White Oak Pastures is a regenerative farm that has absolutely changed the game in terms of being a radically traditional farm. In today’s interview, Jenni Harris talks to us about her family’s 6th generation farm, how and why they started regenerative farming practices, how they manage 10 different livestock species, and the countless ways the engage with consumers through lodging, workshops, direct-to-consumer, and dining. Jenni and I will also talk about the importance of decentralizing food, how regenerative farming isn’t just a new buzzword just for marketing, and why country of origin labels might need to come back on some foods.
Check out White Oak Pastures at the links below:
Background of White Oak Pastures
History of White Oak Pastures – over 156 years!
Livestock – challenges of raising 10 species
What is regenerative agriculture to you?
Selling direct to consumers – what does that process look like?
Processing meat on site
Cool things you’ve done like graze sheep under solar panels, provide leather for Timberland Boots, etc.
Agritourism opportunities at White Oak Pastures
What sort of benefit goes agritourism provide to a farm?
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00;00;04;16 – 00;00;22;02
Hello and welcome to the Farm Traveler podcast. I’m your host, Trevor Williams. And today on the show, we’re going to be learning about kind of a cool technology that’s been around for a while that’s really revolutionizing how farmers are able to keep track of spraying crops, data, food safety, all of that good stuff.
So today we are interviewing Bristol Wells from Highland AG Solutions and Bristol and everybody at Highlands creates a software or rather multiple softwares that really help farmers track so much stuff for their business and for their operation. So they have a bunch of different software like Crop IQ, Food Safety and their Highland Hub, which all keep track of various data that you might have on at a farm. And, you know, a lot of consumers think that, you know, maybe a lot of farmers use the old school pen and paper, record tracking when things like this, the Highland Hub, the food IQ and all that good stuff have really revolutionized how farmers are doing business because of things like COVID. You know, you have auditors that need to come on to the facilities, but because of COVID, they can’t do that. And so these technologies allow those auditors and allow various people like food safety inspectors to kind of check the records to see what those farmers are doing.
And so this technology is awesome. It’s so fun. And so Bristol and I are going to talk today about kind of the background. What was the inspiration behind all this, some success stories that have been had and also kind of what the process is like for them, showing farmers how powerful this software is and how it can keep track of their spray data, their crop rotations, all that good stuff. So this is a great conversation for anybody that’s, you know, a farmer or that really likes to see the intersection of technology and agriculture. And so if you want to learn more about Highlands AG Solutions, go in the description and you’ll see a bunch of different links as well as their podcast, The Cream of the Crop podcast, which Bristol does. And we’re going to talk more about that as well. So this is such a fun interview. I hope you enjoy it and thanks for listening.
00;02;10;22 – 00;02;14;05
All right. Well, Bristol Wells, welcome the Farm Traveler podcast. How are you doing?
00;02;14;06 – 00;02;15;26
I am great. Thanks for having me.
00;02;16;07 – 00;02;31;24
Yeah, excited to chat with you. So you are a fellow podcaster and you work in the ag space specifically with Hyland Agriculture and you guys offer a bunch of technology for farmers and kind of before we dove into that, tell us kind of a little bit about your background and how you got started with Hyland AG Solutions
00;02;31;26 – 00;02;48;06
? Sure. I’m so excited to be here and it’s always fun to chat with other podcasters. We started a podcast right before the pandemic hit and it just kind of took off. And so The Cream of the Crop is our podcast name, but similar to you just really talking to others in the ag space and what kind of ingenuity they’re implementing on their operations and things like that. So really good to be here. A little bit about Hyland AG Solutions. This is one of my favorite things to talk about, so I could ramble on forever about all the amazing things that Hyland AG does.
But we are a software provider for the ag industry and what that means is we go and help operations really with what we’re doing most is virtualizing their documentation as far as their pre harvest inspections and all the papers and binders and things they’re keeping up with really in preparation for regulatory audits and all the things that everyone gets so excited to talk about. All those things we’re helping kind of make that process a lot easier, but more so than easier, really streamlining that into what’s next, right? So we all live in 2022 and we’re like using technology in every aspect of our life.
So we kind of took that same process into the farm. About five years ago. We were still flying drones. We started our company after we sold a packaging company and we started flying drones in the specialty crop industry. And there was just so a lot in that time of people trying to do this and there was just a lot to be learned still. So we took that and moved on to doing the software and you can read about it on our website. We did. We made all the mistakes, we did all the things right. We outsource developers, we did all the stuff and came back. And really the center of our business is really understanding production. AG And it was challenging to get software developers and code writers that understood production.
AG That also could write code because that’s not me. So we hired in-house and now we’re off to the races. We have customers like Grumpy Farms, you know, they’re one of the world’s leading care producers. And so we have them and lots of other smaller and larger as well.
So that’s kind of the cliff note version that’s perfect.
00;04;42;29 – 00;05;00;12
Yeah, I think that intersection of technology and farming is so cool. I mean, I was a software developer for a while and so I love software. And of course being in agriculture, like I love everything about AG and so I love when the two combine because a lot of people think, I mean, probably even currently in production agriculture, a lot of people think it’s just, you know, written documents. It’s the old school binders that, you know, kind of the old school farm, old school farmers use. But there’s so many technologies out there and you guys are offering such a cool tool for farmers where they can I mean, like you were saying, have digital records for everything. And so, I mean, is that really kind of a necessity that farmers need to I don’t know, kind of like get on the ball with.
00;05;22;21 – 00;05;41;05
Yeah, I will. I’ll tell you a story and let you make the decision. Now when we’re just really I do a lot with like Farm Bureau and a lot of different, you know, associations and organizations. And we constantly are fighting the battle of getting the farmers going in a field with the pitchfork mentality out of people’s minds Right? Like we have to move past that and realize where we are as a society and the tools that we use. I mean, think about going to McDonald’s now. I use an iPad. When I walk into McDonald’s, I pick my order, I pick it up on the counter and I never engage with a piece of paper or a person, you know, same concept with AG. So we created this part of our software called Auditor Access. So most of your listeners being in the ag industry know what goes into auditing and regulatory bodies. Come on your facility.
And they, they look around at all of your paper documentation and your physical, you know, the space that you’re working in. And the list can be hundreds of pages long if they’re checking. And when they do that, they’re there for days on end a lot of times.
So we created auditor access, which took all of the documentation and the paperwork, and it basically sent a link to the auditor and they could view all of that before they even got to your facility. So our customers are saying it’s cutting down 75 to 80% of their auditing times.
And we were realizing this before COVID and then COVID hit and everyone’s like, Oh my gosh, auditor can’t come on my facility, but my retailer won’t take my product unless it’s audited. So then they’re like, okay, we need a digital solution.
So I think that kind of answers the question is like, is this necessary for the ag industry? And I think the answer is absolutely, because we don’t know what’s going forward. And even now, with COVID regulations still being a thing, auditors are getting into this space where they’re using technology to complete their jobs.
And what’s been really cool, unfortunately, you know, COVID has not been an exciting ride by any means, but us kind of being ahead of the ball just a little bit. And then our business picked up, you know, because we were ahead of the game there.
So I think that it’s certainly the industry is headed in that direction. I mean, you guys could look at fields and see tractors driving themselves, right? You know, I can be responding to emails and still doing spur application on the farm, so I think so.
00;07;36;10 – 00;07;46;28
Yeah. You know, I’m sure that auditing turn was such a huge selling point for a lot of farmers are like, hold up. I can don’t have to do all the papers. Like the auditor doesn’t even have to come here.
I can just send them a link for the all the records like I’m sure I’m sure that made a lot of people like, well, you know what, I’m definitely going to do this.
00;07;53;15 – 00;08;09;18
Right? Yeah, it definitely was. That was the point in our business where we were like, okay, we could give ourselves the high five, but we’re doing it like, you know, people need what we’re offering. So yeah, I would agree auditing has changed a lot in the last two years and I honestly think that it’s going to change even more.
00;08;10;19 – 00;08;17;19
Oh, I can imagine. And so you guys correct me if I’m wrong, but you offer three software. It’s Highland Hub, food safety and then Crop IQ, is that right?
00;08;17;25 – 00;08;28;28
Yeah. So our Highland Hub is like our a big umbrella is like how I like to explain it. It’s like our platform. You could think of like Microsoft Office and then you have all these different features inside of Microsoft Office.
So we actually have seven products within Highland Hub being that big one. But food safety, which is best 365 and Crop IQ, are the two big ones that really kind of go across an entire operation. So those are the big two that you had, food safety and then crop IQ.
00;08;45;13 – 00;08;54;22
Okay, gotcha. And so what would those look like? It like if a farmer’s using food safety, for example, like what exactly are they using that for? And then kind of what is the user experience like?
00;08;54;28 – 00;09;05;24
Absolutely. And I love to talk to user experience. We recently developed a team at Highland UI, UX, and you having software background know exactly what that means. But yeah.
00;09;05;29 – 00;09;08;11
That user experience, those are definitely some key terms.
00;09;08;21 – 00;09;23;02
So user experience, user interface, we have a team completely dedicated to just how it looks and feels as a user. And I think that speaks volumes when software companies go the extra mile to do that. Right. We don’t like using clunky software, I certainly don’t.
So our team has taken a lot of time to do that. But for food safety, that side of the business, every food safety plan looks different across the country and certainly outside of the country. As far as what is your commodity, what is your process line?
You know, are you packing, is there water introduced on the packing line? The food safety questions could go on and on. So with all of those, the first 365, which basically stands for Food Safety 365 days a year, that platform allows users to take all their checklists, all their cooler temperature logs and their pre-op inspections and their cleaning and sanitation logs and all those things they’re having to fill out every day and sometimes every hour. You know, if you implement a dump tank or there is an P level, you have to check, those things have to be checked hourly while the production line is running.
So all of that becomes then digital. And our software basically we can set up with, you know, the customer can do all of this, but setting up notifications where it says, Hey, it’s 5:00 on Wednesday, it’s time to do your food safety meeting, you know, and text you and notify you that with your dump tanks it would say, Hey, so-and-so on line seven has missed filling out their dump tank. Do you want to remind them to do it? You know, so it’s just taking that not only virtualizing and digitizing it, but taking it a step further and helping customers remain compliant.
And we are not regulatory, right? We’re not the people that are like, oh, you’re in trouble because you didn’t do it. That’s not the goal at all. The goal is that we give the industry the tools they need to do what they’re supposed to be doing and do what’s required of them so that if they do get an unannounced inspection, you know, with our platform, every question for their audit is already preloaded in there. And the answer to that question, like the document that answers that question is right there next to it. So if they were to get, you know, USDA walk and say they’re doing an unannounced inspection, they’re knocking on the door, what we’re empowering these these industry folks to do is open the door and say, like, yeah, come on in, we’re ready for you. Everything’s right here. We’re not having to go down where the folded paper in his pocket about what the dump tank level was 3 hours ago.
So that’s kind of what food safety looks like.
00;11;35;04 – 00;11;46;06
I got you. And so would would something like this help whenever there’s, like, a foodborne illness outbreak, you know, where where? I mean, you know, for example, you see a lot with Chipotle, with lettuce, and then they trace it all the way back to the farm.
So it’s something like this really help anytime there might be a foodborne illness outbreak.
00;11;50;26 – 00;12;04;25
Yes. So we’ve actually had a few customers that unfortunately have had some recalls and things of that nature that we’ve been able to use our software in that traceback process and really able to to go back and say, number one, where did the product originate?
Number two, where was it packed? And then where was the problem introduced? And they’re able to look. And trend those reports and say, okay, well, here is when our cooler temperature got too high and we had our temperature wasn’t regulated for 6 hours and this product wasn’t here, or, hey, this line tested positive for E coli the day that we ran this product. So, yes, that’s a very much an opportunity to use technology to help prevent those is the goal. But when they do happen, trace them back, find the root and change the behavior.
00;12;35;25 – 00;12;51;26
Now, I’m sure something like that is extremely helpful versus like an old school paper tracking catalog where you know, where you have a foodborne illness and you’ve got to go through hundreds of pages of records to kind of figure out what’s going on instead of this super handy digital experience.
00;12;51;27 – 00;13;09;11
Yeah, I would agree. I would think that united fresh food safety immersion program two years ago now, I think, gosh, I’m getting old, time is going too fast, whatever. So I think it was two years ago I was in that class and we were with mentors who are very influential food safety professionals, and we had to sit with those mentors and do like a mock recall and a mock traceback and figure out where the root of our recall happened. And let me tell you with like, I genuinely don’t know how it’s possible without a digital solution, whether it’s Highland or, you know, a different company.
Nonetheless, a digital platform is so necessary and being able to insure that stuff because like, for instance, those leafy green growers, a lot of them, you know, I’m from central Florida and we have in south Florida a lot of lettuce.
Right. Well, then you go to California. There’s a ton of lettuce. There’s businesses that operate in both of those. Could you imagine trying to be the food safety professional in California, figuring out why a recall happened in Florida without access to digital records like.
00;13;50;27 – 00;13;52;00
That would be a nightmare.
00;13;52;21 – 00;14;06;21
It really is. So I just that’s and we hate we never want to use like the fear tactic to sell people. Right. Like, that’s not it at all. But the reality is if it’s not digital, like it can’t be accurate sometimes because it’s not in front of you. You don’t have direct access to it in real time.
00;14;09;19 – 00;14;23;23
Yeah. I mean, I can’t imagine how it would be to have like a huge operation and then you’re still doing it on paper when there’s software does I mean, of course, like I’m sure that there are people out there that have like, you know, a perfect recordkeeping system that they’ve been using for generation after generation.
But then you have cool software like you guys that really does it for you.
00;14;26;17 – 00;14;44;03
Yeah. Yeah. That’s the goal is to to make your jobs easier, to make your job more effective, optimize your time that you spend. I know, I guess in safety consulting for a little while and I would go and do operations and you know, they say till 1030 at night filling out all the records for the day because
they know they have to have it done before tomorrow. And it’s like, do you have a cell phone? Cause if you have a cell phone, you can do it. When you’re standing at the line, you know you don’t have to do it at the end of the day.
00;14;54;12 – 00;15;00;05
Which is so convenient. And then kind of going on. Tell us more about Crop IQ. So what is the main purpose of that software?
00;15;00;15 – 00;15;14;22
Yeah, so Crop IQ is more like just a farm focus inside of our software and that’s where like the growers and we’re primarily in produce, that’s the business we work in right now. Of course, plans to grow, but right now produce on the farm side.
This is an application that really allows you to monitor the like the crop application and put so your chemicals, fertilizers, all of that we see more so now than ever, regulatory requiring like nitrogen and phosphorus inputs and how much of that is going in the land and things of that nature.
So not only that, but it helps manage all of those as a farm, like a farm manager, you’re able to schedule out your sprays and send them electronically to your sprayers so they know what the tank mix is and what to mix, what to load, what fields to go spray, at what rate, that kind of thing.
But taking it one step further and all of our the cool thing about Hyland is that all of our tools talk to each other. So like our crop IQ system will notify your food safety system if you have an active area in your field, which obviously meaning you have chemical residues still there, you can’t harvest or you can’t be in that field yet. So if you got to create a pre harvest inspection on Field A and you have an active RTI and you going to do that pre harvest inspection, it’s going to trigger you and say, hold on, you have an active area in that field.
So that is probably my favorite part of of crop IQ is really being able to tie the whole business together, really using it as a a business management tool, but communicating. Right. So now your food safety guy is not hunting down every time you spray and he knows what’s going on.
There’s that complete transparency of, okay, this, this is what we’re doing. We’re good. We’re going to go we’ll harvest zero harvest there and make that for that full business plan.
00;16;46;12 – 00;17;01;01
That’s huge. And I feel like that interconnect ability are interconnected inner to interconnectedness. I believe like all the different apps and everything is like a huge selling point and a huge tool. I mean, I can imagine how much time that saves whenever.
I mean, like you were saying, like you can communicate with their sprayers, communicate what’s going on, keep track of if there is any residuals in the fields like that’s a huge.
00;17;09;15 – 00;17;25;09
Cool. Yeah. And it’s something that is required now. I mean, for the guys that are sending to any large retailer or main retailer, you know, they have to have these records, too, passes inspections and, you know, as simple as on on one of those applications.
Now, Primus, which is an auditing body, they require that you have the justification for your spray on the record so that you’re not complaining sprays for no reason. So we went and developed a part of our software that you can do recommendations and scouting reports, and that talks to Crop IQ and tells Crop IQ why you’re spraying
that, which then talks to food safety, you know, so it’s this constant like you were saying, just I like to say that Highland Hub is a business management tool because it really is.
00;17;54;09 – 00;18;08;12
That sounds like it. And so I wrote this down because I really wanted to talk about this. Like, is this software kind of a one size fits all or how much can each operation kind of customize? It kind of fit their needs, especially, I guess fit the needs of the crops and what they’re doing.
00;18;08;27 – 00;18;26;10
Yeah. So luckily we started in specialty crops, so we started hard first and when we developed. So just a little bit of the story of how like the heart of Highland and how we got here, because I think that’s important to kind of answer your question on what it what it looks like as far as customization.
Steve Maxwell, who’s our owner, and John Durham, we sat down on the table, you know, when when we started this part of the business and said, what do what does the industry need? And so we brought those guys in and we’re in central Florida, like I said, and winner strawberry capital of the world.
Right. So we bring in a lot of strawberry growers and we’re like, what is the hinderance? What’s what is the burden right now? And time and time again, it was that the need for a digital solution to keep up with the regulatory burden as well as manage the business.
And so when we got to that, we realized that not every single operation operates like a strawberry farm. Right? It’s very different. So we brought a lot of blueberry guys in and we said, oh, my gosh, okay. So blueberry operations are so different than strawberry.
And so we continued to do that. And this like this this phase where we were building the business that we then realized, let’s just build a tool that they can then build what they need. So it’s very similar, like I said in the beginning, to using like Microsoft forms, right?
So they give you the tool, you go in and you determine what you have to check at your operation. You determine what the thresholds for things are at your operation. You determine what the the supplies are at, where you work.
So it’s really just a platform that can then be completely customized to the needs of every commodity. I mean, we have avocados and leafy greens and all the berries were big and various because that’s where we started. But every commodity you can think of potatoes, right?
Like all these processes are so different. And that was one of the big things for us was that we did not want to box this tool in to one industry. We wanted every I mean, everyone in produce at this point to be able to use it and grow.
Crop guides can use it as well. I know their food safety regulations are not near as strenuous, so the need for that isn’t as important for them right now. But we even have visions of like, where could this tool take us?
Could it take us out of produce? Absolutely. Can it take us into meat? Meat production? Well, one day I’m sure you know, the platform is there. So.
00;20;32;27 – 00;20;47;16
Yeah. And, you know, I mean, come to think of it, I’m sure that starting off in Florida was a huge advantage because a lot of people don’t realize. But Florida agriculture is super duper diverse. I mean, up here in north Florida, I’m here in Panama City, and, you know, we’ve got a lot of like beef ranches, a ton of timber. I mean, not a whole lot of like fruit and vegetable crops, but a little bit here and there. And of course, you go to central Florida, you’ve got a ton of citrus, you’ve got watermelon, you’ve got the strawberry, the winner, strawberry capital of the world.
And then you’ve also got more ranches and stuff down in South Florida. And so Florida’s super diverse. And so I’m sure that was a really great tool for you guys whenever you started developing the software.
00;21;10;14 – 00;21;26;14
Yeah, I like to tell people we’re more than the beach and Disneyworld. Like there’s so much that happens here as far as AG goes. I mean, we grow over 300 commodities in the state. And so something that we take a lot of pride in is we actually take our developers, we call them field trips just as funny, but we take them on field trips literally to the field. And our software developers, our co-writers, go and stand next to farmers and the field. What is this process look like for you? And in that moment, like they’re writing down and you come from this world and I don’t of like all this code stuff and I’m like, Thank God we have these people being stopped, but they’re right there on the field. And that was the super advantage for us, is being in this garden state of any kind of commodity we wanted our development team had direct that has still has direct access to these guys.
And I can not express to listeners like how much, but first off like it just blows my mind how brilliant the ag industry is. And like farmers blow my mind every day. Like I’m just like, how do you guys even think through this stuff?
So being able to pick their brain really helps us build a more robust system.
00;22;19;15 – 00;22;38;10
You know, that’s a very good point. I mean, I feel like farming and software are two vastly different tools and two vastly different industries. So it’s great that the developers and the farmers can kind of interact and explain their processes more like a farmer can explain what goes on, how important it is to track spraying and all the regulations you’ve got to follow. And then a software developer can kind of explain how the software would work, how, I don’t know, one module would interact with another one and how it would be very easily to do to track relationships with tasks and.
Verse is like old school pen and paper. And so those are two very different worlds. And so it’s cool that you guys are able to have those field trips and help them communicate as best as possible.
00;23;03;03 – 00;23;18;00
Yeah, when those worlds collide, it’s actually like a beautiful thing to see and just kind of be a bystander in that because the day to day stuff, you know, we at the company that come from AG, which over 80% of us have ag backgrounds, we speak for the farmer, right?
We say, okay, I have a production ag degree. So I’m like, No, this is the process, right? We’re speaking for them. But when those developers get to go and stand right there at the farm and they get to see like lettuce cut impact for the first time and it just like is insane to them because they’re like, what in the world like? I have no idea that all of this went into getting my food to the table, which kind of leads me a little bit to just talk about like that consumer awareness piece and knowing that, number one, like for the software developers, they’re realizing how much more goes into farming than they could think. Number two, the farmers are realizing how much more goes into technology than they could think, and then how to marry those is just so cool. So consumers are now seeing both sides of that coin, not only the farming side and how intense that is, but then the technology that these farmers are implementing.
Like, it’s it’s a beautiful thing for me.
00;24;10;28 – 00;24;24;09
Yeah, that’s true. That’s such a good point. And so, I mean, do you have any success stories that you could share about farmers here in Florida or wherever else? I have kind of implemented this. All of these tools that you guys are making and the how it’s really changed, how they do business.
00;24;24;25 – 00;24;36;02
Yeah, I mean, I can think of quite a few and you know, just naming some of our customers, like I said earlier, Graham Way and Litman being, you know, a number one leader in the tomato space and these large companies.
But also I can’t forget to leave out people that like Miss Beth, she’s one of our customers. She has Anna’s garden blueberries in south Georgia. And she’s one of our biggest advocates. She’s a retired schoolteacher. She’s a teacher, I believe, for 40 years.
And she started a small blueberry farm. She started with four acres, and now they’re at 74 acres. And so she tells us, you know, that a lot is contributed to the fact that they were able to implement technology, because she says if it wasn’t for Highland Hub like she would not be able to manage it.
There’s no way she could keep up with it all. And she’s a small grower, right? So she wears a lot of hats on the operation. She does the food safety, she does the yield estimations. She I mean, she does everything.
So being able to see someone like that and she jokingly says, well, if I can do it, anybody can do it with the technology. Because she came from being an English teacher for 40 years. So a totally different space for her.
But just thinking through some of those, you know, we’ve had customers that have had very large scale operations that have lost their food safety managers and they haven’t missed a beat because they had the software implemented, they had the reminders implemented.
They had all of these things that we help them provide that way when they’re food safety person. You know, there was a lapse between them having someone in that seat. None of their food safety practices fell behind because they had all of this implemented ahead of time.
So that’s I mean, just two simple ones. But there’s I mean, there’s hundreds that I can tell you. And being able to go on these operations and see just the I mean, it’s physical. You can physically see the relief that a lot of these guys feel when they know that if the EPA walked on, they could say, well, yeah, I mean, just pull it up on my phone, I’ll show you what I’ve sprayed. You know, it’s right there. They’re not panic and calling their wives like, where the heck is this paper? I don’t know where you put it kind of deal, because we’ve seen that side of the coin, too.
So that’s just a few.
00;26;25;29 – 00;26;40;28
Well, that’s awesome. Yeah, I can imagine. That’s crazy. That’s so cool. And so what’s the whole like? Let’s say a farmers interested in your software? What is that whole sales process like? Do they get to kind of see what it would look like and then they can implement it for a while, like a trial period, I guess before if they want to go ahead and go and purchase it.
00;26;43;16 – 00;26;59;16
Absolutely. So our like our sales process is very simplistic. So a lot of times, which I’m sure this is similar to the events that you get to meet people at, but we’re all the trade shows and all of the, you know, ISP events and all that mingling and just getting to meet people.
But when we do and we have someone that shows interest, we do a sales demo. So with one of our team members who ironically enough, I just got off a sales meeting. So this made me think of this.
But all of us come from using the software like so the other three were customers of ours before they came to work for us. And then I’ve been here since the beginning and when I was doing some food safety consulting, I was actually using Highland Hub to do that.
So we’ve all used the system which is so unique before we went to the sales roles, but we do a demo, so we log in and, you know, screen, share a resume, or we do it in person depending on the operation, but showing them the software, the intricacies, what it looks like, what it feels like. Demos are certainly an option if a customer wants to click on themselves and see that once they say yes, we turn them over to our service specialist team. So they’re the team that really holds the hands on implementation.
So I was on that team previous to this role and honestly it was one of my favorite jobs I’ve ever had, I think because it was so boring to go. So we basically go to the operation over Zoom or screen share or whatever and we say, okay, send us all of your food safety logs. And I saw a piece that you have. Send us your farm maps, send us everything, and we help them. We do the initial lift, so we help them build out all those logs and records onto the system, and then we train them with their own documents.
So we’re not saying like here, watch some videos and learn how to use this. We’re saying let’s get on a screen share and I’m going to click through and then you’re going to click through behind me and show me, you know, how to do this. And something that Highland really pride themselves on is like, again, we give them the tool to help themselves and we teach them how to edit things and add things and delete things. With a lot of other software companies that are hard coded, they’re required to put in a request to add an SOP or to add a log
for us. The tool is yours at your disclosure. If it’s 2 a.m. and you’re up trying to watch frost protection and you need to add a new log, you can build it right there on your phone. You know, you don’t have to contact one of us. So we work really hard to train and empower our customers to know how to use the system to its full potential. And then through that, we check in and go visit. We love customer visits. It’s something that I wish could just be my full time job.
I love going to see customers and how they’re implementing it because again, it looks so different depending on the operation.
00;29;24;01 – 00;29;35;02
I bet. And that’s awesome that you guys, it seems like you have a very good relationship with the people that use the software. I know one, software companies get kind of too big. They kind of get, I guess, not very personable. And so it seems like you guys kind of are very personable in telling them how to use the software and also the power that they have of kind of customizing it and using it however they see fit is huge.
00;29;45;16 – 00;30;01;23
Yeah. Our our owners, they are very much boots on the ground kind of guys. And they believe that business is only built with boots on the ground. And I 1,000% agree. I feel the same way because we recognize that during COVID it was a lot harder.
Aside from the fact that we had a tool that a lot of people needed at the time. But as far as just like being able to show the person like the personality of our teams and the heart of Highland, as I like to say, being able to show that during hovered over a screen was really challenging.
So it’s been really cool to get back out, get back to farms, you know, get back on the road. And our CEO tells us it’s the ground game. It’s the ground game. You know, you have to be on the road and running around and seeing people.
And that’s the part that I think excites us all is when we get to give the resource and the tool to a grower and say, you know, look what look what you’ve achieved because of this tool. I mean, that’s the part that we love and linking arms. That’s what we say. We link arms with our customers like we want to be there. I mean, there’s been times at 3 a.m. where I’ve gotten phone calls because something wasn’t working and they’re trying to save a crop from freezing.
And, you know, we’re there, our team is up and we’re people. We’re not robots on a computer. You know, you’re calling my cell phone when you call me and I’m trying to do what I can to help you.
So very much that personable is so important to us.
00;31;02;18 – 00;31;10;07
Yeah, that’s huge. I mean, you’re not getting a one 800 number. You’re actually getting you guys’s phone numbers, like personal phone numbers. That way you can actually get help any time you need it. That’s huge.
00;31;10;13 – 00;31;21;10
Yeah, that’s something our teams really work hard to. We say, you know, first when you started selling the software, we’re like, we have 27, like 24/7 support. And there was three of us and when we said it, we meant it.
So it would take like shifts, like, okay, we get late night phone calls with you this week. You know, we’re like, holy cow, we just said we have 24 seven support. Let’s make it happen. So we have tools in place to make sure that that’s certainly planned for and prepared for.
But it’s it’s true.
00;31;37;11 – 00;31;43;27
24 seven Well, that’s good. Yeah, I’m sure that’s like, oh, dang, we got it. We actually got to be available 24, seven times, but we can do it.
00;31;44;12 – 00;31;45;10
00;31;45;27 – 00;31;54;06
That’s fun. So let’s talk a little bit more about your podcast. So it’s the Cream of the Crop podcast. Like what? What’s the schedule like? Who do you interview? What do you talk about and stuff like that.
00;31;54;21 – 00;32;10;16
Yeah. So we started it and like I said, our owner actually started it and he was really involved in like the day to day planning of it and things. And he has a lot of other endeavors. He is an entrepreneur by blood, so he is always doing the next thing and really being innovative.
So I clearly just like to talk a lot and they were like, Bristol, you like to talk, you want to try this? And I was like, Sure. So we did. And here we are like I think 60 episodes later or something. So it’s kind of taken off. And at first it was almost just like, Yeah, I’m going to give this a shot and see what I can do. And now I love it. It’s one of the most it’s, it’s just so enjoyable.
So for us, it looks a little less traditional and than most because it’s really just a little side thing for us. It’s not something that is revenue driving or, you know, something like that. It’s really just something we like as far as like industry awareness and really getting to the heart of our industry.
So we like to talk to top leaders, talk about top ideas and share top trends and. AG That’s like one little things we say. So I’ve talked to the commissioner of AG of Texas, I’ve talked to lawyers, I’ve talked to farmers, I’ve talked to people about mental health and AG.
I mean, we have no boundary except for AG on her podcast. So it’s crazy because it’s so different every time, which I love. But if anyone that’s listening wants to share their story and the heart of their business, you know, we would love to have them. We just do it. We plan over email and get on. Kind of like you just get on here and have a very casual, candid conversation, ask questions. Of course, we do a little bit of homework before and, you know, some talking points.
But as far as the podcast itself, it’s really just dependent on the guest as far as what we talk about, of course, I, you know, really got excited when I talked to the commissioner of AG in Texas because, well, he’s just so fun to talk to. But also I just kind of wait to have really big hair because we did that one over Zoom and I was like, Is it ever bigger in Texas? Like, Oh, just say.
00;33;52;27 – 00;33;54;20
Oh, that’s cool. I bet that was fun to do.
00;33;54;24 – 00;34;04;16
Yeah, he actually did it from the front seat of his truck. So it was it was awesome. But yeah, funny stories for sure. But it’s it’s been an adventure. Have you how long have you been doing the podcast?
00;34;04;27 – 00;34;16;14
Yeah, I’ve been doing this, I think about three years. I think we started in like 2018, 20. 19. It was the fall of 2018, I believe. And so, yeah, we kind of did it right before the start of the pandemic.
So yeah, I guess about three or four years, which is crazy. It’s flown by.
00;34;20;09 – 00;34;20;23
00;34;20;28 – 00;34;33;15
It’s fun. I mean, you get to meet so many cool people from around the country, even the world, and just chat about agriculture. And it’s so fun because, you know, a farmer from, I don’t know, Texas might be doing things totally different than a farmer in Oregon or Australia.
And so it’s cool to get kind of their different perspectives.
00;34;36;15 – 00;34;52;27
On the issues and the things they struggle with are so different. And I love that part of it because it brings such awareness to like your own bubble, so like your little bubble and ag is, you know, we like, for instance, us in central Florida, we’re constantly talking about like labor and weather, right?
We’re not often talking about the need for water that’s not on our radar. But I talk to customers in New Mexico and California and get them on the podcast and it’s like, oh, my gosh, like they aren’t having as much of these labor and weather things aside from they have no water, you know, it’s just crazy to
see the differences and just the country that we have.
00;35;12;22 – 00;35;22;10
Oh, yeah. And it’s so cool. What would you say are kind of the most impactful moments you’ve had on the show, whether it’s like a topic or somebody in particular that you’ve interviewed, what were kind of some of the biggest, impactful moments you’ve had.
00;35;22;24 – 00;35;40;24
I think, to come to mind, and I’m jotting him down right now, so don’t forget I’m as I’m talking. But Marshall so he’s he actually I met him through a mutual friend in the industry, but he lost his father to a farm related suicide when he was in I believe it was high school or high school or college. And he came on and shared a lot about mental health and ag and that one really just it stopped me dead in my tracks because of course, it wasn’t one that was like necessarily like exciting you would think to talk about, but it was honestly really encouraging because he’s doing so much.
He has a nonprofit that Bayer sponsors called Mind Your Melon, and they do a lot now and they’re very new off the ground, involved in mental health and really making that awareness for AG because I think that toughness of the farmer kind of gets in the way of making sure that we’re all mentally sound, you know, we struggle too, and having that camaraderie. So that being number one and then number two is probably Cameron Coggins at the time she worked for Grimm Way and her family farms carrots in South Georgia. And we did this podcast and I’m not kidding.
You were like the best of friends. Now, like, we talk all the time. We go and I go babysit her baby and just, like, snuggle with them. And, you know, it’s just so fun. We’re like best friends. So really knowing that, like, podcasting can make you like, some lifelong friends, too.
So those are probably the two things.
00;36;48;12 – 00;37;04;23
That’s awesome. Yeah, I know. Marshall So I was a state officer here in Florida. Oh, shoot. Like 2009, 2010, which feels like a lifetime ago. And Marshall was the state president the year before me. And so I know Marshall really like, I mean decently and yeah, he’s got a great story, a great message.
I’ve tried. I think I introduced him to my other friend Jason Meadows, who has got the AG State of Mind podcast, and his is all about mental health and agriculture. And I can’t remember if they have done an episode together.
If not, they need to. But I need to go check out his podcast some more and see if they did one. But yeah, I mean, Marshall covers a lot of really good stuff in AG and he’s got a phenomenal story.
00;37;25;21 – 00;37;29;22
Yeah, I was telling him I’m like, Marshall, you need to start a podcast.
00;37;29;22 – 00;37;41;28
Yeah, for real. That would be so cool because I mean, I feel like traditional business owners. I mean, absolutely, there’s a lot that goes into it. But for farmers and ranchers, really, nine times out of ten, it’s a family business.
And then you’ve got that added pressure where you don’t want to be the one that it closes. And if it does, that’s, you know, you think that that’s on you and your whole livelihood, your happiness goes into it.
And so there’s a lot there that a lot of people really don’t realize. And there’s just so many mental health issues that I think we’re slowly starting to pay more attention to, which is really healthy.
00;38;02;10 – 00;38;21;04
Yeah, I think so. And something that I recently have discovered with that mental health arena and really diving in Marshall got me really devoted to learning more number one about myself, but number two, the industry I work for and something that I’ve come to realize just working with our current customers is that there is a lot of this mental health stigma in the generation that’s starting to take over. That’s like our age. You know, the kids and the grandkids have owners and operators and going back to the family farm and the pressure that it is to say, okay, like you just said, it’s on me.
But now the added pressure of changing things, right? Yeah. So it’s not just, okay, now apply responsibility, but it’s like now it’s my responsibility and I want to change something that’s a whole different space for these very deeply rooted family businesses.
And I think of like great examples. You know, I have a friend, you may know him, too. He was a state officer, but Steven Singleton, he comes from a potato farm. Oh, yeah. Okay. He’s helping out the family farm and and really trying to implement all of that and helping introduce some technologies and whatever.
And I think of the beautiful story that he has because his family is. All about that. They’re all about technology. They’re all about making things better for the next generation. So I think of those stories and I’m like, This is awesome.
I wish everyone could have this case know. So it really opened my mind a lot to what that looks like.
00;39;24;08 – 00;39;33;10
I bet that’s awesome. I mean, I think that’s really kind of the power of podcasting. You can build all these relationships. You can cover topics you want to talk about. So I think that’s huge. That’s awesome. And so it’s cool. You guys are doing that podcast. We will link that in the description below. But this has been super awesome. Bristol chatting, everything about Highlands and solutions. If people want to learn more about your software, about the products and everything. And of course like also the podcast, like work. Where can they go? What are the best websites and links for them to find all that stuff out?
00;39;51;10 – 00;40;10;03
Yeah. So everything is on our main website which is Hyland has it dot com so WW W dot highland has it dot com. And then you’ll see there’s like a spot that says blogs and podcast. They can go there for a podcast, but then all of our products are listed and then like direct questions, we have sales
00;40;10;03 – 00;40;15;07
or info at Highland Park dot com. So any of those emails or websites would work well.
00;40;15;07 – 00;40;26;26
Deal. Well, thanks so much for chatting. We really appreciate it. Learned a lot from you guys and best of luck with the podcast. Obviously, I love hearing more about AG Podcast, so best of luck for you guys. Thanks again for chatting with us.
00;40;27;03 – 00;40;29;21
Yeah, we’ll have to have you on our episode deal.
00;40;29;22 – 00;40;30;17
Sounds like a plan.
00;40;30;26 – 00;40;31;26
All right. Thanks to our.
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