. And the tile so you know the size of your mains and all of that. And now of course, after 20 years doing it then you you adapt some of it, and a lot of it, you can do seat of your pants, but just about time you think, you know, just because you’ve done it is when you get it, you find out that you don’t know.
And, you know, it’s interesting just listening to because Kent and I know you. A lot of people listening on this podcast won’t know you, but it does from from my perspective, and you know, you can speak to this or Kent too, but it does take a unique individual to do what you’ve done here. And, and built a you know, a sizable water management installation company. And because it isn’t just as easy as going to, to Marshall and learning, you make it, you’re pretty humble Todd on that. But it’s, it takes somebody that’s willing to work really hard and and you do have your a little bit sneaky smart up there and in Grygla Minnesota too. So we can’t we can’t pass by that. That’s that’s a fact. So.
Todd Stanley 21:02
So, the one advantage I had, that not everyone would have is that my dad was retired, but he is still really active. And so he took care of all the fall tillage and stuff around the farm, he managed that. So once we got done harvesting wheat, I just took usually three guys with me and we went and tiled and that’s all we did, until it froze up every year. We had I had to get the soybeans out. But other than that, we were able to dedicate one crew to tiling, so many farmers buy their own machinery and get all set up to tile and they’re going to do it in their spare time. And the reality is they don’t really have the spare time. So all that machinery and usually one or two semi loads of tile turns out to be yard furniture, it just doesn’t go anywhere.
That’s exactly true. And you have to really like and appreciate what tile will do for you to be committed enough to do your own tile. And I’ve always said that the guys that are professional installers make it look too easy, and anybody thinks they can do it. And it’s nothing but hard work and tough conditions. You have to you have to really bear down and get it done.
Todd Stanley 22:19
But it’s instant gratification, you know. You’re plowing that tile and you come back to start the next one and the one you just put in is already flowing. It’s very satisfying to see that that it’s working right away. When you’re standing in ice water and trying to splice something together that’s underwater, then it’s not always so gratifying.
Five buckle boots days
Todd Stanley 22:44
That’s right. That’s right.
For sure. For sure. I, you know, I just wanted to also mention earlier on you stated you know, some of the influencers in your life in specifically talking about the water management business, and as you got into that, and you mentioned a few names you mentioned Dell Determin and Roger Ellingson, Steve Crowell, who worked for Roger Ellingson and, and Hans Condell, and also Kent, and if you look at for those of you listening to the podcast that don’t know those names, but you know, very all of them very influential in our industry, and probably just guessing, but a couple 100 years of experience in that group of four or five and so pretty interesting to me that not knowing what you’re gonna say there. You’re good at at picking help for, for your own education and knowledge. Those are some some really influential and really knowledgeable people in our industry. So if somebody is looking at doing some drainage and wants to know more about those names, please, please reach out to Prinsco to.
Todd Stanley 23:59
What strikes me about those guys, and what I always remember is how generous they were. A lot of what they’re sharing with me was proprietary knowledge, you know, that, that actually, they had a leg up on on on me in their business. But they were well more than willing to share if I had a question or an issue, and still are for I still call them to this day for things. And so it’s that that makes an impression on me that someone is at generous.
You know, I think when I look back at how the northern Minnesota and specifically the Red River Valley has changed in the last 20 years from the standpoint of acceptance of drainage. You mentioned earlier around everybody was saying, you know, this ground won’t won’t drain it’s too tight and it won’t work here. I mean, how many times did Kent hear that. And I’m just so grateful for for people like Kent and yourself. Todd and then other names you mentioned, Roger and Dell and, and Hans, and you mentioned Hans was over at Red Lake at the time getting I would stop in there often and see him and you could just, you could just feel the energy at the time, you know, 20 years ago, 25 years ago around knowing that this would work and having an energy and yet, you know, coupled with a frustration that wasn’t able to get this message out the way he wanted, or the way he hoped at the time because it just wasn’t moving fast enough. And all that has changed. So, you know, for those of us in agriculture, should be forever grateful for for people like Hans, and then and then those that were early adopters, you and that they Ellingsons and infield drainage up in that area. Because it’s brought us to where we are today. And you know, it’s part of the questions I want to get into here in a little bit. But you know, what has, you’ve now done the drainage, what is that done for for your farm? And how do you see that moving on to the next generation, because you have your drainage in place? So I’ll probably let Kent ask those specific questions. But I just want to share that because I think it’s important for, for our audience to know that these early, early adopters have paved the way for all of us in agriculture. So thank you for that.
Good stuff, Jamie. And those are good reminders that we had to get a good foothold and start up there before it is kind of taken off. But before we leave, getting started Todd and move on to your operation. What were the most challenging aspects of starting? Was it permitting was it, you know, convincing your lender that this was the thing to do was a design or outlets or a combination of those things? What, what are the challenges when you started an endeavor like you undertook?
Todd Stanley 26:54
Well, there’s one every day. But the bigger issue was respecting the power of the water. You don’t leave anything open because of it fills up with water and floats your pipe up. There’s nothing you can do. And when you try to pump it down and de water it so that you can fix it, then it’s sloughs from everywhere. And you just got one big soup bowl. And so we had to learn. If you’re going to come back tomorrow and hook up to this pipe, some laterals into a main, you still cover it. And tomorrow, you dig it back up again, because if you leave it open, it’ll be a mess in the morning. Rocks were a bit of an issue. But they didn’t slow us down too much. At first, we tried to dig every one of them up as we were there. But then we learn to of course, the laser days were different than GPS now. But we learned when you hit a rock and it knocks the ball off grade you just put a flag in when it was on grade and when it is back on grade and then just go with the backhoe and dig it up in between and splice in a chunk of pipe. Then we had to learn that you have to do that right away because where you’re knocked off grade, that’s just like a damn and the pipe and water above it. And then that’s what I was talking about standing in that ice water trying to make a connection. Laser was at issue with the wind. You know, that we’d always struggle when the wind blew and we’d just fold the wings up on the chisel plow and park it up when from the laser trying to build a windbreak and you had to get it station so that the chisel plow wasn’t in the in the light. So I mean, that was some things you had to learn. And it wasn’t always smooth. But now a GPS that that all goes so much nicer that.
now there’s been incredible technology leaps and and great control.
Todd Stanley 28:52
Yeah. For me, the surveying part and stuff was always easy because we’ve done like I say, my grandpa did surface drainage, my dad did surface drainage that was part of my world. We talked about fall and slope and all that kind of stuff. I mean, that was part of the conversation all the time growing up. So I didn’t have any trouble understanding what you needed to do to make something drain. Lift stations, we did some really stupid things in the beginning, it’s a miracle no one got hurt. But we were learning. And now of course that saw goes a lot better too. But that was experience that we needed to put them in.
Now you go to school every day. And some days you you learn more than others and other days go better than others, but certainly it was a learning curve.
Todd Stanley 29:50
Let’s, let’s shift gears a little bit. But what what would you say are the significant benefits of managing water on your farm, Todd?
Todd Stanley 29:59
So I think it brings our average yield up. Another plus for us is we think we can farm with about half of the tillage and planting equipment that we could otherwise per acre. Because you get more working days. So it’s easier to stay on schedule. Some of the poorest land, what used to be the poorest and wasn’t poor because of the dirt it was poor because the water table was high and it you just couldn’t ever get it to dry out. And now once you get the tile in there, it’s some of the best land. So some of our poorest, what used to be our poorest is now some of our best producing land. It made the biggest difference on those fields.
Yeah, so that’s really part of where you’re saying it brings the average up. Is the average was really quite, you know, low on on those poor pieces of ground and that brings that up to as as good as the is the vast ground. Just knowing your area a little bit and knowing, like you say how wet it can get close to close to harvest and how that can really play a factor in non tile ground and it just being a struggle from, you know, late summer, when you start start harvesting the wheat until, until really tough freeze up.
Todd Stanley 31:25
2019 was a perfect example of everyone’s struggle to get their soybeans out. And all of our soybeans, every acre happened to be on tiled ground in 2019. And we had one of our best harvests we’ve ever had as far as, you know, acres per day with the combines. We didn’t tear the fields up so we we didn’t have to till them. That’s one more thing I forgot to mention about the the real benefits is we’ve we’ve reduced our fall tillage down to almost nothing now because of the tile because we know in the spring the fields won’t be sour.
And and when you had I guess I don’t know that much about this that’s why I asked this question. But you know, when you have untitled ground and and you don’t do any fall tillage, don’t you see that ground taking a lot a lot longer to be ready in the spring just because it’s it’s not black?
Todd Stanley 32:23
Well, that’s not an absolute but it sure can be. It doesn’t absorb the heat. The water doesn’t go out the bottom. What can happen is you can’t if it rains just a little bit and seals off, you can’t get in there till in July. If you haven’t worked at the fall before corn stocks and wheat stubble are the worst. Soybeans and canola you got a pretty good chance of getting in them. But corn stocks and wheat stubble that ground can seal until you just if you do work it it’s nothing but bricks of clay.
Yeah, yeah. It seems like an awful lot of guys are interested in tiling to reduce their risks. And you know, it’s the risk of too much water and not enough water. And those are the things they’re looking to eliminate. And the efficiencies that you get from having your ground tiled or the water table managed is really significant to your whole farming operation and the pace that you can do things and the schedule you’re on. It’s it’s really quite quite remarkable.
Todd Stanley 33:29
Well, and the other thing, it’s it’s more fun to farm when you’re not fighting the elements. That’s so that’s just removes that from the equation. That endless struggle of dragging that chain around and bending something breaking something
that’s interesting, you bring up bring you say that and then you brought up 2019 and how, you know, the entire year of 19 was such a struggle for so many farmers. You know, another unique thing is almost every year in the market network that that Prinsco serves, we have an area that’s dry, we have an area that’s wet, you know, that kind of thing. But the last two years have been 19 you know, just extremely wet everywhere from the the entire Midwest and, and 2020 being you know, out of the last 20 years probably one of the more enjoyable growing season for a farmer. Pretty easy to get the crap in the ground, great spring, and a great fall to get the crap out. And also having, you know, a really good growing season in between. So that’s the world we live in is that give it a couple of years and you’re going to see quite a difference in the weather patterns. And so it’s your I just wanted to highlight that around what you say there is it was really you could just see it in farmer’s faces when you would talk to him in 2019 the grind they were on was, was significant.
Who taught one of the things that was interesting when we first went up to the valley and started poking around and talking to people like yourself is, the general reaction from farmers was it’s cheaper to buy more land than it is to title my own land. And I can just farm more land and make more money that way. You have anything if you would comment about that.
Todd Stanley 35:26
We were so sold on it once we got started that we pretty much put two machinery purchases on hold and land buying on hold, and we just just concentrated on getting tile in the ground every year. And I had a lot of support. I don’t know if this is germane or not, but I’ll tell it in 2002, we had a poor year here. And I only had a little bit of tiled land, I actually had 50 bushel wheat on what was tiled. But with the disaster payments and everything, I did poorer on the land that I got 50 bushel wheat on than where I had eight bushel wheat. The next summer, dad asked me what I was going to tile and I said I don’t think I’m going to tile anything this year. I didn’t have a very good year last year, I got to play a little closer to the vest. And he didn’t say anything. But the next day when we were having coffee, he said if I borrow some money and pay for some tile, will you increase my rent like you do with Hoffman’s because I had another landlord that paid for his own pipe and then I increase the rent. I said, sure that’s a win win for me. I don’t have to borrow the money. And I get to farm the tile ground. So he, pipe was cheap then it was only about 100 bucks an acre for pipe. You know, so he he went and borrowed $100,000 that fall and we tiled actually we tiled more than that we titled 1300 acres that fall for him on his land. And so he that gave us a big boost. That was that was 2003 that was one of the years that then we started to get towards 50% tiled so we could change our farming operation to suit the tile.
Well, I can’t I can’t help but tell you, Todd. Tile is still cheap. Still a good investment.
Todd Stanley 37:26
I would agree with you 100%. But it depends on your horizon. So the I always tell the older guys that, you know there’s a place for you, you might not farm long enough to get your money back. But you the young guys need your equity to get it in there. So that the land because the land needs to be tiled in this area. There’s just no getting around it.
Right. Yeah, absolutely.
Todd, how, how is how is the lending community reacted to tile in that in your country? Are they supportive of a guy coming in and going to buy another quarter and saying, you know, down in a lot of areas that we work in southern nest in the Midwest, the banker will say, well, you can buy that quarter as long as you have enough money to tile it. Because you’ll know it’ll support it. What do you hear from lenders up that way?
Todd Stanley 38:18
And so I can’t specifically address that question, Kent. I never took a mortgage for tile. I always did it out of my working capital and just kept absorbing it. And so I I can’t address that other than anecdotally. I have borrowed plenty of money against my land. And when it gets appraise it always gets appraised higher with tile and without.
What What would you say has the what impact has water table management held on land value in the Red River Valley, Todd?
Todd Stanley 39:00
Well, there isn’t much tiles land that sells.
That’s pretty telling. People want to keep that so they know what’s happening. For sure. If you were talking to someone getting started that was contemplating tile, or buying more land or investing in better equipment, how how would you rank tiling as a management tool in your in your operation?
Todd Stanley 39:26
Well for me that the land and the tile are hand in hand. I mean I any land that I would buy, I would instantly tile it if I couldn’t I wouldn’t buy it. Rented land is a little more difficult. If the landowner doesn’t want to come up with the money, and like now the land that I rent, it isn’t tiled. They would let me tile it, but I got to farm it long enough to get my money back out. Otherwise, I got nothing to sell. And I don’t mean my age is against me there so I’m not going to farm that. So we don’t do it. But it should be done.
Do you, up in the area where you live in in the valley, Todd, do you hear much criticism of tile systems from the general public? People that well, why do you think it still remains so controversial?
Todd Stanley 40:27
Well, there’s some. I actually have some neighbors that are very critical of it. And nitrates is one part of the equation. Jealousy might be another part. You know, there’s the age old thing about flooding. Putting more water in when you’re flooding, we still got, well, actually our local watershed, the administrator would just love to force us to not pump if there’s downstream flooding anywhere. And to me, we’re pumping the water we’re pumping is is a small portion of what would have run down that ditch if that if this tile system wasn’t in there.
Yeah, that’s, that’s interesting. You say that, and we’ll be doing, you know, sometime in 2021 we’ll do a podcast on that. You know, it’s it’s really hard for the for the general public to understand that a subsurface drainage system actually reduces the flow of the water to the to the river stream where the flooding is happening comparatively to if that ground is already fully saturated and then it’s running across the surface. So you know, that’s probably not for us to get into and totally explain how that works today. But as you mentioned, that I just thought it was worth worth noting that that is that is that is one that that we can get into from an education standpoint on why actual tile ground with a pump does not create more flooding.
Todd Stanley 42:03
I mean, but that for perception becomes reality when someone’s when someone’s got water issues, why they they see that pump running they think that’s the cause of it, you know?
Todd Stanley 42:17
The other issue here is frozen culverts, you know. Everybody’s always worried about the culverts freezing up if the pump is running in the winter. But I can honestly say I have never seen it happen, not even once. I’ve seen culverts frozen, but it’s because it rained in January or February and filled the ditch up and it froze the culvert solid. But it’s not because of the pump.
Well this is a really great stuff, Todd, to talk through. And sure appreciate you sitting down with us. Now at the present state of your operation. You You said you farmed with a pull behind plow for 11 years.
Todd Stanley 43:00
We use the pull behind plow for 13 seasons.
Todd Stanley 43:05
and then we bought a self propelled wolf 540 in 2012.
That was quite a step up.
Todd Stanley 43:15
It was, however, took us a long time until we could get more pipe in the ground per day with that than we could with the pull type. There’s just some nuances to the plow that we needed to learn. And but now, now it works really well.
So you’ve now just this last year you sold your operation to your son Bill, is that correct?
Todd Stanley 43:42
Yeah, last December.
So hopefully he’ll continue on with the passion and the interest that you have.
Todd Stanley 43:51
Yeah, I sure hope so. I mean, it’s a win for me. The equipment still in the area for maintenance and if I do want something tiled I can hire him. And I get to help a little bit. This fall, I helped him on a couple jobs. So I even got to have more fun. That was about 50 miles away and I’d fly up my plane up there and land on the township road and run the backhoe or the dozer and then fly home again and evening.
Well, as we kind of wrap this up, Todd, sure would like to give you a chance to add anything you would like to add. One thing one thing I wanted to ask you a little bit more about is ever since I’ve known you, like I said, I enjoyed coming up to visit you because I always learned something. If you listen enough to people who have great life experience and are passionate about what they do, you certainly hear some some great stuff. But one thing I’ve admired about you is you’ve been a lifelong learner and you’ve never sat still and just wanted to do things with the status quo. How did you how did you, how did you make yourself do that? Or what, what habits did you develop that that really paid great dividends for you?
Todd Stanley 45:13
So by nature, I don’t look back. Though very little. I just am always about what’s what and not not in a bad way, I’m not worried about what could happen to me or what could go wrong, but I’m always looking forward. How can I make this better? There’s got to be a better way. I just, I never look back at what happened. If you asked me. I mean, I have dates in my mind, I could tell you when things went bad, but I don’t do post mortems on all of our operations and try to figure out where we went wrong, or where we could have made more money or anything else, I just always about the future. And so that and, and I guess you’d call it my heritage of this third generation on some of its instinctive and some of its passion. But when I, when I look at a piece of land, I could lay out a blueprint for what you need to do to turn into good farmland in just an hour. You know, if it’s, if I think it can be done. Obviously, there’s some land that I don’t think should be farmed, it isn’t just isn’t ever going to be economical, I don’t think.
Sure. And, you know, that’s, that’s what I what I get passionate and excited about also as when you when you just look at something and think of there’s opportunities for all land, right, there’s opportunities for recreating there’s opportunities for farming. And if we can take land that should be farmed, and or that is most of the land today is farm but just make it better, and then take the land that shouldn’t be in and buffer that and make it into a good recreating piece. It’s it’s exciting to me about taking, taking that land and just just improving it. Because like you had said, you know, he already said in this podcast, but using less equipment, you know, using you can get far more out of less land using less equipment using a start adding all that up. And the environmental impacts are really positive to that come out of improving land and making it better. It’s just less work less energy put onto it.
Todd Stanley 47:31
That’s my argument about the environmental impacts of of improving the production on the farm is there’s nothing more wasteful than to dump fertilizer, chemical, burn diesel fuel, and produce a poor crop or no crop. That is the biggest waste there is. When you put those inputs in it, if you get a good crop you’ve got returns for the any environmental impact you had. At least you’re getting something back.
Yep, for sure. For sure. So I think we want to we want to end this with with kind of, what would we call it the water table takeaway, Todd. And what would you like to leave people with? What’s your, kind of, a final word here?
Todd Stanley 48:22
Well, a couple little pearls of wisdom, I guess. One of them is in all of my travels, and I’ve heard this from other people so it isn’t just me, but all the travels all the people I’ve talked to I’ve never run into anyone who said they wish they hadn’t tiled. Everyone who started was glad they did. And the other thing I would say is if you’re questioning the economics, or the productivity or the fit for your farm, just take one piece and try it. See what it does for you.
All right, well, there you have it. Right from the mouth of Todd Stanley. He’s never heard anyone that has tiled say they wish they hadn’t done it and also encouraging just try it. And we’re all here to help including, you know, Todd talked about people in this industry that have been kind enough to to help him and answer his questions and I can guarantee you that if you wanted to talk to Todd, if you’re if you’re questioning whether you should hire a contractor or whatever it might be, he would be more than happy to to share more on a personal level his experiences with that. So we’re gonna leave you with that. Before we go. I just want to Kent and I would just like to personally thank you again, Todd, for your business over the last 20 years and more than that for your friendship. It’s meant a lot to us and it’s been it’s been a really enjoyable hour reconnecting here and and talking about some old stories. And, and hopefully educating educating those listeners on what we do. So thank you very much.
Todd Stanley 50:07
Thank you guys. We’ve always had a great relationship with Prinsco. I gotta say, I’ve never bought a roll of tile from another vendor, ever. So every role, not every role I put in for other people that came from other vendors, but here, every role that I put in in this farm has been Prinsco pipe.
And we appreciate it. And when I drive to Canada, fishing and drive through that country, I can I can just see that see the beauty of the land and know that that there’s a lot of our product under there. So thank you very much.
Todd Stanley 50:43
Have a great day. If you enjoy what you’re listening to, you can find us on your favorite podcast platform. You can find us on Twitter or Facebook. And you can also find us at watertablepodcast.com. Thanks for listening.