Photos by J Alan Paul Photography
With a population of just a few hundred, Chaffee, North Dakota is no booming metropolis. And that’s just what Chris Hoffmann, founder of Bonanza Agronomy Services, loves about it.
Hoffmann founded Bonanza Agronomy Services about six years ago and to this day is proud to be a local company with local values. In fact, you’re more likely to find Hoffmann and his employees out in their field than nestled behind a desk.
Bonanza Agronomy Services specializes only in row crops, corn and soybeans, ensuring that the customer receives complete expertise from Bonanza staff. Dedication to the customer is a core value at which Bonanza Agronomy Services is proud to be built on. “I don’t sleep well if my customers are not sleeping well,” said Hoffmann. “Every purchase and recommendation that we make has to be farmer first, then Bonanza. I’m not always happy financially with the recommendation that I put forward, but I sleep great at night.”
Coming from a family farm background, Hoffmann knows the ins and outs of the business. He resonates with farmers’ hearts for the trade and their stewardship to the land. He shared, “Part of the reason that Bonanza exists is that it impresses me the passion that an American farmer has for his land, for his family and his career.”
A Family Man
Chris Hoffmann didn’t intend on ending up back in the Red River Valley to plant roots. But with his independent ag retail business Bonanza Agronomy Services thriving in rural North Dakota, this path just makes sense.
Hoffmann was born in Moorhead, Minnesota and raised near Chaffee, North Dakota. He initially went to North Dakota State University for psychology, as he didn’t see farming as his career path at the time. Hoffmann was fascinated by psychology, but two years into the program he dropped out to return to the family farm. Then a few short years later, he decided to return to college, this time for crop and weed science. The two competing career paths in Hoffmann’s life might appear in opposition, but his career in ag sales and marketing marry the two degree programs perfectly. Knowing how the human mind works and speaking to customers as people, not just clients, he creates meaningful connections in every interaction.
In college, he interned with Dow AgroSciences (now Corteva) in the research and development department. Upon completion of his degree, he set out to work for some big names in the seed manufacturing industry, soon entering their sales and marketing departments. For 10 years, he worked at Syngenta as Marketing Manager and then District Manager. These roles landed him in Wisconsin but required a lot of travel, including international travel. And after almost a decade, he was ready to do his own thing and plant roots for his family of five. Thus, Bonanza Ag was born.
While he was successful in his career with the big-name companies, he wanted the stability and values that came with owning and running his own business. Hoffmann is strong in his personal beliefs and he operates best when all of those values are in balance. “I really felt like I needed to root down to raise my family. I know, that’s a real Midwestern thing and not everyone’s going to even agree with me on that, but I felt it was important,” he said.
Independent Ag Retail
Hoffmann came across the concept of independent ag retail when he met Dave DeLong of the DeLong Company in Clinton, Wisconsin. “The DeLong Company was a huge influence on my life. Seeing independent ag for the first time and seeing it as family values and a family-owned business,” said Hoffmann. “I was asking myself, ‘How do I leave a legacy?’ I couldn’t identify a good way before this.”
Rather than going through a manufacturer, independent ag retailers carry a variety of brands and products, truly offering their clients the best outcome. This comes with a level of authenticity and genuine care that sometimes the big box retailers overlook.
With an idea in mind, Hoffmann discovered and addressed an unmet need in North Dakota, specifically Cass County. This unmet need was independent ag retail. To have a true partner in your supply chain and one that values the community you operate in is something many in this region were missing.
Just over 30 miles west of Fargo sits Chaffee, North Dakota, a destination many would consider a ghost town. But to Hoffmann, there’s just something about a small, rural town that gets him excited.
When driving through this region he grew up in a few years ago, he stumbled on a pasture on the edge of town, just across from the town elementary school. Covered in grassy, swamp-like terrain, a “for sale” sign caught his eye on the conventionally unattractive plot. Feeling sentimental over the elementary school he grew up going to and moved by a sign over the youth baseball diamond reading “every child has a dream,” Hoffmann put in an offer for the land that very day. Hoffmann said with a laugh, “I know it’s corny, but that day I bought that land. It just started clicking, everything started falling into place.
I think this was an opportunity to ground me and ground my family. And it just happens to be that it’s in the backyard of where I grew up, which is really the cool part of that.” With land purchased, the first step in launching an ag retail business alongside his own farm was in place.
Beyond a personal connection to the region, Hoffmann is also dedicated to keeping rural American cities healthy and their local businesses alive. Bonanza Agronomy Services walks the walk, investing in the community, sponsoring local events and being engrained in the town’s patchwork. “I don’t believe that Chaffee should be a ghost town. I believe in rural America, I believe in rural communities. I think there’s a segment of young people that really want to live rural, that want to raise their families rural. And I think it’s important to have rural development, to have small towns,” he said. If people resonate with those sentiments, Hoffmann is confident they will also find value in him and his company’s core values.
“Bonanza Ag was a calling. It was a calling to come back home and give back everything I’ve learned. And I had learned a ton and I had so much to give. And it’s fun, I’m having a blast!” he added.
The Farmer’s Farmer
Wholly dedicated to the farmer, confusing technical terminology and formulas have no home at Bonanza Agronomy Services. Instead, Hoffmann and his team are committed to communicating in plain English and customers can have peace of mind knowing the recommendations are truly what is best for them.
Hoffmann is a firm believer that farmers need partners. Especially with the rising demographic of farmers working on succession planning, the next generation of farmers are stepping in and they need advice from someone who is on their side, who knows the land. The next generation of farmer needs a partner that is an expert in the day-today all the way to financial planning, and Hoffmann aims to be just that.
Bonanza Agronomy Services’ bull’s eye of a client is the farmer of tomorrow. Hoffmann aims to work with the individual taking over the family farm, the one who doesn’t want to keep doing things the way they’ve always been done. “They need somebody that is going to guide them, that’s going to help them with succession planning, that has a flair for finance, but also has a flair for production agriculture and how they can do things differently than mom or dad or grandma or grandpa did it,” he said.
Taking what he has learned from his years of experience — in college, manufacturing and distribution spheres —he’s back home and back in retail, working with the very people he once was.
Hoffmann notes that falling into a rut is the biggest challenge for his business, and others in the agricultural industry too. In the tough agricultural time we are in, it is easy to slip into the gutter. “The answer is not hoping that prices go up. Hope is not a strategy,” he said. In this field, one cannot just wish for the best, they must make moves and switch up their strategy.
To do this, Hoffmann and his team work to stay educated and up to speed on all the technologies at their disposal. How do they properly place such technologies with the right farmers? How can they identify what is best for each square foot of land? Addressing and identifying these details is what Bonanza Agronomy Services strives to achieve.
Along with learning the ever-growing pool of resources, Hoffmann knows the importance of networking and learning from other experts. Rather than being a jack of all trades and a master of none, the company is comfortable relinquishing control in a certain field if it means the customer will see the most success. Bonanza Agronomy Services’ mastery comes with knowing their client and their product inside and out.
The Bonanza Legacy
In the 1960s hit television show, Bonanza, we follow the Cartwright family as they navigate their thousand-acre Nevada ranch in post-Civil War America. The show received many accolades, becoming NBC’s longest-running western and earning a number of Emmy awards and nominations. What made the show stand out among other popular westerns of the time were its storylines dealing more with interpersonal tales from the family than simply ranch-life.
Following in the footsteps of the series sharing its same name, Bonanza Agronomy Services also shares the sentiment of focusing on people and their stories first. Whether on grounds of Ponderosa Ranch or in quiet Chaffee, North Dakota, this dedication to people-first is a timeless recipe for success.