Ranch Investor Podcast

a person in a suit with black background

Episode 2 | How the Digital Age is Revolutionizing Ag products and services


In this episode, Trevor McKeeman discusses his agricultural marketplace, Hitchpin, with Colter DeVries. Hitchpin was inspired by Trevor’s farming experiences and focuses on the hay market, offering solutions to challenges like price discovery and quality control. The platform connects buyers and sellers, promotes price transparency, and features a commission-based revenue model. Hitchpin has gained thousands of users across the United States.

Colter also digs how Trevor’s Hitchpin addresses labor challenges in agriculture through outsourcing and gig economy labor. Trevor highlights the role of technology in rural areas, improving food production and reducing waste. The conversation touches on potential collaborations with the Ranch Investor platform. Overall, this segment emphasizes the transformative impact of technology on agriculture, making transactions more efficient and transparent.

Colter DeVries: 0:02
I’m Colter DeVries, owner of Ranch Investor Advisory and Brokerage Services. I’m an accredited land consultant with the Realtor Land Institute and proud member of ASFMRA.

Trevor McKeeman: 0:13
The Ranch Investor Podcast is the most downloaded and informative industry-specific content that intrigues while entertains.

Colter DeVries: 0:22
Okay, before we get going on this one, I want to make a disclaimer. Now, this one might seem like a sales pitch from hitchpincom, but it’s not. We actually get into some pretty unique conversations. I don’t know about unique, I wouldn’t say that but we do get into some what I found rewarding. We’ll go with that. We get into some what I find rewarding conversations. Trevor is an awesome guy. I just met him for the first time recording this, and that’s the way I like these podcast to go. I want them to be completely organic. I don’t want to have an introductory call and hear about what they do, who they are. I don’t want to get to know them. I want my questions to be authentic, original and organic and I want my response and my guest’s response to be legitimate. I want it to be sincere. So this is completely shoot from the hip these recordings, and Trevor is awesome and we got into some what I found to be touching. He has a touching story about helping his mom in a time of need. So yeah, hang in there. This is not a sales pitch and it’s one of my favorite episodes. Thanks for tuning in what’s going, trevor. Good Thanks for hopping on. I see you’ve got the marketplace up in your background. You’ve got all those pins out there showing what people are buying and selling.

Trevor McKeeman: 2:01
It’s been pretty cool. I grew up farming and so to kind of see the demand that people have for this kind of thing and the growth and some of those pins are interesting because we started out with hay and now there’s all you know, there’s close to 500 different subcategories and so it’s everything from welding to livestock to harvest services. It’s pretty cool to watch those pins grow.

Colter DeVries: 2:30
So we’re talking about hitch pin, hitch pin dot com, and it looks to be a marketplace for all things. Agriculture Is that? Is that a fair?

Trevor McKeeman: 2:43
assessment. I think that’s. I think that’s pretty fair. So you know, I again sort of, if Amazon started with books, I kind of teased that we started with something equally sexy, which is hey, but most people don’t sort of realize how big just that one category is. It’s close to a $20 billion industry in the US alone. And so I grew up farming in my. You know there were years where our hay production would sell super fast and there’s other years where you know it was late in the season before it sold and you never really knew if you had the right pricing on it. You know transportation, logistics, was always a challenge. And then I can remember, you know, there would be times where my dad would sell hay and then I’ll get paid for like six months. And I kept thinking how is this a thing? Right, like this is we live in a modern world, how is this a thing? And so I had studied a bunch of different marketplaces. You know, obviously everybody’s familiar with things like Airbnb and Uber and those sorts of things and I kept thinking why hasn’t this happened in food production yet? Why don’t we have this sort of technology to help farmers and ranchers? And I know the reason why. Now, it’s because you know, as as probably many of your listeners know, agriculture is unbelievably complicated. There is so much logistics, so much other stuff, even beyond what you see in, like taxis and hotels, and so you have to build a, you have to build a marketplace that can accommodate that and sort of meet producers at the needs that they have.

Colter DeVries: 4:26
So, trevor McKeeman, where did you grow up? Farming Kansas.

Trevor McKeeman: 4:30
Yep, kansas, north of Abilene, kansas, so Dwight D Eisenhower’s hometown, our farm ground is all north of Abilene and so, yeah, 1980s farming was my sort of introduction to agriculture. My folks were building a farm in the 1980s, which was a tough time, as you all know, to build a farm, and I think the reason we survived when a lot of people didn’t during that period was we did things differently than others, so we were early adopters of different things. It wasn’t all brand new technology, in fact, a lot of our equipment was older equipment that we just had to keep running. But we we did things differently and I think that has put a. I think that’s had a huge influence in my life since then. You know how do you look at an industry and how do you, how do you look at it slightly differently and and see what opportunities are out there.

Colter DeVries: 5:28
Well, if I pull up your marketplace and we’re talking about hay specifically, which is a very localized market and in drought years it becomes regionalized and sometimes even nationalized market, primarily localized no index. It’s hard to get spot pricing for hay, it’s hard to get quality pricing, it’s hard to get paid if you’re the hay seller. What have you done to refine and standardize that process?

Trevor McKeeman: 5:59
You know, I think you just nailed it right. I mean that that’s exactly the challenges that we run into, and you brought up something that is is so relevant now the sort of drought conditions that have been out there in various parts of the country. So it’s fascinating because in the past, if you needed hay, you called up the five people that you knew right, and most of them were probably local, and if you’re in a drought condition, nobody has hay or the price is is, you know, way too high. And so I think the piece that I’m excited about with Hitchpin is we’re connecting buyers and sellers that would have never found each other had it not been for a digital marketplace. So you know, a lot of our hay is is moving over a hundred 150 miles now between areas where there was rain and areas where there wasn’t rain, and in in some respects, the sellers are getting more than their local price that they could get, and the buyers are still buying it at a discount compared to what their local price is. So you know your your comment about local and then regional and then national there hasn’t been a really effective clearinghouse to be able to match those buyers and sellers. And then, specifically, I think something that Hitchpin does that is valuable is it escrows the money between the buyer and the seller. So it’s not just hey, I can discover what’s available out there, but there’s a rating system behind the buyers and sellers. The moment if, if I’m selling hay to you, the moment that both of us agree the, the money is put in an escrow account, and then, when the hay is delivered and both sides are satisfied with it, the money then transfers over to the seller. So it really protects both parties and it allows them to do business with folks they may may not be familiar with. So you know, maybe maybe you always do a business with one particular person, but if the weather conditions are different, you may have to change that, and this just gives producers a much bigger pool of buyers and sellers.

Colter DeVries: 8:06
So you’ve standardized the payment process for for this, because I agree with you. I can relate. When my dad used to sell hay, it was always you know certain amount up front and then doable, then payable within 30 days, and definitely want to be selling to people where you think you know their reputation. Hey, it was because once it’s off the truck and on their place, it’s not yours.

Trevor McKeeman: 8:32
Yeah, and you know, and some of these guys, even the local guys, I mean, you may see them at church and you want to ask them why haven’t you paid? Maybe you don’t right. So so I mean, that’s what’s really cool about this is it’s not just a sort of a classified ad, it’s all the marketing, the payment processing, the invoicing, the record keeping, sort of all of those things it’s like it’s like bringing a team of five people onto your farm, for you know just a fraction of what that would actually cost. You know, and I kind of I think it’s interesting if you think about a lot of the really sophisticated farms out there. You know they’re trying to build websites, they’re trying to do their own payment processing and they can spend, you know, tens of thousands of dollars trying to set all that stuff up. And even if they do, will anybody find them right? The way SEO works and search engines it’s? You know you may have a beautiful website and nobody can find you. So by aggregating all that stuff into a marketplace, you’re spreading the cost of that development out significantly and essentially you can offer a service that is a fraction of the cost of trying to do it yourself and with a lot more visibility.

Colter DeVries: 9:50
Is Hitchpin commission based?

Trevor McKeeman: 9:53
Yeah, right now it’s all based on. So you could go out and create a hay listing today, or a cattle listing, or grain or equipment or whatever, and it’s completely free to do that. And then only when there’s a successful transaction and we X grow the money do we take a fee in that process. We did that because we felt it was the fairest way to kind of put our money where our mouth was, to say hey, you know, we believe in the ability to connect folks and we do have some other pretty cool options that we’re experimenting with. So we have some folks that are wanting to use Hitchpin for all of their transactions because of the they don’t have to write invoices and things like that. So we are experimenting with some things like subscriptions for folks that sort of just want to use it for everything, and those are things that are pretty cool as you build a company to see, kind of, where you can better serve your customers. We’ve got close to 65,000 farmers on Hitchpin now.

Colter DeVries: 10:51
Would that be? How about active monthly users?

Trevor McKeeman: 10:56
Yeah, I mean it’s measured in the tens of thousands of active monthly users and that’s spread across. We have listings now in 49 states. So we still got a list of pineapple or something for sale in Hawaii, but we’ve got all the rest of the states have had listings in them. So it’s it started out in the center part of the country, kind of expanded into the plains and the kind of mountain west and then hit the coast and now, as you think about the density and we can certainly pull up a map but the density is now expanding within that that core out again. So it’s pretty cool to see.

Colter DeVries: 11:34
Staying on the topic of hay, the hay markets, the challenge, as you mentioned, is always price discovery for a niche, nuanced, local, becoming regional, becoming national market. Price discovery is always a challenge and therefore the auctions have grown in popularity over the last three years. You see a lot more auctions selling hay. Who would be? I would have thought that there is someone tracking, indexing this market, creating reports. Do you create reports and who’s your competition? What differentiates you from some other hay marketplace?

Trevor McKeeman: 12:21
I love the question and it’s pretty interesting because if you think about it at the end of the day, as we grow and scale, just through individual listings of a producer like McKeeman Farms this year versus what they had last year, you can start to see really almost in real time the areas of high and low production year to year, which is pretty cool. And then our goal is to provide that information to the producer. So the producer now knows, you know here if I can raise it here, but if I can move it over here there’s a better price. And that price transparency I think is a really important thing for producers, especially when you’re you know you’re trying to get. It’s such a low margin business. You know how do you get. If you can, if you can get just a little bit more out of the things that you sell, that’s great. And same thing on the buy side if you can come up with an attractive deal. So yeah, to answer your question, we are seeing that data for sure and our goal is to not sort of hoard that data but to allow our users to be able to do that. And we already see folks coming to Hitchpin checking out hay prices in their area and then checking out hay prices 50 miles away or 100 miles away. And you know, I think if the question is really about the difference between Hitchpin and and traditional auction, I mean there’s so much value in auction companies for sure, and I think there’s just a different model right. So you got, an auction is different than a marketplace. Part of our goal with the marketplace was allowing a producer to put their price out there and then they can adjust that price up or down, so you can still have that sort of market sensitivity on pricing. But it’s sort of up to the supplier. And then of course, the demand side or the buyer side can come in and make an offer to. You know, I want to buy X dollars more or X tons more. You know, can you cut a price on it? So, accommodating for that, it just offers. You know, I would say a parallel and a complimentary thing to some of the auctions that are happening out there.

Colter DeVries: 14:34
Traditional bid. Ask then. So the supplier puts, puts it out there with their asking price. Do you, do you have any reports or do you make recommendations of where they might want to think about pricing it?

Trevor McKeeman: 14:47
Yeah, I, I. It’s a sophisticated question and the answer is I think over time, you know, you see a lot of these marketplaces that put suggestions out there. They say, hey, you know, airbnb says there’s a, there’s a football game in your area, you might consider changing the price and you know, for now, what we’re doing is we’re allowing it’s all in the control of the producer. To do that, I think, over time, as we build that, that book of data, offering that to the producer so they can make better decisions is something we’ll absolutely do. We’re just sort of taking it one step at a time. Right now, the most sophisticated, sophisticated algorithm is the producer themselves. Right, they understand their cost of production and the goal is to have them be able to not only cover their cost of production but make money doing it. So, yeah, those are all things that that come as a marketplace grows.

Colter DeVries: 15:42
So basically, everyone out there is kind of like my clients, where they’ll take a recommendation from the sleazy broker and then they will add 40% on top of that and let’s just put it out there at plus 40 and see what bites.

Trevor McKeeman: 15:59
I would say it’s an interesting question, the hay, that we’ll use hay, and we could talk about cattle or equipment or any of these other categories too. But you’re, you’re so right on the hay stuff. It’s such an opaque market, right. There’s just no price transparency. But I think what you do, what you see, is a different levels of sophistication. So if somebody goes out there and they price their hay accordingly and they kind of know their numbers and it’s within the range of the market and they can still do well margin wise on it, but that hay sells a lot faster. Obviously If somebody comes in and tries to gouge the market, that hay doesn’t move as fast or maybe it doesn’t move. So I mean, you know the free market has many critics, but it actually works pretty well, right, if you can, if you have an understanding of of what’s around you, at not only your local geography but the regional geography, it just opens up a lot more doors that you didn’t have before and it also is a huge time saver. So instead of, you know, making 30 phone calls, you know within a few minutes you can see what’s around you, or a few seconds you can see what’s around you. So it’s, it’s a massive time save.

Colter DeVries: 17:14
So how about quality control and and verifying sellers? So like when Colter DeVries is a little stretched, stretched on time, and he’s running that Baylor when he shouldn’t be, it’s a little too wet, but he’s just got to get it put up anyways, and and inevitably it does get put up way too wet and those things flatten out like pancakes, maybe start on fire, but definitely going to be moldy. How do you? How do you do quality control and verify sellers?

Trevor McKeeman: 17:48
That’s again a very great question and here’s how I would sort of answer that. I mean, you know, that’s the difference between ag products and so many other markets. If we were buying and selling USB cables or something like that, it’s a pretty standardized product, right, hey? And and all these other things are, there’s so many variables. So that’s part of the reason why there’s a rating system, part of the reason why there’s an escrow in the process. So if, if, if it shows up to your doorstep and it is, you ordered high quality alfalfa and it shows up and it’s, you know, it’s a bunch of weeds and a little bit of brome or something like that. Obviously, that’s that’s the reason why we have the money sitting in escrow and you can say, hey, this isn’t, this isn’t what I ordered. So that’s a big part of it. And then I would say the other piece. You know there’s a lot of things sort of to criticize on an Uber or something like that. But you know, like the difference between a cab where the driver thinks I mean I may never see this person again, versus somebody that is rated after the end of each drive, it makes all the difference in the world, right, it’s like that person probably is going to keep their car cleaner, probably be nicer to you, have a better quality of service probably you know all those things because they want to have repeat business, and I think the same is true in agriculture. So if there’s, if there’s somebody out there that is is just notoriously not delivering the right thing, they get pushed off the site because nobody will do business with them. And and the other thing about that is, you know, even if, if somebody sort of tries to intentionally do do something, you know, maybe in an offline world the buyer never works with that person again, but there’s no disincentive for them to try that same shenanigans on another buyer down the road, and that that’s different when you’re, when you have the capability to sort of rate these buyers and sellers on a regular basis. So now I have very much interest in providing you with the best product, because not only could I do business with you in the future, but it will impact my ability to do business with others.

Colter DeVries: 20:00
Well, how about, uh, so this for sale by owner marketplace? Maybe I shouldn’t go to this question yet, because this is a tangent Sure. Um, I think we’ve covered hay pretty good. Hey, is complex, and for for you to be able to figure that out, how? Cause? Every couple of years we hear of a big hay swinler during a drought period who takes advantage of people, and we saw that with the Canadian guy a couple of years ago who who got into some Montanans for several hundred thousand dollars. And yeah, hay swinling is a, you know, that’s a, it’s a thing ever recurring thing. It’ll always be a thing for sure.

Trevor McKeeman: 20:40
And to that to that point, by the way, we have folks now, um, you can, you know, as you see them chatting back and forth with buyers, you’ll see folks that say we use it both on the buy and the sell side. Um, you know, we, we want to run this through hitch pens so that we know we’re protected and that’s, you know, that feels pretty good. And but maybe the last thing I would say on hay just, and then we can move on to a different category is probably some of my favorite calls that I’ve had this year are from livestock producers. One of them was in his 80s and he had been at the sale bar and liquidating part of his herd because he didn’t have enough. He didn’t have enough feed for him. And he was talking to the guy and they said why are you liquidating me? You’ve built, you’ve used, you know your entire life has been building this herd. And he said I just can’t find hay for him. And so the guy said hey, you know, have you, have you seen hitch pen? You tried it out. And again, a gentleman in his 80s. Our team actually manually found the hay for him Through the, through suppliers that had been on the site, and he didn’t have to sell the rest. He didn’t have to liquidate the rest of his herd, and so he called me up specifically. He said hey, I just want to thank you. You know this is something that’s been part of our family for a long time and you were able to save it this year. So you know we’re a business and all that, but we’re also a bunch of farmers, and so the idea that that we’ve been able to help some other folks like that is a pretty cool thing.

Colter DeVries: 22:06
Well, that’s a that’s a very tough, tough market. There’s so many variables and there’s so many. It’s all, it’s all the variables. It’s tough to standardize that. Yep. What? What about calves? So in Montana we’re we’re in shipping season right now and some people have forward contracted their calves on superior, and so about this time of year the trucks are going to show up, and I love it when the truck shows up driven by a farmer feeder out of Iowa and who drives his own truck to inspect your calves in Montana, the calves he’s buying and he wants to have the final look. And so he’s a trucker, a farmer and a feeder. I love that. I love seeing farmer feeders show up here and and then they’re more inclined to buy from you again too, when they like your product. So are you able to standardize that forward contract? Are you able to standardize selling calves? So, rather than JBS coming out here, the cattle buyer coming out here and quoting you a price 30% underwear it should be. Are you, are you? Are you able to to kind of take them out of the picture, that cattle buyer?

Trevor McKeeman: 23:32
Well, I would say, I would say the answer is I wouldn’t phrase it quite as take them out of the picture, but what I would say is I didn’t mean to sound like Godfather, no no, no, no, I know it’s, but I would say, you know, the real opportunity is, yeah, now, when that that farmer producer that shows up in his own truck has the same information that some of the biggest players have, that’s a pretty powerful thing, right to be able to see where that supply and demand is and to be able to compete directly because there isn’t an information asymmetry between the two. That’s absolutely what we’re doing at Hitchpin, so I’m kind of in the same boat. The area that I live in in the Flint Hills of Kansas is, you know, a lot of cow, calf operations and and then also bringing cattle in from other parts of the the country to kind of get them in better shape, right, you know, before they go off. And so that’s absolutely something that we’re doing and it’s also pretty exciting even later on, you know I I’ll give an example like I get. We got a call from a group that Every year they they sell off cows and they they don’t have enough trucking really, they don’t really have the trucking infrastructure to do it. Well, so it’s like it’s a bunch of logistics to take them to the sale barn and all that stuff. And so you know the guy that was in his late 40s, the young son of the of the family said hey, why don’t we try this out this year? Let’s list list them. They listen to them. On Hitchpin, they sold them less than 24 hours and they got a better price than what the local price was for. But, more importantly, the buyer came and picked it up directly from their place. So they didn’t, they didn’t put all the stress on the animal, moving them several times. It was sort of a one shot deal. In fact, they didn’t even have to think of trucking logistics in the process. So I think I think that’s the cool part and frankly, whether it’s you know, it’s Hitchpin or somebody else, agriculture is going to change from a mainframe environment where everything goes to sort of centralized points and then gets redistributed out. I think the future is really about nodes in that network connecting directly to each other. So you know, if you have the information that now these, these nodes, these buyers and sellers can work together more directly, that’s really powerful and that’s that’s happened in a lot of other industries. The scale of agriculture is so big. I think it’s we’re. We’re later than some other industries, but it’s absolutely coming. So, whether it happens on Hitchpin or some other, some other similar digital platform it’s, it’s heading this way.

Colter DeVries: 26:20
Yeah, and it’s exciting changes to see, generational changes. I know in my, in my peers, my network, 35, you know, mid 30s will say guys who are growing their own herd, grown their families and taking on some more leases, more land, more equity from, from their family operation. They’re, they’re. It’s coming with more responsibilities and autonomy and important decisions such as marketing. That’s always. Marketing is the biggest fight between dad and junior. I don’t know of anything else that’s a bigger fight than marketing Absolutely, but it’s been. It’s been pretty rewarding to see some of my friends go out there with their iPhone, take pictures and for the first time in their ranch’s history ever they’re, they’re going to try to for sale by owner their calves. That year is calf crop, yep, and normally when you’re in deeply rural parts you know, let’s say Jordan Montana you’re three hours from Billings, at least on a good day. Normally it’s the cattle buyer who comes out there and he’s the one guy who knocks on your door and then you have to sit there and negotiate with him and there’s huge asymmetrical information. He knows more than you about what the market’s doing, especially when you’re three hours away with no internet. But that’s all changed now.

Trevor McKeeman: 27:51
It’s actually really cool, isn’t it? I mean, you know that kind of that kind of opportunity, frankly, real quick on that. Like, our first transaction was between a 16 year this is years ago between a 16 year old guy and a 72 year old guy, and the 16 year old is exactly kind of where you were going is. This is a. This was a 4.0 student, a state level wrestler. He’s somebody that wakes up early in the morning, works, you know, works with the cat, works cattle, goes to school, wrestles at night and then comes home and farms, right and just unbelievable work ethic. And the reality is he comes from a farm that’s not big enough for him to come back to, right it’s. It can’t host that many generations, and so that’s one of the things I love about what you’re saying is the ability now for somebody like that to be able to offer their products and maybe get a better price offer their services. So he had a at 16, he already had a loan on a tractor and a swathler and he was picking up swathing jobs out there. So you know, kind of giving him a toehold in an environment that is really not designed to allow the next generation to come back for easily. So and then on the flip side of that. You know the 72 year old doesn’t want to stop farming right, but doesn’t want to, doesn’t have the labor capacity, doesn’t want to buy new equipment and so to be able to use technology to sort of help both of those generations as that transition occurs, so that it doesn’t just automatically sweep into massive consolidation, is is something that’s kind of meaningful for our team.

Colter DeVries: 29:44
Yeah, as as my marketing team has been encouraging to encouraging me to personalize this podcast a little more, Trevor, I would like to share a little anecdotal story about custom cutting swathing with you. Okay, If you have a minute, give me a sympathetic ear. I guarantee you probably do. When I was I think I was 15, we, my dad, had bought it wasn’t as new to us is a newer model swathler Heston, I think 12 and a half foot header. Yeah, it was. It was top of the line for the time. It had the rotary header Absolutely Even though most of the hay in our area was dry land hay. So the rotary header at that time didn’t seem like it was. You know, as we found out, probably not the. It was overkill for dry land hay is what it was. Anyways, but we were one of the first in the counties with that. And when you’re a frugal Dutch farmer with more swather than you need and for sons, you’re gonna, you’re gonna hire it out for custom work, especially when you’re not paying your four sons. So I mean, that’s like, that’s like straight cash flow, right, Exactly so. So my dad had hired us out all over multiple counties and this one huge one we had like oh, I think we had 800 irrigated acres. They weren’t the best irrigated, yeah, and that was a big one that was going to help with the payment on that swather. And we showed up there in the old man. We had to sleep in tents too, because we’re very frugal, we had to sleep in tents, I like this, this is, this is my kind of, this is my kind of speed here, yeah. And so we’d sleep in tents outside of the main farmhouse and then use their place to shower once a week. And and the old man Said he’s like, you’ll be fine. You know, I don’t have a lot of rules, just just don’t kill any of my rabbits. So there’s a bunch of rabbits around the house. I didn’t get that message and he said that to my older brother, which that was not relayed back to me and I’m walking across the the yard one day and I pick up a rock and I I don’t like aggressively throw it. It was like a laxative days ago throw and it did hit the rabbit in the back of the head and killed it. I knew this was a tiny, this was like a 50 cent pea size rock. It wasn’t like some boulder that I that I had to shop put like an Olympic shop putter, this was just a you know gravel, but it killed that rabbit. That thing flipped over on its back and did a bunch of kicks right in front of the old man. Oh, she came up and he goes. Well, when you guys are done, don’t come back. I Don’t know what, what the hell he liked about those rabbits. They were just wild, just native wild rabbits. But he, he didn’t want and I thought, you know, I thought we did a pretty good job cutting his place too. I couldn’t have been my quality of work why we got fired.

Trevor McKeeman: 33:03
What are the chances, what are the odds of something like that?

Colter DeVries: 33:06
Yeah, so custom cutting. Hey, I can totally empathize with that 16 year old yeah how we grind it. So nice for him to have this marketplace. We didn’t have that when I was oh and and I’d have to road this son of a bitch and swath, or Because we’re such frugal Dutch farmers, we didn’t buy a swath or trailer right away. Yeah. I’d have to road that thing like 30 miles sometimes the next job.

Trevor McKeeman: 33:32
Well, you know there’s an app for that. Now I’m, you know, I actually, you know, on a personal note with that too. So we’ve got some farm ground my wife and I do just or some pasture ground south of town here, and it’s it’s a hassle to bring equipment from sort of the, the parent farm, several, or you know a county two counties away over, and so the last couple years I’ve just been booking the swathing, raking and bailing on hitch pin and To you know the last that, and they’ve all been different people. The last year it was two brothers that are trying to grow their hay business and they’ve, just like you, they’ve got this really nice self-propelled rotary Swother and they’re looking for more acres, and so, yeah, they were just down the road and they can show up and and, frankly, do it even faster than the equipment that we have. We have a kind of a pull behind swath or and so, and then I immediately flipped those bails for sale and they sold in 30 minutes and you know it’s like. So I just want this thing to go because, frankly, for me as a Producer it’s like so much better than the old way of doing it. I would have had to drug that equipment a long ways and and, frankly, it would have taken longer. And then I know it would have taken longer to sell the hay. So, yeah, yeah, well, I’ll have to remember the rabbit story. I I thought it was gonna end differently. I thought that it was gonna involve swathing and rabbits. I was bracing for that impact.

Colter DeVries: 35:09
Oh, no, no Speaking of. So. You are outsourcing every enterprise of your hay production on my on your marketplace, my my particular farm.

Trevor McKeeman: 35:23
All of it happened. I did, I did run here, I ran the skid steer to load it this year.

Colter DeVries: 35:31
But oh, you came in with the glory job when you’re getting paid you. Yeah, you show up when the check is there now the check could already been deposited.

Trevor McKeeman: 35:42
Right, it was the check with right. So on hitch pin. Yeah, no, I, I mean I use my, I use the product myself. Might on a personal my dad he’s mid 70s. He was more stressed this year about hay and the recent fires. It it’s the first time I talked to about hitch pin. He’s like why would I need to sell a line, right, you know, why would I need to do this? And he said, okay, I’ll try it out. And he listed it and it sold fast and he goes okay, I understand why you’re doing this, because you know the payment was in his bank account Couple days later. It was. It was awesome this year His hay was selling so fast he could. His stress was about getting it bailed in time, right, he’s like it was selling as fast as he could post it on online and and he sold out faster than he’s ever had in his entire farming Career and so I mean, instead of that being a relief for him, he, you know, he felt the pressure of now I got to get it all bailed quickly and and so, anyway, yeah, it’s we, we definitely use the product ourselves. In fact, the whole team does that for buying and selling pigs and hey and equipment and all kinds of stuff.

Colter DeVries: 36:57
Well, another story about outsourcing some of these enterprises that where a custom cutter likely has the or a custom grower, so someone’s gonna grow your, your heifers, your Heifers, for enterprise, whatever it might be, which you can find that on hitch pin I’m sure you know, stocker enterprise if you want to retain ownership, type deal. But when I came out of ranching for profit and I was levered Beyond my teeth and I was stretched, I was stretched so thin I I had Gosh, I had five ditches going, which irrigating in red Lodge Montana was a lot different than irrigating In other places. You know we chase water, yeah, orange canvas dams and and there’s a thousand feet of drop per 10 miles of elevator per 10 miles. So yeah it’s just a lot. I was stretched thin and I think I had 500 irrigated acres and Probably another 400 of dry land at that time to put up and I was slowly reaching my breaking point and I was trying to make changes coming out of ranching for profit. And so I did. I started outsourcing. I had a guy come in and Build some fence. For the first time ever on our ranch’s history, someone else built a little fence and and then I I had a custom cutter hey guys, wathur coming and cut the hay. And the only way I could get my family to Consign or to agree to doing that as I I Dickered this kid down so far, I mean it was, it was just too good to pass up. But I started outsourcing a lot of this stuff. But I was also stretched thin, so my primary tasks were falling short and I was Letting the water run too long, I was letting the cows graze too long and they were getting in the neighbors. You know I was definitely stretched thin and one of one of my neighbors, he was pissed off at me, super pissed. Water and fence, I mean the two things that you know, those are, those are the two things that you try to keep tidy for good relations in the neighborhood. I did not keep them very tidy and he calls me up raging mad one day and he’s he. First thing he said to me is culture. You need to take off your manager hat and put on your worker hat. Boy, if you want to. If you want to get a 27 year old who’s overworked and underpaid, you want to get him red faced and hot, tell him to take off their manager hat and put on their worker hat. I, uh, I get it. I get it and you know it’s.

Trevor McKeeman: 39:37
It’s interesting, I think what you’re talking about at Kind of the story level is something that’s actually really big at the macro level, which is, you know, the cost of production is so high, the equipment is so expensive, the amount of work is so much that I think, as these farms grow and as Kind of that, the next generation is leading these farms. It’s not, it’s no longer going to be about the ego of I own all the equipment or you know like I’m running it all. It’s. It’s really really much more along the lines of how do we run a successful business here With the limited capital and the limited labor and resources that we have? And so From a custom perspective, it’s pretty cool to have a company that’s really good at doing that. And so from a custom perspective, it’s pretty cool. I mean, maybe you really enjoy the, the Planting and the harvesting, but you hate the spraying part. So what’s cool long term about a marketplace is you can say these are, this is the equipment that I want to own and operate and this is the stuff that I would rather not spend the capital on, because I want to put that capital and other things and I can hire those that out and and you know that gets really interesting. I mean right now, on hitch pin, the products are growing faster than the services because People are used to buying and selling cattle and equipment and all that stuff. But I think, long term, it’s really fascinating to start thinking about the operation of these farms. And now, how can I, how can I you know A producer be able to say these are the things I want to do, these are the things I want to hire and hopefully run a more profitable farm. Doing that? We haven’t had that opportunity in the past. And then, even from the custom provider’s perspective, you know right now, and I could show you on the on the Site, but you can go in and geo fence that field your 80 acres or your 160 or your whatever Field and say, okay, I want swathing done on this or I want fence building done on this or whatever that is. And and when the service provider is done and both sides agree that it’s been completed, that that service provider just leaves. They didn’t have to write an invoice, it just the money shows up in their hitch pin wallet that they can then download into their bank account. And. I mean there’s value there too. I talked to a custom wheat per, you know wheat harvester this has been quite a while back and he would leave a farm, haul all of his equipment 90 miles, then drive back and stand on the porch of the farm Waiting for the check and then, of course, hoping that the check will clear right. And and he was just blown away by the idea that he could leave, press the button that says I’m done and know that he’s going to get paid. So I mean it’s that kind of innovation that I think is going to just really change the game and and, frankly, just take something that’s very hard Farming and ranching is very hard and try to make it a little bit easier the labor.

Colter DeVries: 42:37
So I mean we’ve talked about the difficulties of the hay market and nuances you, you’ve got quality Issues there, and same with cattle. Yeah, you got quality issues there. And knew very nuanced. Labor is another one. That’s extremely difficult. Who? And I see there are some fencing Biggs posted on there Gig economy, uber for fencing, that’s awesome. It’s pretty cool but there’s, you know there’s so many. If someone would do pipelines and stock tanks, that labor in rural America, in agriculture, that is the biggest challenge, bar none. Labor is the biggest challenge and who would? Who would be charged? The commission if I put up a help wanted out on there? You?

Trevor McKeeman: 43:31
So I think you bring up something that’s very, very applicable. So we’ve talked a lot about supply side listings. I have a product or I have a service that you could then and go in and book. But you just said something that we haven’t talked about, which is demand side listings. So you can actually, whether it’s a product or whether it’s service, you could say I’m looking for this and post it out there, and then folks can respond to that that maybe don’t even have a listing on the marketplace. Right now the fee is split between the buyer and the seller because we figured that was the most fair way to do it, and we may change that based on the category and other things. But right now it’s a split fee and labor itself like just I look at most of the services as a job to be done, so it’s a person showing up with the equipment to get the job done. But we actually do have labor itself as a category on Hitchpin and it’s not a category that we have pushed at all, like we have it sort of out there just as kind of the early stages of it, but even it is pretty interesting. So if I think about our farming operation, we don’t need a huge amount of full time staff all the time, right. But there’s plenty of folks that maybe they grew up farming and they have a job in town and they would just love to come and do help on Friday, saturday and Sunday, right and high quality, reliable. But they don’t even know that those jobs exist out there. They don’t know that they could go out and run a swath or a grain cart or something like that. So I see that as an area that’s going to grow a lot too, like this ability to sort of do gig economy short duration labor pieces and again, instead of like me, handing you a post-it note with my hours written on it, all that stuff is taken care of. I mean, it’s automatic, the payments can be automatic and the records are all there.

Colter DeVries: 45:33
So I mean, and do you send the 1099 automatically?

Trevor McKeeman: 45:40
That documentation can be uploaded into the transaction. So in the future we may auto generate some of that stuff, but right now we have it so that both parties can upload any documentation they want to have based on that particular transaction. And it’s nice because at the end of the year you can go back through and say here’s all the jobs that I’ve done and it’s all sort of in one place.

Colter DeVries: 46:04
Well, I can see this being very useful, for, I mean, a lot of the people I deal with currently are everyone’s struggling for help in one way or another, and the gig economy is a great answer to that. It’s like you said it’s better to try to fill those non-peak times or fill the peak times with non-W2 labor per se. Absolutely.

Trevor McKeeman: 46:33
Yeah, and I think it’s going to open up a lot of opportunities too, you know, for on both sides of the equation, if there’s a lot of people, myself included, that enjoy living in rural areas, right, and the ability to be able to pick up that additional revenue from a service or from labor or from a product that you sell, I just think it’s great, right, I mean, technology has been crushing rural America in other ways, but now this is a chance to reverse that trend and you can use it to actually sort of empower a generation to be able to stay in the areas that they want to stay in. So it’s, I think it’s pretty cool. It’s kind of a golden age. I think we’re going to see more changes in ranching and farming in the next few years because of this digitization of the supply chain than we’ve seen in a long time, and I think, if done well, it’s actually a net, very much a positive for production, agriculture. And, frankly, you know we’ve talked about the micro scale, the producer level, which is a big part of what our team cares about, right, I mean, that’s why we kind of work the hours that we work. The macro level is also pretty interesting because we’re going to have to increase food production by a lot over the next 20 years, and so the changes that are going to need to take place across all of food production globally you won’t be able to get there. Without a cleaner, more digitized supply chain we will not meet the demand. And so things like Hitchpin that are helping sort of reduce waste in that process and make the buying and selling easier and faster I mean that’s how you produce 70% more food at some point or sort of meet those demands.

Colter DeVries: 48:28
Well, before I wrap it up, trevor, I’m going to get a plug in for one topic that we don’t need to hit on too much, but I can see one of your solutions. You know you identified a problem, so you’re providing the solution, and that I’m not on social media. People who want to engage. I do see everything that’s on social media because I have, I have virtual assistance, relay everything back to me, but personally, I personally am not on it.

Trevor McKeeman: 49:02
You’ve outsourced your social media. That’s a that’s a great thing.

Colter DeVries: 49:06
Yeah, I’ve outsourced. The bullshit is what it is and and the just all, the, all the bullshit that comes with social media Arguing about politics and Israel, and I’m sure it’d be Israel. I don’t know, I haven’t been on in many years, but I’m sure everyone’s got an opinion there. No, I do see everything if people want to chime in, but before I left, personally left, you know, I still have a presence but it seemed like wasn’t Facebook not allowing the sale of horses or something?

Trevor McKeeman: 49:46
Yes, it is fascinating. I won’t specifically pick on Facebook, but it’s fascinating. There’s really no place for people to talk about the buying and selling of livestock like this, and indeed there are absolutely social media platforms that do not allow for the sale of animals because they think that it’s you shouldn’t be buying and selling livestock. And so you see all these unbelievably creative posts, like somebody trying to sell pork and they say it’s bacon seeds or it’s you know, some strange name that everybody knows they’re just trying to sell pork, and so I mean I that makes me smile because I mean we built this specifically for producers and yeah, and so I have no, no problem hosting those folks to leave a social media platform and and actually do. Plus, hitchpin doesn’t have a bunch of cat videos on it. You know, it’s not all the garbage, it’s like literally a place to come and do business, Right, it’s, it’s, it’s a professional place to get stuff done and farming, and so I I’m like you, I don’t spend hardly any time on social media platforms, and it’s mostly because I want we’ve got a lot going on, we’re trying to build something pretty interesting here and let’s work with people that kind of see the future instead of the noise that happens in social so Facebook?

Colter DeVries: 51:14
you won’t say the name, but I will. So Facebook, just, they just handed you a thirty million dollar market. They’re like we’re not going to allow horses and goats being sold on here.

Trevor McKeeman: 51:25
So Trevor’s sitting there in Abilene, kansas, and he’s like, oh, I’ll just create the marketplace for horses and goats Then the answer is yes, and we are glad to do it, and also the amount of scams that you’re seeing on other platforms is pretty high, right, because it’s the scammers have figured out how to get into those, and so when you, when you have verified buyers and sellers and you know their information and you have their bank account, from the standpoint of knowing where to send the appropriate money, it just takes a lot of risk out of the, out of the equation. So, yeah, I, we can compete with those guys every day, all day long.

Colter DeVries: 52:07
Oh yeah, I love, I love. So I also have my assistants look for things I want to buy. Yeah, and a can am side by side, sure, and I love, I love seeing a brand new twenty twenty three can am for sale on on Facebook for like eleven thousand dollars. Yeah exactly, yeah, that’s that’s, that’s really, that’s legitimate.

Trevor McKeeman: 52:32
Yeah, yeah, you don’t. You won’t see that on the, you won’t see that on Hitchpin. I mean it’s, you’re absolutely right, and it’s not just Facebook, it’s happening. The other thing I mean just as a kind of a side note there’s so many sites out there kind of more first generation sites, that put all everybody’s personal information out there the phone numbers, the emails and and over time those are going to be just unbelievable opportunities for scammers to come in and poach that, that personal information. And so something that we do, which took quite a bit to build, is the idea that we can protect that information from the buyer and the buyers and sellers. So it’s like we open up the communication without the risk associated with it, and that’s a. I think we’re going to see a lot more of that in the future. I think a lot of the farming sites are going to just get hammered because they’re not guarding that, that personal information of phone numbers and emails as well, as they should be doing. So we’re I think we’re a couple of generations ahead on on that process.

Colter DeVries: 53:38
Well, one more thing before we go. Sure, in the picture, in your background, your wife allows you to fly with your kids.

Trevor McKeeman: 53:49
Oh yeah, that’s a piece of farm equipment. It’s called a mall. It’s a bush plane. There is nothing fancy about that, it’s kind of like a jeep with wings, but it’s something. You know. I love farming, I love technology and I love flying, and for us it’s of course, you know Montana right. It’s beautiful places to go and fly and cover ground and those sort of things. So I grew up with that. My dad was a farmer, had a pilot’s license but never thought he could afford an airplane, and so I didn’t really grow up with it until I was an adult. And then he said I want to buy one, and then I had my pilot’s license too. And so we, you know it’s nice, you go out and check fields with them, and for my kids, it gets them a chance to be behind the controls of something complicated and really think about the physics and the communications. And, you know, really in many respects similar to running a complex piece of farm equipment right, you got to think ahead, there’s risk involved with it, and so I absolutely love it. In fact, maybe sometime we ought to do some flying in Montana.

Colter DeVries: 54:58
Absolutely Come up here. I’ll come out and we’ll do some flying. I love that. I need to get my hours up to where my wife would allow me to take a kid.

Trevor McKeeman: 55:09
I’ve got a very trusting wife. She knows I’m, you know, probably maybe to kind of wrap up like startup stuff, I look at it very much like it is not about taking risk. It is about really thinking. You know, thinking about how to build something or how to fly something, and you know, you just spend the time to understand it so that you take the risk out of doing it and what on the outside looks like a very risky thing. You know, starting a company or building a marketplace or flying a bush plane, if you’ve really done your homework, you can take the risk out of it and you can do something that others would be too afraid to do. And so I think there’s a lot of parallels between flying and if you’re working on your hours, we should absolutely get to getting a bush plane and fly Well talking about startups, as I’m launching a syndication platform, the first and only for ranches as a syndicated investment.

Colter DeVries: 56:10
I keep telling my team the most dangerous part about flying is the takeoff. Under a thousand feet. Yeah, and so we are. We are tense, we are stressed, we are anxious at times and we are at, we are at a high risk point. We’re at takeoff and I tell them look, we’re climbing right now. You know, we’re building up, we’re building up our airspeed, we’re going to get some lift. Yeah. And pretty soon we’ll be at a thousand feet and we’ll be safe. But right now we are at the most dangerous part of this venture, and that’s the takeoff.

Trevor McKeeman: 56:47
So you might enjoy this story. I was close to your neck of the woods in Wyoming, I mean, you know south of where you guys are at and and I took off. We were actually trying to. It was during COVID and we were transporting a kidney donor from Eugene Oregon to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. So I flew a bush plane all the way across the country to Eugene Oregon, picked up the kidney donor who didn’t want to fly commercially because, because it was COVID right, didn’t want to be in a commercial airplane and the the recipient was my mom. So like there was a reason, there was a real reason to get this done and so flew across the kind of the northern part of the Rocky Mountains, flew back to Minnesota, did the whole thing four times kind of back and forth. And there was a point in which we were in Wyoming and we took off in the afternoon and density, altitude was high and we’re watching this giant runway and airplanes are just struggling to get off of it. And we took off and we got immediately pulled into kind of a mountain down draft coming off one of the ridges in front of us and we weren’t gaining altitude, we were losing altitude. And you see the ridge coming up that you’re supposed to clear and you know it’s one. In that case, you have a couple really a couple seconds or you know a minute maybe, to make the decision. Do I, do I just plow forward? Do I kind of allow my ego to plow forward? Do I try to circle like a buzzard and maybe get altitude but it wasn’t clear that we were going to be able to do that, we were losing altitude or do I have enough altitude to make it back to the runway? And you know how do you make that decision quickly? And you’ve got two other people in the airplane with you and you’re trying to be wise. And so, for the first time in like 25 years of flying, I turned around and I had enough altitude to make it down and land and I said, okay, we’re done flying for the day. We’re going to leave in the morning when conditions are better, and we were fine the next day. But had I allowed sort of the ego of just we’re going to plow over this, we might have ended up in the side of a ridge. And so you know, again, kind of back to farming and startups and flying. It’s how do you, how do you kind of take your ego out of it? How do you look at, look at the scenario and try to make the best decisions. So I think there’s tons of parallels between those three things. Farming Absolutely.

Colter DeVries: 59:13
That’s awesome Thanks. Thanks for sharing that because, that’s yeah, it’s great to draw those parallels.

Trevor McKeeman: 59:19
Yeah, and then, ultimately, the risk was worth it. Right At the end of the day, my mom received a kidney and it saved her life. And so, you know, everything is this trade off between risk and reward, and so, anyway, that’s the you know, that’s, that’s the fun part of of what we do.

Colter DeVries: 59:39
Yeah Well, Trevor McKeeman with hitchpincom, If if anyone has questions for Trevor or hitchpin, of course you can reach out to them directly. I would also ask that you visit our discord channel and post some questions there, because chances are if you’re asking someone else’s asking and questions and questions for me. Please do visit discord, ranch investor discord and also when we share this on social media. I do see everything, even though I’m not on there. So your shit talk will be received If you, if you so feel like trolling. I do enjoy some of the comments. Please, please share and chime in on this episode and reach out to hitchpin If you got something to sell or buy. Yeah, Thanks for coming on, Trevor.

Trevor McKeeman: 1:00:30
I sure appreciate it. I mean, it was a great conversation. I love, I love the questions and and I’d say, a sort of, wrap it up by saying you know we’re we’re a low ego shop. The whole goal here is just to build something useful, and so, as you, as you talked about getting feedback from folks, we are always in the process of building and making things better and easier, and there’s actual humans behind this. It isn’t just some sort of faceless tech company, it’s a. It’s a bunch of producers that are trying to make this process a little easier.

Colter DeVries: 1:01:03
Yeah, I don’t know if we want to keep going on our co-co-misery. You know the startup world? Yeah, it definitely. The feedback is is so valuable, so huge we’re not building novel shit in an ivory tower. Exactly, we definitely need to hear from people. So, like in my case, syndicating a ranch as a passive investment. I I very much appreciate and value any criticism, any input. The reddit can be. Reddit can be a lot to take sometimes. It can. It can hurt, it can, it can hit you. Reddit can. But when we post on Reddit, bigger pockets and social media and people chime in. You know, please let us know. We love the feedback, regardless.

Trevor McKeeman: 1:01:53
Well, and and it’s probably maybe for a future conversation but I think a lot of the stuff that you’re doing is super, super interesting right, like this, this ability to get more people exposed to, to ranch land and and, frankly, there’s probably a pretty cool connection there between what you’re doing and and sort of the job to be done that we can help provide Right. So you know you’re an owner in some property and maybe you’re new to that area. How do you, how do you find the folks that can do the fencing and can do the swathing, and how do you sell, like, how do you find the buyers for the products that you’re producing? So I think there’s sort of a natural fit that will be fun to explore later on with the sort of new opportunities that you’re bringing in it and the sort of tools that that we’re building.

Colter DeVries: 1:02:40
I agree. Well, Trevor McKee-man Hitchpin, thanks for coming on their Ranch Investor podcast.

Trevor McKeeman: 1:02:45
Thank you for having me Subscribe on your streaming platform so you know when the latest episode has dropped. Be the source of knowledge and the maven that other professionals are excited to refer.

Transforming the Agricultural Marketplace With Hitchpin
Understanding Hay Market and Price Discovery
Quality Control and Verification in Agriculture
Outsourcing and Efficiency in Farming
The Future of Farming and Ranching
Outsourcing Social Media for Livestock Marketplace
Exploring Ranch Ownership and Networking Opportunities