Folks on the Farm: Andrew Long

Andrew is my son-in-law and manages the Oil Barn on the farm. Read on to hear more about him.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Andrew Long. I am Bob’s son-in-law, I married his youngest daughter, Bridgette. I run The Oil Barn and live here on the farm and my work is primarily focused on safflower oil.

What is your position on the farm? What are your overall responsibilities?
My overall responsibilities are to run The Oil Barn which means the production, marketing, distribution, sourcing, and development of safflower oil and related products. Everything that has to do with The Oil Barn goes through me. It’s a one-man show right now!

How long have you worked with Bob on the farm?
It’ll be four years in October.

Was this your first position with Bob?
Yes, The Oil Barn was the reason my wife and I moved out here. Bob offered us the job to run it and own it and that’s why we’re here.

What’s your favorite part of the job?
My favorite part of the job is visiting with my customers. I like talking to them and getting their insight on how they use our product, what they like about it and what they don’t like about it. I feel like I have a really good relationship with all my customers. They’re all really friendly and they appreciate what we do here.

Besides interacting with my customers I also making operational improvements. It’s really rewarding to see a problem, think of a solution, implement it and see it work. It’s really exciting and you get a sense of accomplishment.

What sort of changes or additions would you like to make in your current position, and why?
I would certainly like to have more automation on the production side of things. Where I don’t necessarily have to tend to the equipment and the machinery so frequently. I’d like to see things run for a longer period of time without needing attention from me. I would also like to be able to focus more on product development, I enjoy that aspect of business quite a bit.

What goals do you hope to help Bob achieve in your work?
I would love to grow the business and increase our distribution within the state of Montana. We’re going to be releasing a bottled product here soon that I think is going to allow us to get into some markets that we’re not in right now. And it’s going to allow us to further our distribution within the state. It’s a healthy product that benefits Montana farmers and rural economies. The more we’re able to grow the better it is for Montana.

So where are you originally from?
Good question. I have a hard time answering that sometimes. I was born in northern California, in a city called Modesto. I lived there until I was 15. When I was 15 my family and I moved to Salisbury, Maryland, and I finished out high school there. Then I went to college in Utah and then from Utah I moved out here to Montana.

Did you grow up on a farm?
Before living here in Montana I had never ever been close to agriculture. In California there were a lot of dairies and rice fields around area, but I never worked on them and I never really spent much time on them. This is the closest I’ve ever been to agriculture.

What sort of qualifications or education was required for this position?
I think the biggest qualification for this job is dedication and hard work. A lot of the time things don’t go according to plan, so you’ve really got to be adaptable and willing to put in what it takes. There have been nights when I’ve actually slept in the barn because it needed attention every two hours and it didn’t make sense for me to go home and come back. So I just pulled out an air mattress and spent the night in the barn.

Do you feel like your schooling has helped with your position, then?
I feel like my education has helped quite a bit for this job. I studied business operations and supply chain management and it’s helped me focus on making sure that things are running efficiently. It’s also helped me understand the importance of good record keeping and accounting. I’m certainly not an accountant, but it’s been very helpful to be able to run the books and be able to get a clear picture of what’s going on with the business. And I feel like that’s come from the education I received in business.

What do you enjoy about working for Bob?
I like the flexibility. I like being able to do things how I want to do them. And Bob’s very good about family. He pushes hard work all the time, he wants you to work hard. But he also understands the need to take care of your family and do things that you need to do personally. As long as the job’s getting done, I feel like Bob’s been very good about accommodating the other aspects of life.

Working closely with Bob on The Oil Barn has also showed me that he is a true innovator. He’s got innovation in his DNA. He’s very good at coming up with multiple solutions to a problem and if he’s not sure about something, he knows who to talk to. His network of people is large so there’s no shortage of accessible knowledge.

What are your thoughts on organic farming and were you familiar with organic farming before working for Bob?
I knew a little bit about organics before starting out here but not that much. To me organics is about choice. There are a lot of people that feel safe knowing that their food is made without synthetically produced pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers or genetically engineered crops. If people want to consume those, in my opinion, that’s fine. But if people don’t want to, I believe they should be able to have an option not to. And I want to be able to provide that option to them. As far as my own personal opinion, I believe that organic food is safer. I feel comfortable eating it. I like the idea. But most of all it’s about choice to me.

Would you encourage your children to be organic farmers?
If they want to farm, absolutely! One thing I’ve learned about farming is you really have to love it. It can be very demanding. It can be very intense. So if they want to go into it, I would very much support them in that decision.

In conclusion, has working on an organic farm changed your perceptions about farming and food supply?
Yes, it sure has. Before I wasn’t so concerned about it. It didn’t seem to be that big of a deal to me. I hadn’t really given the food supply chain much thought. But since coming out here, I realized the vulnerability that exists in our supply chain. There really has to be a level of trust there because what we eat impacts us directly. So if we trust the supply chain that our food comes through then we know that we’re going to get exactly what we’re expecting.

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