Case Studies


A case study is an in-depth analysis of a specific value-added business. It may be 20 or more pages long. The purpose of the case study is to dig into the inner workings of a business and see what makes it tick. It can also be used to study a business during a transition period.

Below are case studies conducted by AgMRC.

  • American Crystal Sugar Company: Diversification in the Corn Sweetener Industry, Kansas State University, 2002 - This case study focuses on a value-added cooperative's experience in diversifying its products during the 1990s.
  • American Crystal Sugar Company: Making Ethanol from Sugar Beets?, Greg McKee, North Dakota State University, and Mike Boland, Kansas State University, 2007 - This case study considers various economic factors that impact the supply and demand for ethanol and how sugar beet ethanol is produced. 
  • Cass-Clay Creamery: A New Direction for an Old Brand, Gregory McKee, North Dakota State University, and Michael Boland, Kansas State University, 2008 - This case study discusses the options available to a dairy coop that has incurred net income losses for several years. 
  • Dakota Growers Pasta: Vertical Integration in Durum Wheat and the Pasta Manufacturing Industry, Kansas State University, 2002 - This case study looks at Dakota Growers Pasta's process of acquiring two additional pasta plants.
  • FCStone Group, Inc. Conversion Overview, David Barton and Michael Boland, Kansas State University, 2008 - This case study considers whether the FCStone Group, now a publicly held corporation, would have been better off if it had maintained its co-op structure.
  • Gold Kist Conversion Overview, David Barton and Michael Boland, Kansas State University, 2008 - This case study details how Gold Kist, the third largest poultry producer, and Pilgrim’s Pride, the second largest, combined to form the largest poultry producer in the United States.
  • Ocean Spray Cranberries at the Crossroads, Kansas State University, 2003 - This case study looks at the governance structure and growth issues facing Ocean Spray.
  • Quality Management and Information Transfer in the Cattle Industry, Center for Agriculture and Rural Development, 2002 - This is a case study of the Chariton Valley Beef Alliance.
  • South Dakota Soybean Processors: Joint Ventures and Strategy, Kansas State University, 2003 - This case study reviews soybean processing and how one cooperative turned LLC approached strategic alliances.
  • South Dakota Soybean Processors Conversion Overview, David Barton and Michael Boland, Kansas State University, 2007 - This case study examines the conversion of South Dakota Soybean Processors from a co-op to an LLC and the resulting benefits.
  • Sunkist Growers, Inc.: Refreshing the Brand, Michael Boland and Veronica Pozo, Kansas State University; Daniel Sumner, California Agricultural Issues Center; and Frank H. Buck, Jr., University of California, Davis, 2008 - In this case study, the president and chief executive officer of Sunkist, the world’s largest citrus cooperative, considers how to enhance the company’s competitiveness by reducing costs and improving returns to its grower-members.
  • Tree Top: Looking Forward, Michael Boland and Paola Mancia, Kansas State University, and Mykel Taylor, Washington State University, 2007 - The president and chief executive officer of Tree Top, an apple processing cooperative and the world’s largest dried apple producer, reviews the strategic changes that need to be considered to maintain the company’s profitability.
  • Value Added Products (VAP) Cooperative, Iowa State University, 2008 - Value Added Products (VAP) Cooperative was started in 2000 with “the idea and a group of 25 wheat farmers who were looking for ways to increase the value of the wheat they grow”.  The wheat grown by VAP is used primarily in pizza dough, with a small percentage used for cinnamon rolls, breads and croissants.
  • 21st Century Alliance: Vertical Integration and the Pinto Bean Industry, Kansas State University, 2002 - This study provides insight into the challenges of vertical integration.

For more information on this topic, see the links listed below of articles posted on related Web sites.

North Central Initiative for Small Farm Profitability Case Studies
  • At Home with the Claytons: An On-Farm Bed and Breakfast Experience (pdf), Center for Applied Rural Innovation, University of Nebraska. 2002 - Clayton Farms Bed & Breakfast is located northeast of Grinnell, Iowa, in the middle of prime farming country. The Claytons started their licensed and state-inspected bed and breakfast operation in 1990. By the end of 1999, the business had a $20,000 gross profit.
  • Buttering Up Your Customers: Direct-Market Dairy Products Keep Profits on the Farm(pdf), Center for Rural Affairs. 2002 - A group of grass-based dairy farmers in Southeast Minnesota decide to set their price by marketing and distributing premium quality specialty dairy products themselves.
  • GROWN Locally Cooperative(pdf), Practical Farmers of Iowa. 2002 - GROWN Locally is an 11-member cooperative located in Northeast Iowa. They supply institutional markets with local, naturally grown food. This case study details their successful model for selling to institution and other markets in a rural area.
  • Libby Creek Farm: An Organic Alternative to Traditional Farming(pdf), Center for Applied Rural Innovation, University of Nebraska. 2002 - John and Suzie Ellie raise a variety of organic vegetables and other products on their 69-acre Nebraska farm. A willingness to try new approached has made this venture successful.
  • North Star Neighbors: Neighbors and Friends Working Together(pdf), Center for Rural Affairs. 2002 - A Nebraska meat-marketing cooperative has a successful, informal equipment sharing strategy. This seven-family partnership benefits all its members.
  • Papa Geno's Herb Farm(pdf), Food Processing Center, University of Nebraska. 2001 - Papa Geno's Herb Farm in Nebraska has used the Internet to turn a small mom-and-pop operation into a leading e-business of herb plants, scented geranium, vegetable seedlings and herb-derived craft goods.
  • Small Farm Cooperative: Quality and Innovation(pdf), Center for Rural Affairs. 2002 - Small Farms Cooperative is a marketing organization made up of 30 small- and medium-sized farms and ranches. The group came together in 1999 and has since formed a marketing cooperative that markets their products with the Nebraska Natural Products label.
  • Straight Arrow Bison Ranch: Nutritional Meat Raised on a Family Farm(pdf), Center for Applied Rural Innovation, University of Nebraska. 2002 - A Nebraska couple raises 60 bison for fun and profit. This case study explores the challenges they've faced as they began their business venture.
  • Tarbox Hollow: A Home on the Range(pdf), Center for Rural Affairs. 2002 - An alternative product - buffalo, alternative marketing and clear goals helped these Nebraska farmers come back to the home farm to take care of their parents, restore the prairie and build a profitable and growing agricultural enterprise.

Links checked July 2014.