How it all began.

The post below was taken from an article that Regina wrote for the September 2018 issue of Ag Air Update. Regina is a regular contributer to Ag Air Update and other industry resources. You can read more from her under “Regina’s Perspective”.

Regina at NEAAA convention - Delaware.jpg

After working in the ag industry for over 26 years now, many people have often asked me about my last name “Farmer” and if I changed it to coordinate with my business. I have laughed it off multiple times stating that my husband is a retired Union Pacific railroad worker but happens to have a great name for my business. I also continue to get asked about how I got started with the “Chem-Man” software for my career so I thought I’d share.

I graduated from ASU in Jonesboro AR with a degree in “Business Data Processing” (now considered Computer Science). Computers were “The thing of the future”. I have always loved technology and I wanted to be a part of it. I have written hundreds of custom programs for businesses but the one that really took off was “Chem-Man”.

Years ago I was approached by a local ground rig operator in my hometown of Wynne, AR and I wrote him a customized program in “DOS” which was the operating system of the early days (the big floppy disk and all). Before you knew it the word got out and after some tweaking with the help of local ag pilot J.R. Cartillar,  I sold the same program to around 6 local crop dusting operations. After getting a friend to help out with some graphics, “Chem-Man” was born.

Regina onsite.jpg

Some people ask “Why not Chem-Woman since you are a woman”? Although the original logo displayed a male ag-pilot, chem-man actually stands for “chemical management”. We recently updated our logo and the male ag-pilot has been retired but he’ll always have a place in my heart.

After I started advertising in the former “Ag Pilot” magazine, I started getting calls from all around the U.S. as well as Canada. Now I’m proud to advertise in the Ag Air Update which helps us advertise internationally. This shows how far our industry has come. I still laugh at the first convention in Arkansas that I attended because my display consisted of a dot matrix printout that read “Chem-Man” along with my big bulky computer. (We’ve come a long way since then). My husband and I traveled around to tell the ag operations about our new software program.

Customer support is always important when you’re working with customers. However in the early days there were no cell phones and you were pretty much stuck in your office so you could be close to the phone. There was also no internet so if you needed to review the customer data you had to get the customer to mail in their floppy disk which often would get corrupted in the mail! Boy have things gotten better along the way!

One thing that I find interesting is that I have seen many of my original customers retire and am working with their grandkids! (Boy do I feel old).

As technology changes, software must keep up.  Throughout the years we’ve updated from our DOS operating systems and floppy disks to what is now an online system that allows the user to login from anywhere. It has also allowed us to incorporate mapping and GPS integration to the invoicing program.

Since our company has grown I have been able to travel with my now retired husband and visit many of our customers onsite. What a gift this has been! Actually meeting so many of the people that you’ve been talking to on the phone is great! Also seeing the work flow has been so helpful in learning how to adjust for individual needs and requests.

Regina and Mike Wade.jpg

Due to the varied needs around the country, we are still continuously updating and enhancing. Instead of only attending the local state conventions, I try to make as many as possible around the nation.

One thing that I find fascinating is that I’m often recognized from social media. Social media (such as Facebook) has helped me become even closer to many of my customers, learning about their family life and hobbies.

One of the hardest thing about this industry is seeing how dangerous the profession is. I’ve lost so many friends, young and old and that will never get easy. I hope that our industry can work on somehow being a safer place to work. I have talked to so many friends, widows and mothers who have lost loved ones and they say it’s something that stays with them all of the time.

Throughout the years our company has grown from a staff of two to now a staff of 7! That’s not including hubby Jerry who works for free thanks heavens!

Some people have mentioned “Do you ever think of slowing down”? I can’t imagine. As I was driving in to work this morning I saw an ag plane flying above the field next to me. I thought what a beautiful image these planes are flying in the air like a bird. I couldn’t be more thankful to be a part of such a great industry.

I wanted to take this time to say “Thank you” to everyone who has allowed me to be a part of your profession.  


So who exactly is the "Chem-Man"....

(In the words of Regina Farmer)

“So who is the Chem-Man?” This is a question that I’ve gotten a lot over the years. “Shouldn’t it be Chem-WO-man?” many say with a slight grin. I usually laugh it off and tell them that it really stands for “Chemical Managment Software”. That’s not a lie, but it’s not the whole story.

The story of “Chem-Man” is a little more complicated than that...

 

A programmer by trade but a businesswoman and marketing agent by heart, I was looking for a software package that I could resell. I had worked as a programmer for other people but wanted to make it on my own. I grew up in a family-owned retail store and so I wrote a complete book-keeping package including accounts receivable, payroll, accounts payable, payroll, checking and general ledger. These were the days of “DOS”, so I kept it simple and it worked well for them. I was working on software for an optometrist when Donnie and Sharon Forrester walked through my door. They needed a custom software package for their Agricultural Aviation Business and I wanted to write a specialty package to market, so it was a natural partnership. The program worked well for them and word got around. A local crop-duster, J.R. Cartillar dropped in and helped me enhance the software to work for more operators. Our area is a farming community and there were six local crop dusting businesses that eventually decided to use Chem-Man.

After seeing the difference that it made to their day-to-day operations, I decided that Chem-Man would be the package that I'd been looking for. A friend of mine, Tony McMickle, helped me create the graphics and build a manual to get me started. I also had hired a friend, Lynn Lace, who helped me work on building the software. We advertised in the "Ag Pilot" magazine and business started to pick up. We also decided to go to our first ag-pilot convention in Arkansas. I knew nothing about these conventions and just printed a dot matrix sign "Chem-Man" and displayed it on our booth along with my big bulky computer. I still laugh at my inexperience but it makes you realize how far you've come. 

When I look back at those days, I think of all of the great experiences that I've had and all of the great people that I've met. Our company is growing and has sold many Chem-Man packages, Dos, Desktop and, now, Online.

John Farris joined me in 2014 as a business partner and the sky is the limit for Chem-Man! Our online software includes mapping, gps files, variable rating, inventory, loader reports, billing, commissions, reports, and many other features. We've got a staff of 15 and growing. It's very exciting times!

I saw Donnie the other day at a restaurant and took his pic. I told him how the company has grown and how he had helped me get started. He laughed and said "Ok, where are my royalty fees?" Gotta love him. 

Take Chem-Man with you anywhere

Take Chem-Man with you anywhere

You never know when you'll need to access your Chem-Man Online Software. Out in the field, in the store, at the co-op, date night, while on vacation, sitting in the "deer-woods" or while watching the game. In fact, these days you no longer have to be in the office to work, you can do it anywhere.

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"So you've got your first 'seat'...." Some advice for new and aspiring pilots.

We recently had a conversation with Herve Marchadier and he talked to us about the Ag-Aviation field. Herve had some advice to pass on to new pilots and we wanted to give it to you in his own words

 photo credits: Jeremy folden

photo credits: Jeremy folden

"I don't know if we have any rookies or guys looking to break out soon in this group, but this is something I compiled this last corn run.  If this helps anyone, I'm happy.  I'm not a super-experienced ag pilot, but over my career I've put together some advice I would pass along to a new pilot getting his first seat.  Some of these are words of wisdom passed to me, while others are my own observations. 

I wrote this because as someone who has only been in the aerial application industry for four years, I'm familiar with the struggles some people have in finding that first seat. I wanted to let new and aspiring pilots know that there is more to this field than simply flying an airplane. I was also thinking that older pilots and operators would see it and  add their own pieces of advice. I focused primarily on the flying/application side of it, but I also wanted to touch on the impact we have in our communities.

We're getting new blood in this industry, and the operators for whom they fly have a ton of information to give to them. At the same time, the younger pilots and crew bring their own insights as well. It's important (literally life-and-death important) for a young pilot to listen and pay attention to the lessons and advice of the older generation, but also for the older generation to listen to, and encourage input from, the newer pilots, as that will aid in their development as the future of our industry.

There are things in here that some will disagree with, and there are some that do not apply to others.  I think that overall it isn't bad as far as free advice goes.

First of all, congratulations on getting a seat!  You're about to start one of the most exciting and dynamic careers in the aviation industry.  There are some things that you want to keep in mind, however, due to the nature of the work.  The job includes risk, but these risks can be mitigated if addressed properly.  Sometimes it's hard for a young guy to really understand things from an older person's perspective, and vice versa. 

The advice listed is not all inclusive, but I think it's a good start.

  1. Do not expect to set any production records your first year. Your job during your first season is to learn the basics and survive to fly a second season.  Your operator is probably not expecting to make much money from you and he is hoping you will be able to apply those early lessons learned in the future. 
  2. You will make mistakes. The operator that I fly for has been an aerial applicator for forty years and he still makes mistakes, so why would you be any different?  This leads to the next point.
  3. When you make a mistake, own it. No one is perfect. Learn from it, get back to it, and, if possible, try to make it right. Never, under any circumstance, lie. 
  4. Speed and efficiency come with time. If your turns seem like they take a long time at first, that's fine.  I've never seen a field run away while turning. 
  5. I do not care if you did spray that field or one right next to it recently.  Circle it anyway before you dive in. 
  6. You may hear some of the older hands talk about how fast they turn/slow they fly/etc. Some of it may even be true. You are not there yet. Fly safely. On a related note, old hands, be careful about what you say in your bull sessions around the rookies.  They may feel like they have your skill and experience. Also, you can tell them until you are blue in the face how you want them to fly, but you lead by example. This can be good or bad, so choose wisely.
  7. A pole near an abandoned farm place is something you want to be cautious around. Make darned sure there is not a wire before you go diving near it. 
  8. If you think you can go under a wire, you can not. Be certain you can, and be cognizant of what's on the other side of the wire. 
  9. If you have to make two trim passes, then make two trim passes. 
  10. Keep your pride on a leash. Just because you have a hopper that can hold "x" number of gallons that does not mean you have an airplane that will fly with that much load, especially when the temperature and humidity are high.
  11. Be mindful of your limitations and those of your airplane.  The laws of physics are not negotiable. 
  12. Pushing your limits should be done by nudges rather than shoves. 
  13. You will never kill every big/weed/etc. out there.  Trying to do so will likely lead you into some situations you would rather avoid.
  14. No one's crops are worth killing yourself over.
  15. I cannot speak for everyone, but I would respect a man a lot more for saying they were uncomfortable with a situation than if they were to try to be a hero and push through it. Sometimes a bit of advice from an older pilot or operator is all you need.
  16. Drink water.  Lots of it. 
  17. I keep a bottle of water in the airplane with me separate from my drinking water. Getting some of this stuff in your eye burns like hell, and you do not have someone else in the airplane to fly for you. 
  18. Fatigue can scare/hurt/kill you.  The same goes for complacency and arrogance. 
  19. Your boss is more nervous than you are when you take your first load out. 
  20. You are not too good to sweep a floor. 
  21. Especially if you work somewhere other than your hometown, be a good guest wherever you are.  Open doors for ladies, say "sir" and "ma'am" often, and remember "please" and "thank you." 
  22. Do not stop flying the airplane until all the pieces come to a halt.  You can get scared afterward. 
  23. If I knew I was not going to crash, I would not wear a helmet.  Since I do not have the ability to predict the future, I wear one. 
  24. Your boss is taking a huge chance on breaking you out.  Respect that, respect them, and be loyal.  Even if you only work for them a little while, this is a small community.  Reputations stick. 
  25. Good things come to good people.  If you do quality work, maintain your integrity, and keep striving for better, you will go far.  You probably will not make a lot of money your first few years, but it will pay off in the end."

Do you have advice to give new and aspiring pilots?  Send it to us!

Herve Marchadier was born in Louisville, Kentucky and was raised south of Birmingham, AL. He flies for Quality Spraying Service in Iowa.

Chem-Man starts a full month of conventions!

We often tell people that one of our favorite things about our work is to be out in the "Field" meeting  people.We were at 5 different Ag Aviator & Applicator conventions in November and December alone, including the National Convention in Savannah. We got to meet with hundreds of people and hold classes for people who were interested in or using our product. 

2016 is starting off with a bang and in January we will be in 8(yep... you read that right- EIGHT!) different states to host convention booths. That means that it highly likely that we will be near you!  Come see us!  If you aren't coming to a convention but would like to talk to us about Chem-Man, simply contact us and we'll schedule a time to visit, through webinar or in person. 

You can see a list of our travels by going here: Chem-Man On the Road

See you in 2016!

Chem-Man announces 3 winners to the November photo contest.

Our second photo contest garnered just as much excitement as the first.  With over 200 photos submitted, we had a tremendous turnout from people voting on their favorite pictures.  We have away close to $18,000 in prizes to the people that submitted the three most voted-on pictures!

1st Place: Adam Leger- with 433 likes
2nd Place:Terry Jordan- 257 likes
3rd Place: Cricia Bruton Ryan- 217 likes

You can see their amazing photos below:

You can find out more about what they won by going to http://www.chem-man.com/photo-contest/

Don't forget, we'll also be announcing the Judges Choice Aware at the NAAA convention in Savannah. (Winner does not have to be present). This will be picked by a panel made up of five judges including artists and ag-related viewers. They will be judging on their view of the most outstanding picture submitted.

We'll also be displaying a slide show of the entries at our convention booths, so swing by and check them out!

"How-To" Chem-Man Primer

 John Farris talking about Chem-Man Online

John Farris talking about Chem-Man Online

We held a class last week demonstrating the new features of the Chem-Man Online Billing and Mapping software. We were pleased that the users (existing and potential) were very engaged and also had a number of good questions. Business partners John Farris and Regina Farmer explained the new online features and the importance of keeping your business on track with new technology. They also listened to suggestions given by the users with ideas on even more new features.

A great BBQ lunch was provided by DataSmart and Regina even made her homemade salsa and brownies which were enjoyed by all.

 Thanks to Frank Kimmel with Kimmel Aviation Insurance for hosting our event.

Thanks to Frank Kimmel with Kimmel Aviation Insurance for hosting our event.

Hats off to Frank Kimmel with Kimmel Aviation Insurance for helping to provide the facility for the event.

All in all it was a great first start to many classes to come. 

 We had free BBQ and other food.

We had free BBQ and other food.

 Ag-Aviations from around Mississippi came to this event

Ag-Aviations from around Mississippi came to this event

 Chem-Man Founder, Regina Farmer, gives regular webinars to people interested in the software.

Chem-Man Founder, Regina Farmer, gives regular webinars to people interested in the software.