FARM 21: New Brussels Agromart owners aim to continue great service
BY DENNY SCOTT
Late last year, Doug Koch and his business partner Steph Berlett took over Brussels Agromart – and both hope to continue and build on the company’s track record for great service.
Koch and Berlett took over from Merle and Rhonda Hoegy who, after over 30 years, left the company to spend more time with their grandchildren, Berlett said.
Brussels Agromart is a “full-service provider of bulk and packaged fertilizer, crop protection products and… agronomic services to growers,” Koch said, and he is excited to keep that tradition alive. The company also offers small-line products for people in the Brussels area like softener salt, wood shavings and ice salt as a way of “filling some voids” in the village and bringing more traffic from the local community, he said.
Koch started with the company in 1994, working on both the service and sales sides of the business and made a small share purchase in 2016, progressing to when he and Berlett took over late last year.
Berlett worked for Sollio Agriculture, a retail partner of Brussels Agromart, and said she made the move to get back at the grassroots of an agriculture operation.
“We both share a passion for delivering quality to customers,” Berlett said. “I wanted to get back to the ground, working with the growers to build their yields and their operations.”
She said that was a big part of the move for her.
The two don’t plan on making any major changes to the company, saying that it already offers great service and they want to maintain that. Some minor internal changes have taken place, and the company has purchased new additions to its delivery fleet, Berlett said, which will allow for scaling up the operations of the company.
“We always want to grow the business,” Koch said. “There’s growth opportunities in the industry. There are changes coming with updating equipment, and changes in the electronic side of the business.”
Berlett agreed, saying there are fewer farms than in the past, but those that remain represent larger investments and larger crop areas, requiring the company to scale up to provide services to those kinds of farms.
The sale of the company was set to take place earlier last year, however, COVID-19 presented some challenges, Koch said. Meetings couldn’t be held, and paperwork and finances took on an added level of complexity.
“We could have done it in half a day before COVID-19,” he said.
Those challenges have been mirrored by those faced by the company, Berlett said, saying that part of what drew her to the position and what makes Brussels Agromart successful are the face-to-face meetings and knowing the customers. That’s increasingly difficult during the pandemic, she said.
The company also usually holds grower meetings throughout the year, which haven’t gone ahead due to the pandemic.
“It didn’t feel great not being able to host that, but the customers are fantastic,” she said. “It’s been great to work with everyone.”
Koch said the company is going to continue to be involved in public events and encourages people to look to the agriculture industry for opportunities, including chances for employment. While COVID-19 has had an impact across the board for industries, agriculture is one of the sectors impacted the least, so the business hasn’t been as impacted as other industries.
For more information, visit www.brusselsagromart.com.