Harvest 2012: Q&A with co-founder Brandon Bert
Amazing Grass Harvest 2012
Every year Amazing Grass founders Todd Habermehl and Brandon Bert travel to Larned, Kansas, to get down to the roots of their business and take in the sights and sounds of the annual harvest. We recently caught up with Brandon Bert to discuss the harvest and other family matters:
AG.com: You’ve just returned from the annual harvest. Does travelling to Kansas at this time of year make you think of your roots and your family legacy in this business?
BB: You know, it really does! My Grandpa, Raymond Bert, knew and worked with Charles Schnabel who is considered the forefather of this industry. They worked together at W. J. Small in the 1930’s, when Charles was doing a lot of his research on cereal grass nutrition.
Certainly the passion and keen mind which drove Charles directly affected my grandpa and now me. In fact I recently nominated Charles for the Agricultural Hall of Fame and had correspondence with his
daughter Emily. I received a letter and photo from her. She still remembers her childhood vividly when her dad dehydrated wheat grass in a screen box from their floor furnace, ground it up, and mixed it with all their foods…from cereal, milk, eggs to ice cream. They had cereal grasses with every meal. Today she is 84 years young and as active as ever. So yes, harvest time is definitely a special time for me.
AG.com: How many acres of cereal grasses were harvested this year?
BB: Almost 1000 acres were harvested this year. What was truly exemplary of this year’s harvest was how early it came! This was the earliest harvest in 20 years. March saw the second warmest temperatures on record, nearly 15 degrees above normal.
AG.com: How long does the harvest take?
BB: The team was able to do an amazing job harvesting and dehydrating under adverse conditions in a short amount of time. I mentioned the warm temperatures and early start; we also had some good soaking rain in late March. The first part of the harvest had really high moisture levels in the grasses, making it more challenging to dehydrate.
As the sunshine returned, they began drying out making it easier to dial in the perfect moisture levels for our pellets. They have been working nearly round the clock for the past 13 days and finally got a break on Easter Sunday. The harvest should finish up in a few days...so about 2 weeks total.
AG.com: How would you rate the cereal grasses this year compared to last year?
BB: This is turning out to be a great harvest. The yield looks to be smaller than last year, but the quality is excellent and up there among the best we’ve had. This year’s harvest will start hitting customer shelves in the coming months.
AG.com: Are there any interesting anecdotes from this year’s harvest that you’d like to share?
BB: I’d like to call out a couple things we’re doing to maximize nutritional value - one is our stem removal process. Our specially designed aspirator allows us to separate stems from leaves. Multiple trucks were filled with the removed stems before pressing the grass into pellets.
These truckloads of compostable stems are an additional process that separates us from any of our competitors. These stems are included with the leaves in our competitor’s grasses. We remove them so our consumers only get the most nutrient dense leafy green tips of our grasses that have been harvested at their peak of nutrition, just prior to jointing.
My uncle Carlton has also been instrumental in developing a proprietary nutrient-dense nano particle fertilizer that we use on our wheat grass and barley grass. It puts many nutrient rich minerals into the soil to give our cereal grasses their high mineral profile.