by Dennis Dalman
Thanks to “Farmer Bob’s” secret recipe, many homeowners for decades have been keeping their lawns as green as Ireland, but not too long ago those homeowners just about had panic attacks when they heard Farmer Bob was ending his local fertilizer business.
Not to worry. All is well. Farmer Bob, also known as Bob Schefers of Sartell, recently sold his old homestead to another family, and that family, at the urging of its children, will continue to sell Farmer Bob’s Lawn Fertilizer from a big building on the property.
Curt and Brandy Smallbrock bought 10 acres of Bob and Doris Schefers’ property in west Sartell, including their house. It is at 2085 Sixth St. S. Meantime, the Schefers moved into a patio house on the other 60 acres of property they own at the same area.
Brandy and Curt asked their children if they would be willing to help with sales of Farmer Bob’s Lawn Fertilizer. The teenage children are Ethan, Emily and Cade. The kids leaped at the chance to have some entrepreneurial fun. Everyone, including the Schefers, were pleased as punch that loyal customers would still be able to purchase the bags of lawn fertilizer at the same place.
For many decades, Bob and Doris Schefers owned and operated Farmer Bob’s Lawn Service. Thirty-two years ago, they became frustrated when commercial fertilizer seemed all too often to burn up grass seed before it could establish itself.
That is when a long period of trial-and-error experimentation began, with lots of constant input from Farmer Bob’s customers. Bob and Doris did enormous amounts of research and consulted some experts. Eventually they arrived at their “secret recipe” for a consistent, reliable fertilizer containing various types and amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous, potash and other ingredients. Schefers discovered that one of the secrets is the color of the ammonia sulfate (gray, white or red). Gray is best, he came to realize, and it and the other ingredients have to be mixed “just so.”
Once they had perfected their product, it “sold itself,” Schefers recalled. But it took some patience. Many customers would apply the stuff and then wonder why dull grass was not turning green. Schefers became practically famous for saying over and over to customers, “On the seventh day.” It was practically a biblical injunction.
“It has to be on the lawn for seven days,” he’d advise them reassuringly. “Then, on the seventh day, you will see how green that lawn will be.”
And sure enough. On the seventh day, customers would behold with amazement their suddenly deep-green lawns.
“It was always fun to see those smiles on their faces on the seventh day,” said Schefers.
At various times, Farmer Bob’s Lawn Fertilizer was mixed and sold at places in Cold Spring, St. Martin, other cities and currently at Elrosa. All the while, the Schefers would sell tons of bags of it on his Sartell property. At Elrosa, about 300 tons of the stuff would be bagged per season. The product is also sold at other nurseries, such as Huls Nursery in St. Wendel. A big plus of the fertilizer is that it’s safe for animals and people, Schefers noted. Throughout the years, people would come to buy it from as far away as the Twin Cities, Duluth and the Dakotas.
Twenty years ago, the Schefers sold their lawn service, but they kept the fertilizer part of it. Schefers still does some part-time farming, too, on his acreage. The Schefers have four grown children, all of them nearby residents: Lyle, Lori and twins Kevin and Kelly.
Curt Smallbrock is vice president/commercial lender for Pine Country Bank in Rice. Brandy Smallbrock is vice president of member relations for Independent Community Bankers of America, based in Washington, D.C. Her job requires her to travel often to 13 states, including the West Coast, Alaska and Hawaii.
Both are gung-ho advocates for the Shop Local movement, which is another reason they are happy to be able to sell Farmer Bob’s Lawn Fertilizer, a local product.
“The kids will actually run the business,” Brandy said. “They have a very strong work ethic and are active in school. Ethan is a member of the golf team and SabreStorm Fishing Team. Emily is on the Sartell Sabre Dance Team and Cade is on the baseball team and also a member of the SabreStorm Fishing Team.”
The Smallbrocks and the Schefers have a deep and abiding respect for one another.
“We feel fortunate living so close to Bob and Doris,” Brandy said. “We just love them, and we love this land. So close to town but so secluded, too.”
“The Smallbrocks,” Bob said, “are awesome people. So easy to communicate with and so open-minded.”
For more about Farmer Bob’s Fertilizer, see the following website: www.hulsnursery.com.