Wells Builds Independent Ag Supply
Sees future in biologicals
Grant Wells’ father Tom had a mid-sized family farming operation with 2,500 acres and 3,000 head of hogs; it has been in the family since 1940. Tom fixed his own tires and changed his own oil.
“I grew up with a do-it-yourself father which became a mentality,” said Wells. “When I was in high school, I needed a vehicle to get into town for school and home from football. Dad helped me with my down payment, but I had to make the loan payments. To earn money, he employed me at the best-paying job on the farm — power washing hog barns.
“On Saturday mornings, I would get up at 5 a.m. to start, and I needed a system to get them all done by Sunday night. Cleaning hog barns can be depressing, so I had to break the work down into chunks. I could clean four pens in an hour, and I used a stopwatch to make sure I was doing the job efficiently. At the end of the floor, I felt good. There was always 16 hours of work, and I could tell you when I’d be done. I could look behind me and know they were done well.”
After graduating from Newell-Fonda High School in 2004, Wells attended Southwest Minnesota State University with the idea of following in his father’s farming footsteps.
“I would always pay attention when Dad would talk about taxes, write-offs, and money matters,” said Wells. “I took ag business with a minor in marketing, so I got into a sales course. Dad wasn’t big on handing out money, so I needed to get a job that would allow me to work around my classes and football schedule.”
That’s when Wells began selling, of all things, cutlery. “I was approached by a person to do cutlery sales on commission,” said Wells. “I brushed up on tactics I used in marketing classes, and getting sales brought a fire out in me. I was No. 1 in sales for over two years in 17 states. I made enough in a year and a half to pay off my school debt.”
With a new goal in mind, Wells called his father Tom.
“I told Dad that I had a passion for sales and asked what I could do with sales that’s on the farm,” said Wells. “He suggested a seed dealership. I took an internship with a co-op. It was apparent that the farmers in this area needed an independent retailer who could give them options. Dad thought that I had a good focus for life after school.”
Tom Wells passed away due to an accident on the farm in 2007, but he would continue to inspire his son to action regardless.
“I overheard some men in the community say how tragic this was,” said Wells, “and how I could never fill his shoes. They said it so much as a matter of fact rather than opinion.”
“My tears dried up right then and there. I was going to show anyone that I can fill those shoes, stick my toes out, and put on a bigger size.”
In 2009, Grant Wells founded Wells Ag Supply.
“I started off doing ag retail, anything a co-op would do,” said Wells. “I hit it big in chemical herbicides and fertilizer. We are an unbiased retailer; we only want to sell what works for the customer. In December, we make sure we have everything here, and we do our best to deliver everything at once. We take returns as long as seals are intact. We package bulks to whatever amount the customer wants; we provide pumps and meters with bulk orders. Our best price is always the first price. All these things have built trust with our customers.”
Wells Ag Supply also performs custom applications hiring farmers with their own equipment to do the work.
“We have farmers spraying for other farmers,” said Wells. “A lot of farmers have their cash tied up in land or inputs. It’s rewarding for those farmers we hire to do our custom applications.”
In 2014, Wells found a family-owned company called Biodyne which produces biologicals.
“We have partnered with Biodyne,” he said. “Our No. 1 goal for Biodyne and Wells — BW Fusion — is to reduce the need for traditional fertilizers by offering a product that capitalizes on what is already in the soil. We ferment the strains of bacterial here at Fonda in large quantities.”
Grant Wells is using all his farm, business and personal skills to continue exploration of the “Biological Frontier.”
“Biologicals are not created equal,” said Wells. “We harness living strains of beneficial bacteria, harvested from the soil — Biodyne has — for 30 years. I have four farms where I’ve applied these bacterial strains and have put on zero phosphorus in four years, and I have gotten great yields.”
Wells Ag Company has 65 employees and BW Fusion has 70 employees. Wells acts as CEO of Wells Ag Supply, and he is one of three partners who own BW Fusion.
“There’s no playbook out here in rural Iowa on how to hire people and where to hire them,” said Wells. “When I started writing down what I was looking for, I created our five core values: our people need to be self-motivated, accountable, efficient, adaptable, and have the best attitude in the world.”
Wells is not only proud of his products but his new training center that supports his organization. “We do a lot of how-to training, and we also train in true leadership,” said Wells.
“That starts with my own priorities: customer first, then employees, next community, and me last. Our business is serving farmers and providing them with what works.”