BALLANTINE, Mont. – Marcus Vogel is a fourth generation Montana farmer, joining his father, uncles and brothers on their family land just east of Billings. In 2011, he began North 40 Ag while selling corn seed on the side. Come 2013, he married his wife, Kate, who just so happened to be an agronomist, and together the young couple combined their talents and love of cover crops to expand North 40 Ag’s services in 2014.
A mere six years later and North 40 Ag is arguably Montana’s premier cover crop dealer. The Vogels are first and foremost farmers themselves, so they took their real-life experiences out on the farm and applied them to their business. North 40 Ag is truly a seed company for farmers, by farmers.
“We know how farmers are, if they try it once and it’s a failure, they’re less likely to try it again. We had seen the benefits and understood why people were planting cover crops and we want to make sure growers are being successful,” Kate Vogel explained.
Since the start of North 40 Ag, the idea of using cover crops has become more mainstream. Regenerative agriculture is gaining momentum and North 40 Ag is right there to help producers achieve their production goals.
“Everything that we do is custom-blended. We talk one-on-one with the producers to get a feel of who they are and how things work on their operation. From there we make recommendations on what to put in the mix,” she said.
In addition to cover crop mixes, North 40 Ag still sells Pioneer corn seed, along with custom grass seed mixes and other crop seeds. Another service the company offers is soil sampling.
The Vogels really take a holistic approach to managing their business. They believe in land stewardship by providing both their customers and employees with a purpose and sense of community. That being said, education is a huge component of North 40 Ag. They don’t just sell the seed to growers, but instead they take it one step further, providing field days filled with educational opportunities for all their customers.
In addition to the Vogels, North 40 Ag has three full-time employees. During the busy season, seasonal workers and an intern or two often join the team. North 40 Ag blends custom cover crop mixes from a sampling of over 50 different seed varieties. A partnership with Green Cover Seed out of Nebraska allows North 40 Ag the flexibility of not necessarily having to store all those seeds at their warehouse. This is especially handy since some custom mixes call for seeds from crops not readily grown in Montana.
“During the busy season, we order about two truck loads a week and are able to turn all of that seed over,” Vogel stated.
Recently, North 40 Ag has started to contract seed from local producers, allowing the company to continue with their holistic goals. This is a facet of the company the Vogels hope to build upon in the coming years.
There is a seasonality to all aspects of Montana agriculture, seed sales included. The busy season for North 40 Ag really kicks off after the MATE Show in Billings. The company ends up moving a lot of seed from the end of February through about mid-June. The rest of summer is steady, followed by a big rush again in August as growers gear up for fall planting. The winter months keep North 40 Ag busy with tradeshows and conversations with customers throughout the state.
There isn’t a lot of down time, but the Vogels wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s not easy building an agribusiness from the ground up. North 40 Ag started small, but through hard work, determination and an unyielding dedication to customer service, the company has been able to get where it is today.