Podcast Episode 30

Fall Tiling Check-in: South Dakota

With Guest:
  • Bryce Gillen of Gridline Field Tile

Jamie makes calls to drainage contractors to hear how the 2021 fall tiling season is going in their areas. Bryce Gillen of Gridline Field Tile joins Jamie on part 1 of this 4 part series. Gridline Field tile is located in Mitchell, SD., and services primarily Eastern South Dakota. Bryce gives his perspective on how the season has shaped up in his area.

Episode 30 | 12:05 min
It's not really a one-size-fits-all. There are some people who did very well and others who got the short end of the stick this year.
— Bryce Gillen

Guest Bio

Bryce Gillen owns and operates Gridline Field Tile, located in Mitchell, South Dakota. Gridline Field Tile is a full-service tiling company providing professional field tile design, installation, and servicing. Gridline has proven to be South Dakota’s leader in drain tile by understanding the diverse soil types and how they can improve by correctly managing the water table.

Jamie Duininck (00:02):
This is the water table.

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

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

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

Jamie Duininck (00:19):
How misunderstood what we do is.

Kent R. (00:26):
I would encourage people to open their minds and listen to this dialogue.

Jamie Duininck (00:37):
Well welcome to the water table podcast today I wanted to make a few phone calls and see what’s going on around the Midwest, when it comes to agricultural drainage this fall and talk to a few contractors. See how their fall is going and if they have any insights into what they think next spring is going to be like. Right now I have Bryce Gillen with Gridline Tile on the phone from Mitchell, South Dakota. Bryce, welcome to the water table.

Bryce Gillen (01:05):
Yeah, thanks for having me. South Dakota’s a bit of a mixed bag this year, you know, we’ve had some customer’s that had an okay crop. Some had an absolute disaster with the drought and some, I don’t know, we had some customer’s that sold a lot of their grain this spring at the top and some that didn’t have any left and it’s kind of all over the board. So it’s not really a one size fit all, there’s some people who’ve done very, very well and there’s some people that really got the short end of the stick this year. It’s just a little bit of everything out here this year.

Jamie Duininck (01:39):
Sure, sure and with that kind of diversity in the people and the farmer’s business of have you been able to stay busy and keep your crews running?

Bryce Gillen (01:51):
We have, we’ve been able to keep a pretty full book. I mean, it’s the importance of getting out and communicating with the customer base and always expanding that base, I guess, as far as just making sure that you’re always seeking out people that want to do something that year and getting things done before the season starts, instead of at the last minute. But, there’s work out there, but you definitely got to go out and find it. It doesn’t just come walking up to your door step. But, that’s for sure.

Jamie Duininck (02:24):
Sure, sure and Bryce you’re headquartered, like I said, out of Mitchell. What primary geographical area would you say you work 80% of the time?

Bryce Gillen (02:37):
I would say the bulk of our territory is probably just the southeast quadrant of South Dakota, so if you just, east of the Missouri river and the south half. So anyway, the southeast quadrant of South Dakota would sum it up probably the best.

Jamie Duininck (02:53):
Okay, okay and working in, for listeners in other areas, working in those areas, what’s kind of typical project for Gridline Tile?

Bryce Gillen (03:05):
You know, out in this territory the landscape changes so much, there’s not really a typical one. It’s just every, it can be really small to a handful of runs, to a full pattern tile and everywhere in between. The terrain changes from our one side of our territory to the other. It changes so drastically and the soil types can go from some of the best of the best, down to the worst of the worst and so there’s not really a typical thing. It’s just identifying what that customer’s wants and needs and to accomplish their goals with the soil types and the rain fall and farming practices they have, I guess. So, it’s really a little bit of everything.

Jamie Duininck (03:52):
Yeah and then, you know, it’s interesting you say that, because when you get into the Dakotas it is a pretty diverse landscape from far eastern South Dakota to even central, not even going west very far, for sure. I think as you get closer to the river, but that holds true for rain fall too and so, I’m sure that effects your projects some too, as you get further west. You know, in an average year has less rain fall, right?

Bryce Gillen (04:22):
It does, it definitely does and I mean, I think the tile wave is still moving west and we do do a little bit of work west of the river. The way the glaciers left things, the dirt and the soil types on the other side of the river are drastically different than what you would find anywhere else. It’s just, yeah, kind of identifying what mother nature left out there and trying to make those acres productive.

Jamie Duininck (04:48):
Yeah, yeah, good. So, any highlights from 2021 that you can sure, that maybe any unique or cool projects that you’re working on? Or completed this year? Anything out of the ordinary?

Bryce Gillen (05:05):
Nothing out of the ordinary, I think we’re all just feeling pretty blessed that mother nature’s been rather kind to us this year and most of last year. It feels like in 18 and 19, it just, I don’t know, it just dealt us the not so favorable working conditions in 18 and 19, which everyone got dealt that. It’s just been nice to have, we had a pretty good run as far as the weather goes. I guess that’s probably the highlight of it, it’s just easier to keep morale up on the crew, which is always important, but just seeing everyone’s attitude in general, I guess including my own. It’s just a lot easier to stay positive when the weather isn’t just a knuckle thing, which is one right after the other it seemed like there for a couple years straight.

Jamie Duininck (05:59):
Yeah and you know, the working conditions have been fantastic in so many areas and some places now, as of the last 60 days, have really gotten pretty wet. But, visiting with you earlier, you guys were so dry that, you know, that rain that’s coming to South Dakota and it’s for sure in your parts of South Dakota. The soil and soil profile have really taken that water well and the conditions are still, from our earlier conversation, still quite good where you’re at, correct?

Bryce Gillen (06:32):
Yeah, I would say, at least in our territory, that kind of sums it up pretty well. We’ve definitely gotten a decent amount of rain, but the profile was all the way down to zero and so there’s just been a place for it to go, which also speaks to, there’s a lot of producers that their crop was a bit of a dud, because there was, it was just a drought. So there just wasn’t enough rainfall, we were really close to, the beans were hanging on and hanging on for everybody, but it wouldn’t have taken a whole lot of rain to make a decent bean crop this year. But, it just didn’t, the rain didn’t start coming until about the third week of September, middle of September, and it was just too little too late. But, that’s just how it goes.

Jamie Duininck (07:18):
Yeah and that line was pretty stark where, I’ve been out in those areas in South Dakota and western Minnesota, from where it wasn’t very good to where it became really a great soybean crop was really within a 5 mile stretch and then it was really good for a while again. And it was right where the caught those rains, so tell me a little about if there’s anything on the horizon in South Dakota or if it’s business as usual right now. But, when it comes to kind of the regulatory situations, so many people in our industry, if you live in Illinois or Iowa, or even southeast Minnesota, don’t realize the challenges that are in place in the Dakotas, in both South Dakota and North Dakota. You know, we don’t have to get into what those are, but anything happening there right now that’s making it easier or more difficult?

Bryce Gillen (08:17):
Oh, I guess, it’s a few things. It seems what a lot of the, when it comes to the NRCS, it’s people through the rest of the Midwest probably don’t quite realize the hurdles and hoops that we have to jump through to get those approvals, because at the NRCS level tile is definitely a four letter word. And there’s a lot of people at the state level that really do not want to see it, they’d rather just see the entire plains just left the way it was when the buffalo roamed. And it’s hard, it’s hard to deal with that and you get a few people within the NRCS agent that still are level headed, but it still seems that you’re still fighting an uphill battle and getting them to realize that tile is the benefit, it’s actually, you’re benefiting the soil and the soil health. But, it’s not how they see it and it’d be nice, there’s other states that are allowed to mitigate some wetlands and that’s where we’re hoping that someday that they will come around, our mitigation bank out here it’s there, but it doesn’t, it’s not really easy to use in North, you’re waiting for credits to buy. It’s not a user friendly situation, so I guess for the most part things haven’t gotten overly worse yet, but I guess what we’re starting to worry about is the waters of the US and that’s starting to come back and what all implications those will mean for us.

Bryce Gillen (09:56):
So, we’re just trying to brace for impact at this point on that front.

Jamie Duininck (10:01):
Yeah, yeah and those things are coming back and it’s part of why, here at the water table, why we wanted to do a podcast a couple times a month just to educate people on things like that and then also out in the Dakotas, in both South Dakota and North Dakota, part of what you’re talking about is some of it is people just don’t know, some of the regulatory people and then the legislature. It’s drainage and agricultural drainage is still a fairly new thing and they’ve been told something, but they don’t understand it and they have probably been told something that’s not accurate too. So, as part of our job, we feel is to continue to educate and give people a place and resource to go. Thanks for your time today Bryce and wishing you guys at Gridline a Happy Thanksgiving and a safe end to your, to a good year and stay safe and finish strong.

Bryce Gillen (11:03):
Yeah, well we appreciate it. It’s been a, Prinsco treat us pretty well and we’ve been able to keep all the pipes in front of the plows all fall and overall we’ve just, it’s been a good run this fall and looking forward to see what next year brings and happy to have Prinsco a part of our team, that’s for sure.

Jamie Duininck (11:30):
Yeah, well thanks for those kind words Bryce and again have a great Thanksgiving.

Bryce Gillen (11:36):
Yeah, you as well and I’m sure we’ll meet up some time this winter and we’ll visit some more then.

Jamie Duininck (11:41):
Yup, thank you Bryce.

Bryce Gillen (11:43):
All right, we’ll see ya. Bye.

Jamie Duininck (11:44):
Yup, bye bye.

Jamie Duininck (11:48):
If you enjoy what you’re listening to, you can find us on your very podcast platform, you can find us on twitter or Facebook, you can also find us at watertablepodcast.com. Thanks for listening.