It was in the mid-1990s that Chad Gripp was faced with some tough choices: Was there a future for him in farming?

"Most of our farm equipment was at least 20 years old," he remembers. "And our farm wasn't big enough to also support me when I would be graduating from Illinois State."

But Gripp was a guy that "really lived and breathed farming," as he says, "all day every day." He was very intent on finding a way in. "I remember getting out of bed in the middle of the night and going out to the little loft office in the machinery shed," he says. "I just started writing down all the different kinds of services we could offer if we bought the right new equipment and worked hard to run it over more acres."

Then he got to work. Custom harvesting went from a few hundred acres to 6,000. He bought a big Hagie sprayer and added custom application. The planter got an upgrade. Then another applicator. His wife, TeNeille, quit teaching to help mix chemicals and do office work for Gripp Custom Farming, Sheffield, Illinois. The family farm grew to include son, Chase, now a Purdue grad working with Cargill, and daughter, Stephanie, now an all-academic equestrian athlete at Oklahoma State.

Now Gripp announced March 17 he's entered a dealer agreement with Meristerm Crop Performance, a new provider of crop inputs. Gripp says it's about high quality, convenience and cutting out waste that adds cost to products instead of value.

"It's our mission with farmers to be able to say, 'Hey, we want to make sure you have a consistent supply of everything you need to be as successful as you can be,' and Meristem has a line-up of high-quality products at a price point that allows farmers a better ROI," he says. "Meristem's support is also key–they are making these products more convenient to use and that makes a big difference to us out here." Gripp points to HOPPER THROTTLE, an 80/20 talc-graphite fortified with micronutrients and microbes as an example.

"These HOPPER THROTTLE products are some of the most advanced and easy-to-use planter box seed treatments on the market," he explains. "Biologicals, micronutrients, and plant growth regulators are all in this easy-to-use 80/20 talc/graphite mix. This is likely to go on all of the acres the Gripp family owns this year."

Gripp will also add products including seed treatments under the brand RACEREADY, REVLINE plant growth regulators, TRUTRACK drift control, and HOMESTRETCH micronutrients and foliar nutritionals.

"The Gripp team has a reputation for smart farming, hard work and putting farmers first," said Peter Rousonelos, Meristem vice president for business development. "I've known Chad a long time and I'm really excited that we can work together to serve farmers with better products and prices that help them make the most of every dollar they spend. Especially when we see so much stress from high crop input prices right now. Meristem is in the game to help farmers fight back."

"The biggest thing is fertilizer prices," says Gripp. "Crop protection is going to cost farmers more, but that doesn't seem to bother them much as the NPK numbers. With the crop protection program, you might wrap up 100 to 120 bucks total per acre, but with fertilizer, it's hitting up to 300 or 400 per acre–so the increase hits them much harder," he explained. Gripp says that's why he is excited about being able to also add G|FULL FEED residue reduction biological in the mix under his own GRIPP brand. "As these yields and plant populations have gone up, this whole trash thing is a big deal," he says. "Often, we are seeing guys do two tillage passes across the stubble before they chisel plow in the spring. We think we can get rid of a vertical till pass with a post-harvest application of G|FULL FEED."

Other products in the GRIPP brand are the G|FENCED-N nitrogen management system and G|SWEETWATER premium water conditioner and surfactant.