When CAAR’s 2019 Agronomist of the Year Greg Hodgins first began his career in the early 2000s with Holmes Agro, an Ontario-based retailer with four locations, he was working in inventory management. With a degree in agriculture business, Hodgins wasn’t intending to become an agronomist.
However, he began to find agronomy more and more interesting, and in the past 15 years, Hodgins has achieved CCA certification and established a reputation as a very knowledgeable agronomist who enjoys working with a wide diversity of crops.
“I feel very fortunate to work with growers on a variety of crops. I work with traditional cash crops or row crops, but I also work with a lot of horticulture stuff, too,” says Hodgins.
“Whether that’s lettuce, carrots, onions, spinach, and even as recently as last fall, a cannabis grower. I have been exposed to many different situations and different challenges,” he continues. “Sometimes it’s overwhelming, but it’s rewarding.”
No matter the specifics of what is being grown, Hodgins focuses on helping his customers make decisions that are both agronomically and economically beneficial to their operations.
“I think the number one thing that we have to think about as business owners is the economics behind growing different crops,” says Evan Besley. Besley is a fourth-generation farmer and part-owner in Besley Country Market, his family’s cash crop and market garden farm located near Shelburne, Ont.
Besley Country Market has 1,800 acres of row crops including wheat, oats, barely, IP soybeans and grain corn, along with 15 acres of mixed vegetables and close to 2,000 tomato plants in a hydroponic greenhouse.
With so many moving parts to the farm, Besley says it’s important for the business to keep their eyes on the numbers behind each agronomic decision they make.
“Greg is a numbers guy, and he always makes sure we go back to the numbers for any crops that we’re growing or products that we’re using to make sure there is potential for profit,” says Besley. “That’s one thing that I think really sets him apart among agronomists we’ve encountered.”
Besley gives credit to Hodgins for introducing their farm to IP soybeans, which he says have become a mainstay of their operation and complement the farm’s crop rotation, as they have allowed for staggered planting and harvesting. As well, Besley says grain corn is a newer addition to their rotation which has opened up “a whole new level of crash cropping” for Besley Country Market.
In order to help the entire team at Holmes Agro provide the highest level of service to their customers, Hodgins has led the development of Holmes Agro’s two-part “MyFarm” software. One half of MyFarm’s purpose is to serve as a record management system for customers to track details like seed, fertilizer and pesticide use on their acres.
The second part of the system is a web-based platform that the Holmes Agro team uses to record all recommendations made to a customer. Hodgins says the system was in its infancy when he joined the company nearly 20 years ago, and for the past
15 years he says developing it has been his “pet project.”
“It is constantly evolving. It started out as a basic record-keeping program, now we’ve made it more adaptable to help growers comply with product application protocols, and to be adaptable for things like the 4R Nutrient Stewardship program,” Hodgins says. “For the past couple of years, I’ve been working on a mobile version, to make it more accessible for our agronomists.
The environment at Holmes Agro that has been fostered over the years is what Hodgins credits with allowing himself and the whole agronomy team to have passion for their work with their customers. “We’re people helping people, that’s where the passion comes from,” he says.
When he accepted the award at the banquet, Hodgins thanked the team at Holmes Agro, including founder Jeff Holmes and joint venture partners Agrico Canada. As well, he thanked CAAR and his fellow agronomists from coast-to-coast.
“Thank you to CAAR for putting on the show. This is my first time here, and I have been really impressed,” he said. “There are a lot of good people across the country doing great work in agronomy and to even be considered amongst them is humbling. I am deeply, deeply humbled.”
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