Green Prairie International Inc.: Serving Forage Industry Worldwide for 25 Years

It’s not easy competing in the global forage market, but Green Prairie International Inc. (Green Prairie) is in the business of finding innovative and increasingly efficient ways to supply quality forage products to clients around the world. John Van Hierden, president and CEO of Green Prairie, is proud of how far the southern Alberta-based company has come.

John first began selling the hay harvested from his family’s farm in the 1980s, and before long his natural entrepreneurial streak took over. John created his own company, beginning his lifelong desire of propelling Green Prairie to open up new opportunities for Canadian forages, globally.

Today Green Prairie supplies clients around the world with high-quality forage products, produced under meticulously monitored standards at a competitive price. “Our core purpose is trading agricultural commodities worldwide in innovative and efficient ways,” says Van Hierden proudly.

The first international order shipped in 1985, and the team’s keen intuition quickly identified freight as a primary challenge to compete in the global market. Green Prairie soon began developing a proprietary system of compressing the hay to maximize the density of every container shipped overseas.

“At the time, the industry didn’t have the right equipment to do what we wanted, so around 2000 we developed and patented a special press that could compress the bales into blocks to maximize container shipment weights,” adds Van Hierden. The same equipment Van Hierden and the Green Prairie team pioneered years ago still produces these blocks. The patent was eventually sold to a manufacturer, but it remains the No. 1 selling press in the industry, according to Van Hierden.

Local and Global

Throughout the process, Green Prairie continued to specialize in long-fiber hay products, especially timothy grass and alfalfa hay. Some of the company’s supply comes from Cascade Farms, a family-owned subsidiary of Green Prairie, though the majority is sourced from a network of local producers.

The local climate of long summer days – which feature relatively low heat and cooler nights – produces some of the highest quality forage in the world. Traceability of the products, which includes accurate updated field records, ensures total transparency from the emergence of the crop to its final destination for consumption wherever that may be in the world. In order to achieve this Green Prairie’s field representatives work closely with the local area farmers to inspect and document every detail. The company’s attention to detail has made Green Prairie one of the most reputable forage processors and wholesalers in the world today.

Green Prairie operates a number of bale presses to yield forage products in a range of different sizes in order to fit each individual customer’s needs. The presses transform the field bales – as large as four-feet wide by four-feet high and eight-feet long – into smaller bales. The jumbo bale press produces chopped and sliced product in a 400-plus kg sleeved format, which has the ability to also produce a uniform blend of grasses upon request. The smaller bale press can produce 30 kg, 40 kg or 60 kg bales, which are packaged for easy loading and unloading.

“Logistics is an extremely important part of our distribution and needs constant attention to remain competitive,” says Van Hierden. “Whether we are shipping from Vancouver, Montreal or Long Beach, Calif., we must constantly be alert to take advantage of any freight opportunities.”

Straddling the Border

“Recently we established our presence in the United States,” continues Van Hierden. In 2010 Green Prairie established a secondary processing facility in Beryl, Utah, which enabled the team to source more forage products and increase volume output. “This allowed us to further position ourselves in the ever increasing global forage market,” he explains.

“With our current major markets – consisting of Asia, Japan, Korea, China and to a lesser degree Taiwan, Vietnam and India, plus the powerful emergence of the Middle East Gulf countries of the United Arab Emirates [UAE] and Saudi Arabia – the new market focus has hardly derailed our internal development initiatives,” explains Van Hierden.

The company’s extensive reach has put the team on track to undergo significant expansion in the next few years. Green Prairie has already begun to increase its hay storage facilities, and the development team is also working closely with a local Alberta manufacturing company to develop the next generation of innovative hay processing equipment. Achieving this goal will continue to cement the company’s reputation as a pioneer of agricultural commodity trading in not only Canada, but around the world. Green Prairie International Inc.’s lasting legacy will be to continue reflecting an ever-growing desire to be a constant leader in the world of forage exports.