Podcast Episode 33

Fall Tiling Check-in: Indiana

With Guest:
  • Bob Clark II of Clark Farm Drainage

Jamie and Bob Clark II discuss how Clark Farm Drainage has combated the challenges the industry has seen in 2021 and how it’s affected their season. In Indiana, these challenges have included unpredictable weather, supply chain challenges, and inflation. Also in this episode, Bob Clark II shares what’s ahead in 2022 for the markets they serve. 

Episode 33 | 10:45 min
I think the demand for water table management practices will continue to be strong into 2022. Through sharing our stories, I think we'll see producers be more and more interested.

Guest Bio

Bob Clark is born and raised in Indiana and the oldest of five children. Clark’s father started Clark Farm Drainage in 1979. Bob Clark met and married his wife while he was serving in the army in South Carolina. After he graduated, Clark consulted his father on Clark Farm Drainage and how the business was going. From that conversation, Clark decided the best move was to return to the family business and work to grow.

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

Kent R. (00:17):
I would encourage people to open their minds and listen to this dialogue.

Jamie Duininck (00:36):
Welcome to the water table podcast today, and this week I’ve been interviewing a series of guests. Farm drainage contractors, water management contractors around the Midwest to see how 2021 is shaping up and just visit a little bit. And right now I have Bob Clark Sr. On the phone from Clark Farm Drainage in Indiana. How are you doing today, Bob?

Bob Clark II. (00:59):
I’m doing well Jamie, how are you?

Jamie Duininck (01:01):
I’m well, I know we visited earlier this year and sounded like you guys were into a really nice year and progressing through it. And now we’re just a few weeks away from the end of the year here in Thanksgiving week. And how has your fall been for farm drainage and water management?

Bob Clark II (01:25):
Great question, Jamie. And thanks again for, including the call. It’s been a really wet fall down here. So typically our growers are finished well before now, and we still got a lot of growers out there trying to get the last 500,000 acres of corn off the farm. And so it’s been real wet, but we’re delivering projects and… But it has been a little bit of a slow start for us down here in Indiana.

Jamie Duininck (01:57):
Sure. Sure. And, coming off of a really good spring and whatever summer work you had just weather-wise and then it turned wet, right?

Bob Clark II (02:08):
Yeah, it did. It you know, it kind of seems to be any more cyclical, you get a dry run and then just as sure as you can, sooner later it’s going to turn into a wet spell, and we just end up with a wet spell here, come in October. And it would just, it rained quite a bit like maybe the wet is October on record in Indiana.

Jamie Duininck (02:31):
Really, really. And where is that? You know, I know it’s pretty wet in Illinois, too, but kind of where does that line start and stop of moisture this fall? That’s been pretty consistent.

Bob Clark II (02:47):
Yeah, that’s a good question. I don’t know I can tell you the exact answer, but there’s just been a lot of these fronts come through in Illinois and Indiana [inaudible 00:02:56]. The way they kind of angle up it’s a slow pass through, you just get a lot of, you can get a lot of precipitation because it takes a long time for that frontal system to transition through your area.

Jamie Duininck (03:08):
Sure, sure. Well I know our whole industry has, and really all agriculture, and if you’re a human being, you’ve seen a lot of changes this year with supply chain and with cost inflation. And I know you guys have been challenged by that too. So having a little bit of a break in weather from that standpoint probably is actually a good thing to make sure you’re staying in product and being able to get what you need to finish projects and to keep landowners and project-owners happy.

Bob Clark II (03:48):
Yeah. That is… Your spot on. Obviously there’s been a migration in the price of the material that we use to the high side, throughout the 2021. And we’ve, fortunately, we’ve not had a lot of resistance. There’s been enough demand to kind of temper that increase in price to where we can feel like we’re still delivering projects. And we just can only hope that that stays like that, but and then we’ve been getting the product fairly timely. It’s a little longer lead times and what not, but we’re getting pretty much everything we need when we need it. So I’m felt very fortunate that we’ve got a strong demand with these kind of a higher input costs.

Jamie Duininck (04:41):
Sure, sure. Good, and so 2021, if you look back over your year and think about that, maybe something you’ve done this year or are currently working on, either on a project or working on quoting a project, what’s something unique or cool type of project that Clark Farm Drainage is working on right now?

Bob Clark II (05:08):
Well we work closely with LICA, the Land Improvement Contractors of America, and I’m a TSP for drainage water management, and we’ve got some new product that’s online with these, that Agri Drains released that have these automated control structures. I’ve got some longtime customers that are really interested. We’ve a couple in, we’ve got a big interest in maybe collaborating and doing something like the Polk County project where we’re… And we’re, we keep our fingers crossed and we’ll see where that goes here in the next, in 2022. But that, you know one other thing we did, besides this new way to manage your water for improved production and improved water quality, we also put some of the technology we’ve had, historical on the plows and trenches, we put them on the dozers. Now we can, with that same high degree accuracy, cut waterways, dig ponds, do all these three dimensional shapes with this RTK GPS. So it’s, we’re excited to be able to get those things on the ground and start moving dirt. Depending on whatever application we find for it.

Jamie Duininck (06:23):
Yeah, that’s great. That’s really exciting. And would like to touch base with you maybe next summer or after you’ve done a few of these and get some feedback on what you think, how it’s going and what the future is for new products like that. And just the efficiency of the automation. So, excited to hear more.

Bob Clark II (06:45):
Yes, I look forward to it. Let’s just pencil it in.

Jamie Duininck (06:49):
Good, good. So one last question Bob, what… As you’re thinking we’re all starting to think about 2022 here, and what’s an outlook for you guys in Indiana and the markets you serve. How you thinking the business is going to be in 2022?

Bob Clark II (07:08):
I think that the demand for the water table management practices that we… In systems that we install, I think will continue to be strong. And I think that as you continue through your podcast, and this water table podcast that you do with can’t… When we share our story, I think we’re going to continue to see growers begin to be more and more interested because obviously they want to be good producers and good stewards, and some of the things that they’re coming out with, these new systems are going to water table management and fit perfect for that. And I think that I’m real optimistic that we’re going to continue to see, our more progressive customers move towards this newer technology and the ability to manage their water resource more carefully.

Jamie Duininck (08:13):
Yep. Yep, I agree. And I think as we see, it certainly isn’t the same in all the Midwest, as you’re seeing in Indiana right now with the wet cycle, but we are seeing the cycles throughout the entire Midwest and highly productive ground area of the United States is… Same in the Dakotas, and Minnesota, and Iowa. Just happens to be a little drier there right now, but we go through these cycles that seem to be a new phenomenon compared to 20, 30 years ago, where it was more consistent. And so when you get these longer wet periods it maybe ends up being the same amount of rain over a couple a year period of time. But when you get them and it continues, you have to manage that water. And I just think with all of the new technology and people like you out there that are really on the cutting edge of what is possible and making sure that the people you touch with, your growers, know what is possible, that the future’s pretty bright. So excited about that.

Bob Clark II (09:26):
Yes, that’s it. I do think we have a bright future, I do think technology is our friend, and we have to continue to embrace it and find a way to make it fit for whatever, because there’s water table management, there’s surface drainage, there’s a lot of things where we can do to help these growers continue to feed the world.

Jamie Duininck (09:47):
Yep, for sure, for sure. Well Bob, I really appreciate your time today on the water table. Like I said, here at the beginning it’s Thanksgiving week and just want to wish you, your crew, the entire Clark family a happy Thanksgiving and make sure you stay safe and finish strong in this calendar year.

Bob Clark II (10:06):
Well, thank you very much Jamie. And we’ll do our best to finish strong and we want to wish you, and your family, and Kent, and all the people that do in the water table podcast, a happy Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas too. So I appreciate your efforts.

Jamie Duininck (10:21):
Thank you, Bob. Have a great day.

Bob Clark II (10:24):
Thanks, you too. Bye.

Jamie Duininck (10:29):
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 @watertablepodcast.com. Thanks for listening.