February 2023 Janesville Journal Article

From a small startup in a basement 30 years ago to outgrowing the old Arnoldt Implement building, McPherson Crop Management has become one of the largest independent crop consulting businesses in Minnesota. And it’s all thanks to both the staff who work hard and the clients who recommend them for business.

The owner of MCM is Bernie Paulson, who is familiar with the area. He grew up in Houston County in southeast Minnesota and graduated from Peterson High School in 1978. Paulson then attended the University of Minnesota Waseca. “Going to school in Waseca is how I got out this way,” he explains. “I met my wife Patty in Waseca, and her family was from Eagle Lake.”

Shortly after getting married, Paulson started his career in agricultural work at the Janesville Creamery. He also worked for Brayton Chemical and the Dill Company.

“Dill Company was a retail business,” Paulson reminisces. “We worked with grain and fertilizer. I mostly worked in agronomy, selling people our products. That’s what I had been doing my whole career, working with farmers.

As the ‘90s rolled around, Paulson felt a shift in work was necessary. “It just seemed to me that there was a market for independent crop consulting work in this area,” he says. “There were very few companies doing that kind of thing in Minnesota. I felt like that was the kind of work I was familiar with and qualified to do.”

He talked with his wife about it, and the two decided they could make it work.

In 1993, McPherson Crop Management (MCM) was born. The name comes from McPherson Township in Blue Earth County,  which contains the city of St. Clair.

The business itself started from the Paulson’s front porch in St. Clair in 1993 and stayed there until 1998.

“We had the opportunity to move to the farm where Patty grew up,” Paulson says. “So we moved there in 1998.”

After remodeling the basement, they ran MCM from there for the next seven years. During that time, Paulson had many employees doing soil sampling, scouting and other tasks. He offered an internship program where college kids worked for him during the summer.

Janesville resident Andy Dimmel, who was attending Gustavus Adolphus College at the time, reached out to Paulson to conduct a Geographical Information System project one January. Paulson helped him set up a computer and they mapped around the Gustavus parking lots. “He came back to me a few weeks later, had it all mapped out and printed out,” he explains.

Dimmel worked for him the rest of that winter part-time, officially starting full-time in June 2000. “That GIS project started a very long-term relationship between Andy and myself,” Paulson says.

In 2005, MCM outgrew the Paulson’s basement. “We just didn’t have enough room anymore,” he comments. So, they moved into the old Arnoldt Implement Building (currently Boss Supply) where there were many other agriculture-related businesses packed into the space. Paulson rented space there from 2005 to 2014.

Another bright face currently in MCM’s office joined the team in January of 2008. The business was growing a lot by this point, and Paulson knew he needed help. He called upon his friend, Bernie Zellmer, to come on board.

“We worked together several times in the first 13 years of my career,” he explains. “We worked together at the Janesville Creamery and Brayton’s. Since then, she had moved into insurance. She was looking for a change and wanted me to give a reference to get a job.”

He decided not to give her the reference. Instead, he offered her a job.

Zellmer started her tenure in administration work for MCM and worked her way into Farm Works software, a product that the business was starting to sell from the basement of the farmhouse. When MCM moved to Janesville, the software sales grew exponentially. Thanks to Zellmer building up that business, MCM was in the top-five list for farm software sales for several years.

The business tripled in size when Paulson moved the business to Janesville, requiring more employees. Randy Depuydt, a St. Clair native who studied agronomy at South Central College in North Mankato, joined in Dec. 2011, and he was eventually offered a full time job to lead the summer work crew.

During that time, commodity prices and demand for services were high, and MCM was able to take advantage of the situation. “We grew to the point that we were seriously running out of room at the implement,” he claims. “So in 2013, we decided to move.”

Their current office space, off of East First Street across Subway, was built throughout the winter of 2014. Once the work was completed, MCM moved that June.

Since then, the company has maintained a crew of three to four summertime interns from colleges in the region such as South Central College, University of Wisconsin River Falls, South Dakota State University, and many others. “We recruit young people from our local area,” Paulson says.

One of the more recent interns to come through MCM is Luke Olson, a graduate of Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton. “He worked as an intern with us in the field,” Paulson explains. “We needed another full time person. Luke stepped up to the plate, replacing Randy in the field allowing Randy to work closer with our farmer clients.  Randy and Andy process the soil sampling data, yield data and imagery to build soil management zones. These zones are the basis for our management and recommendation strategy.

The way MCM does soil sampling sets them apart. “Usually, soil sampling is done in a grid, typically every two-and-a-half acres,” Paulson elaborates. “But when you think about it, nothing about most farm fields is square. Nothing is really square outside of the township road and fences. So, we thought, ‘Why sample in squares?’”

Instead, MCM creates zones based on data collected from the farmer’s field. “We sample each of those zone separately,” Paulson shares. “We take that approach as opposed to other companies out there. We take that information and put it into a recommendation. ‘This is what the soil needs, here’s how we’re going to put it on, and here’s the product we’ll use and the rate of use.’ That’s the end product for the farmer.”

 “Once you’ve got the right zone, you don’t change that zone,” he says. “Every four years, we do the soil sampling.”

Today, MCM works with approximately 250 farmers and about 250,000 acres of land in Southern Minnesota. “Our client retention is really high,” Paulson says. “Many clients have been with us the entire 30 years. We also have the opportunity to work with the family of our clients. As generations pass, McPherson Crop Management continues to work with these farms. As those farms grow, so does our business.”

It’s kept everyone within the business busy, and all their customers stay satisfied, even recommending them to other farmers. “Most of our business comes from word-of-mouth and the occasional radio advertisement,” he claims. “Our energy is best focused on keeping contact with local farmers. The best advertising is the people that work with us. That’s really been the foundation of our business.”

As Paulson reflects on his 30 years in business, he has nothing but gratitude. “It’s a humbling experience to be able to sit here 30 years and have many of the same friends we’ve had,” he says. “Their families have joined us, and we continue to work across the generations. It’s truly been an honor.”

McPherson Crop Management

Agronomy, Technology and Data Management Services since 1993