Stephanie Borgen and her husband, Tom, joined forces with national crop residue harvest and supply company, Pacific Ag, nearly a year ago. They are not new to the straw business—Tom and Stephanie have their own small company, Red River Straw based in Georgetown, Minnesota, that produces straw-filled wattles (tube-like devices used to minimize erosion on construction sites). They’ve been doing it for more than 13 years, shipping wattles around the region and cultivating a good understanding of the straw market.
The couple joined Pacific Ag last spring so they could continue doing what they love, but on a larger scale.
“Plus, we really like the leadership at Pacific Ag,” Stephanie said. “They’re good, smart people and we’re inspired by what they’re doing. You always want to work with people who inspire and challenge you,” she added.
Since joining Pacific Ag in 2016, Stephanie’s role has morphed from managing the office to managing the entire sales effort for the Upper Midwest region.
“Tom is the general manager and still does some selling, but he manages all of the operations and doesn’t necessarily have time to reach out for new opportunities,” Stephanie said. “I enjoy that—meeting new customers and spending time in the dairy field is fun for me,” she added.
“What’s different about Pacific Ag is that there’s real value added in what we do,” Stephanie said. “We have relationships with every grower whose residue we harvest, and every bale of wheat straw is traceable. We know when it was harvested, what farm and field it came from, its length and moisture content, and even what combine was used to cut it. Most of our competitors are brokers who have little to no knowledge or control over the product and its origins,” she explained.
“We’re able to pair the right straw to the right dairy farmer, who has very specific requirements for the straw that’s used in their feed rations,” Stephanie said. “We work with each dairy farmer to develop a supply program that works for them, whether it’s two loads per year or five loads per week.”
Availability is another Pacific Ag advantage.
“We’re one of the few companies in Minnesota and North Dakota that still has a good supply of feed-grade wheat straw left for this year,” Stephanie said. “Smaller sellers have already run out, or have only rough material left,” she said. “We still have ample supply, due to the extensive grower network Pacific Ag has cultivated.”
In the past, local dairy farmers could source additional wheat straw supplies from Canada when local producers ran out, but the Canadian harvest was abnormally small this year due to record rainfall, leaving few other options.
Short supplies inflate pricing, while Pacific Ag’s model provides consistency for farmers.
“We’re already seeing wheat straw prices climb on the open market and the auction circuit,” Stephanie said. “Yet, Pacific Ag remains competitive due to our larger volume and fixed costs,” she explained. “And our dairy farmers can lock in prices for up to three years, insulating them from the price hikes we’re seeing right now.”
Tom and Stephanie live and work on the land (and in the house) Tom’s grandfather once owned. Tom has been farming since he was a sophomore in high school, while Stephanie was a practicing attorney prior to joining the farm operation full-time. The couple has three children and resides in Georgetown, though work takes them all over the Upper Midwest.