Systems. The concept of a system varies depending on context. When ASN thinks about systems, we think about multiple components working together to accomplish an overall goal. A “systems approach” becomes a path that involves people, products, equipment, lessons, conversations and goals all merging into one. We sat down with founder Monte Bottens to discuss his thoughts on why working from a systems approach is so important.
Monte started by recognizing that, “There’s a lot going on in agriculture and consumer trends right now. There is so much noise and information to sort through, and buzz words gaining momentum like: regenerative ag, carbon credits, soil health, non-gmo, cover crops, relay cropping, companion cropping, and so on and so on."
"I think we’re often too comfortable doing what we’ve always done and when we hear all of these buzzwords and recommendations, it causes a bit of paralysis. The problem with that is we’re facing some pretty big shocks to our system if we don’t make much bigger changes on a larger scale now.”
Urgency is certainly contributing to the need for large scale soil health adoptions. Monte said there is no doubt we are running our natural resources thin. “We continue to see moves to manage those resources, but I’m not sure we’re doing enough and certainly not doing it fast enough to make enough impact. No matter what, we live and die by our soil. It is the ecosystem that drives everything. If we lose that resource, we lose the game.”
So that’s where ASN focuses its efforts, aims to educate, and bring solutions to the table. Solutions like the POWER2GRO Crop Production System that can improve agriculture, from the soil up. Monte said, “The ASN team looks at the bigger picture which leads to stronger recommendations for farming with a soil first approach yet keeps profitability at the forefront.”
He said, “We aren’t a nutrient company that looks at nutrient inputs only. We have to look at the whole system; current tillage practices, erosion control, labor availability, water management, water resources, microbiology of the soil...If we focus on only one part of the system, we lose the forest for the trees.”
The systems approach enables ASN to conduct business a bit differently. Monte said, “I think what makes us unique is that we don't walk in with a leaflet describing the individual products we sell, but instead we walk in with grower-focused questions and with a passion to provide a long-term benefit.”
“Our team always starts with understanding a farm’s goals,” Monte said. “Not just for this year, but for the next 30. We ask, what’s working and what isn’t? What new things do you want to do and how willing are you to do things differently to get there? Then, together, we build a plan that works across the operation, starting from the soil up, building back the ecosystem we’ve been destroying for years and focusing on creating the healthiest soil possible for the healthiest plant possible.”
Mentioned before, urgency can shape the response to an issue. But the importance of systems thinking means starting with the end in mind while gathering other pieces of the puzzle before they’re put in place. Monte said this approach isn’t for everybody.
“At the end of the day, our systems approach sounds wild to some people, but those aren’t our people. Plain and simple. We’re looking for the people that understand we need to be more afraid of continuing to do what we’re doing now, than they are afraid of doing something new. We need to:
Step 1: Admit what we’re doing isn’t working.
Step 2: Be willing to do something about it.
Step 3: Have someone to hold us accountable.
A half-baked plan isn’t going to get you where you want to go, and if that’s what you’re getting from your dealer, your crop advisor, or your farm partner now - then it might be time to consider a new one.”
Ready to challenge your own status quo? Let’s farm better, do better, be better — together.