Brian McKenzie, a fourth-generation farmer who grows wild rice for Next Generation Foods, didn’t expect to return to his agricultural roots after earning a business degree in college, but the land called him back. “I like putting in a hard day’s work and seeing the results of it through the success of your crop,” he says.
“We embrace technology on farm,” says McKenzie, who uses GPS data to meter fertilizer applications and precision leveling to conserve water. “People are amazed when they see that the grades in our rice fields are so precise.”
McKenzie also prides himself on the excellent rapport he has built with employees over the years. “I think I’ve earned a lot of respect from my employees because I’ll be right there with them, doing the tough job, not just taking the easy ones for myself,” he says.
He appreciates doing business with Next Generation Foods because of the close relationship the company has with growers and the emphasis they place on locally grown foods. “They’re a great company to work with. I’m a big supporter of the whole locally sourced ag market,” says McKenzie. “I do think that one of the biggest problems in the country is that people do not know where their food comes from.”
McKenzie supplies Next Generation Foods with his highest grade of wild rice and works hard to meet the stringent quality standards of their food service customers. “In our current climate of food quality, health and safety, I think for a chef to be able to tell customers that it’s fresh, it’s local and it’s grown with proper practices is a great selling point.”