Mark Brown and Mike Vogel recognize the importance of agriculture in the trucking business.

Agriculture growth boosts trucking industry

Two Southwest Minnesota industries —  manufacturing and agriculture —  have been growing in recent years and have outperformed national and industry expectations and provide a strong platform for continued growth.

Agriculture is the industry with the highest share of employment in the region (15 percent) and contributes the second highest share of output (25 percent), according to a University of Minnesota Extension analysis of industry outputs.  In addition to being a strong base in the region, agriculture has been a growth sector that has performed above national and industry averages, making Southwest Minnesota a competitive region in agriculture, The Southwest region has a higher concentration of both crop farmers and livestock producers than other regions of the state. Hog farming and cattle production are two primary livestock sectors in the region. Crop production is driven primarily by corn and soybeans. 

That has been good for trucking businesses.

Mike Vogel, owner of Brown Transfer, says his company hauls mostly livestock feed ingredients in Southern Minnesota from processing plants to feed mills — mainly Christensen Farms.   Most of the Brown Transfer trucks haul soybean meal from Archer Daniel Midland (ADM), one of the world’s largest agricultural processors and ingredient providers; and CHS, Inc., a leading global grain marketer and also a major soybean processor and refiner, both at Mankato; and dried distillers grains from Highwater Ethanol at Lamberton.

“The business is quite different from what it used to be. We have much more livestock in our area today,” noted former owner Mark Brown.  “We used to be go to the Twin Cities with one or two truckloads of soybeans a day.  Now we’re hauling to local processing plants to fill the needs of local and area livestock producers.   There’s just a lot more livestock in our area.”     Today, Brown Transfer hauls from 15-17 loads a day, Vogel said.

“Some years ago kids went off to the cities for jobs and never returned,” noted Brown.   “Now lots of kids are going off to college and coming back to agriculture. Agriculture has turned into a science.”

“Trucking is a good business,” said Brown.    “We made it because we fell into it at the right time.”

Brown Transfer was started by Allan Brown in 1975, when he purchased a small trucking business operated by Emil Haas.  They transported products from St. Paul breweries to Hansen Distributing in Sleepy Eye.  Then Brown bought a grain trailer to add to the business; and soon the beer route dropped off and feed and ingredients took off.

In 1992, Mark Brown bought out his father’s business after 10 years trucking experience with the local Vigorena Feeds milling plant.

Vogel purchased and assumed management and operations January 1, 2015.  He is glad to have the opportunity to take the business over from his father-in-law, after driving truck for the company for the past 19 years.  “Things worked out,” Vogel said.  “I went to school for accounting. I wanted to do something business-related.”   His accounting studies were a good investment.  “It comes in handy in the business,” he said. 

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