By Holloway Ag

Meet Your Partners in Growth Series

Featuring Steve Lenander, Director of Agronomy

Steve Lenander

Steve Lenander doesn’t feel like he has worked a day in his life. He is unabashedly and irrefutably passionate about helping growers get the most out of their soil. For the past 30 years, Steve has worked with farmers in the Central Valley to turn their dirt back into soil and improve their yields through thoughtful analysis and data.

“I don’t feel like I have a job, I just get to play everyday!” Steve remarks.

Steve was intrigued by agriculture at a young age. Growing up on the west side of Kern County, his family was in the oil business, but Steve had no interest, saying that he just always knew he wanted to be in agriculture.

“I just love the outdoors and love the idea of growing things,” Steve says. I remember I had a garden as a kid – just a small thing – but I started playing around with fertilizers and the benefits of those and I was dumbfounded at how much growth you could get out of this liquid!”

As a kid, Steve participated heavily in 4H and also worked for a family friend on a cattle ranch. He went on to get his degree in agriculture from Fresno State and was hired by a private entomologist to do field checking in the summers while getting his degree. He got the idea early on that there is a relationship between entomology and agronomy, so Steve started working with the University of California to blend entomology and agronomy for cotton. This led to the formation of his agronomy consulting company, Bar ZL Agronomy.

Steve has happily consulted as an agronomist for almost three decades before joining the Holloway Ag team as the Director of Agronomy.

“The whole idea that our CEO, Brian [Maxted] has and the belief that we want to do things really, really right and be the best in the business is what attracted me to join the Holloway team,” Steve says. “Brian and Vard [Terry] really nurture that ideology and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse!”

Steve says that he loves working with the Holloway Ag team. In his role as Director of Agronomy, he is able to help the sales people make better decisions in the field and on behalf of the grower.

“They are not soil chemists, so I can go to the clients with them, with soil analysis in-hand and make the precise recommendation of what that grower needs, no more and no less,” Steve says.

In fact, that grower first mentality is what attracted Steve to Holloway. He remarks on a conversation he had with Holloway’s President, Vard Terry, when he was nervous about being in a position to always recommend Gypsum, one of Holloway’s most popular products.

“I’ve known Vard my whole career, and used Holloway products at my company, but told Vard that I don’t always recommend Gypsum and I don’t want to feel like I have to do that,” Steve remarks. “Vard said to me ‘I would fire you if you are pushing the wrong product to the grower.’ That was all I needed to hear and I knew I was in the right place. You have to have constant integrity. If you don’t have integrity in this business, you are done.”

When analyzing a field, Steve has a mantra: fix the macro problems first. He looks at analytics, weather, soil, water, and tissue, and can either evaluate them individually or collectively to find the macro issues with the soil. He says that if those macro problems can be fixed, many times the micro problems will fix themselves. But the growers have to be on-board for the process because often the problems take more than just a year to resolve. Agronomy is a long game strategy where the most limiting factor is addressed first.

“Every piece of soil on a farm has to be analyzed in it’s own right,” Steve says. “You need all the pieces of the puzzle to get all the input needed to make the right decisions. If we can direct those dollars of input, we can do a lot of good – increase yield and quality and efficiency of dollars.”

Many growers get very interested and want to understand the process, what the data says and why Steve is coming up with his recommendations. Because of this partnership, Steve has worked with some of the same accounts for his whole career.

“Some of these growers have truly become my friends. I’ve watched their kids grow up and get married and spent Christmases at their houses,” Steve reflects. “I get to meet all these new people and go to these new ranches and it keeps me very excited!”

That sense of fun, play and comradery inspired Steve’s son to also go into farming. When his son graduated from college, he was working in oil and gas and he would hear Steve late into the night talking to his clients, laughing and joking.

“He said to me, ‘Dad, I don’t think anyone in my office talks to their clients late into the evening, let alone enjoys it as much as you do! I need to find a job in ag,’” Steve laughs.

Inspired by his dad, Steve’s son now works for Wonderful in their production plant for pistachios and just gave Steve his first grandson, Cohen Bishop, with “Bishop” being an homage to the Bishop, CA area where Steve and his family love to hunt and fish.

Within the ag industry there is a lot of excitement about agronomy. Steve notes that he is seeing more young people come into the industry.

“Passion drives success. It is not the easiest job in the world and for a true agronomist, there is no better ground tracking than footsteps in the dirt,” Steve says. “All the technology is good but you cannot replace footsteps in the field. You can learn the basics in school, but until you’ve been there and done that with someone with gray hair like me, you don’t have the experience.”

Steve’s passion for farming and the success of the grower are without question. He truly loves his job and the role he plays at Holloway saying, “Bottom line at Holloway Agronomy is we strive to make the healthiest soils possible and figure out the most efficient path to get us there. Holloway wins when the grower wins.”

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