This story was first featured in the July-August 2017 issue of Soybean Business. Click here to view the online version.
Diesel loving DieselSellerz embark on a biodiesel build
Dave Sparks can appreciate the path Minnesota soybean farmers took to turn a glut of soybean oil into the biodiesel at the heart of Minnesota’s 2018 move to 20 percent biodiesel (B20) as a minimum blending requirement during the summer months.
Owner and operator of DieselSellerz, Sparks, better known as Heavy D, is full of innovative ideas and the skepticism that comes along with those ideas. Sometimes the skepticism comes from those close to him, such as the well-publicized time Heavy D insisted his team build a truck for SEMA – the largest specialty equipment auto show in North America — that included airbags versus coils for shocks.
“Keeping the guys on track with this kind of stuff is a little tricky because a lot of the times my guys don’t fully understand where I am going with something,” he says. “But I’ll tell you, 95 percent of the time when we are done with it they look back and say ‘I get it now. I see what you were trying to do. This is a good idea. I like it.’”
Heavy D is embarking on a new idea, one that involves building a truck for Minnesota soybean farmers to raise awareness about the benefits of biodiesel. The DieselSellerz chose to partner with the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) for a number of reasons, namely to support a group of Americans they hold in high respect.
“Farmers are the staple of America,” says Keaton “The Muscle” Hoskins. “Celebrities are great to work with, but our company was built around Middle America and around people who get their hands dirty and work hard. So this is a great opportunity for us, as a company and great for me personally, just because it’s the ability to hang out with Middle America, the real, and I think most important, class of people.”
Heavy D and The Muscle will be joined by “Diesel Dave” Kiley and Josh “Red Beard” Stuart, and together the boys from DieselSellerz are the stars of Discovery’s hit TV show, “Diesel Brothers.”
Why partner together?
Craig Bangasser (District 7) and Kris Folland (District 1, 2 & 3) represented the Council at a photoshoot and media day for the partnership in June at the DieselSellerz’s facility in Utah. Bangasser has been heavily involved in the Council’s decision to begin a B20 promotional campaign. That process has looked at several ways for MSR&PC to drive awareness about biodiesel, but ultimately hit a home run when the DieselSellerz entertained the Council’s offer of a truck build.
“I think we’ve done a good job in picking someone that can help us drive awareness of B20 becoming law in May of 2018,” says the Garvin, Minn., farmer. “These guys will help draw attention to B20. They’re very interested in biodiesel and I think their viewership is a good target audience for us.”
Folland, who farms near Hallma, Minn., says the biggest thing he wants his fellow farmers to understand is this: the DieselSellerz can generate the same excitement and passion farmers have for biodiesel through their brand, which reaches a large audience and targets diesel lovers.
“I think farmers are going to be really happy with the DieselSellerz,” he says. “These guys are celebrities, but they are down-to-Earth guys who work hard and respect farmers. They are passionate, and knowledgeable about diesel, and they are great marketers and businessmen.”
Bangasser says the guys from DieselSellerz have unique personalities, something he wishes all Minnesota farmers could experience.
“At first glance, I was worried that farmers weren’t going to understand what we are doing or even recognize the faces of the DieselSellerz,” he says. “But that’s OK. Having met them, I know they will be perceived well and they all have unique personalities and play a role in their company and in this partnership. And hopefully this truck build creates questions about why we are spending our checkoff money here and what we are doing. And along way, we can bring awareness to B20.”
“Since I was a kid, if you told me I couldn’t do something, that’s the first thing I did,” he says. “Seeing a challenge, whether that be someone telling you that you can’t do something or somebody else already setting the bar somewhere, we’re always driving to be on top of that.”
Like those early pioneers of the biodiesel requirement in Minnesota, Heavy D sees the hater’s doubts as a challenge.
“There are a lot of people, and not just me, but a lot of ambitious people that say ‘I’ll prove to you that it can be done, and not only can it be done, but it is going to work,’” he says. “For us, opportunities like that are huge.”
Heavy D admits the internet, and more specifically social media, has brought out the ugly side of critics.
“Unfortunately on social media these days, everybody is kind of a big macho man and their whole M.O. is to just bring people down,” he says. “It’s easy to say ‘Well I’m a professional this, that, or the other thing’ behind the keyboard and give their opinion, but they don’t do anything about it. The real movers and shakers are the guys who are taking those concepts and ideas that people say won’t work, and they are actually implementing them and turning them into functional things.”
“The whole farming industry is just a bunch of really hard working individuals who love farming and are driven by something,” he says.
As for biodiesel, he says “good for Minnesota” for pushing higher blends of the fuel.
“It’s a no brainer why people are so passionate about it,” he says. “It’s not just the money coming in, it’s creating jobs for people; it’s creating better air quality. That’s awesome.”
Heavy D appreciates the benefits of biodiesel, and is impressed with the fact that biodiesel adds 63 cents to a bushel of soybeans.
“Just do the math,” he says. “I don’t know how many bushels a farmer is going to harvest in a year, but adding 63 cents to a bushel, you’re adding close to a 5 percent increase for the same amount of production, but he is getting 5 percent more money. Any businessman should look at that and say, ‘Hey, 5 percent is a huge deal; that’s a massive deal,’ and the fact is they don’t really have to do anything extra outside of what they are already doing.”
Red Beard, who often bears the burden of weighing the cost of DieselSellerz’s builds against the profits those builds will generate, says the over-the-top builds are usually the best.
“A lot of times these builds don’t make any practical sense, but we’ve learned that for us, those are our best builds that bring in the most money,” he says.
Heavy D is aware of this, but says the truck the team will build for Minnesota soybean farmers will make more sense and will go above and beyond to showcase biodiesel.
“I’m most excited about the opportunity to build a functional, yet over-the-top truck,” he says. “That’s kind of our goal any time we build a truck is to build something that is crazy looking, it can go to a show and people say, ‘How did you do it?’ But at the same time we can take it from the show, hook it to a trailer and drive it out to the farm and use it.”
Red Beard says one barrier to any campaign is awareness, something he thinks the DeiselSellerz can help with.
“I think they should be excited because we can take what they are doing and really blow it up and make it a popular issue,” he says. “Most people probably aren’t even aware of biodiesel or what it is.”
Heavy D points out that biodiesel isn’t just a farmer product and impacts a wide range of people.
“I think everybody should be excited,” he says. “I think consumers should be excited about it, too, at least conscientious consumers, realizing that this is an opportunity to not have to rely on the big oil companies pulling stuff out of the ground.”
Creating healthy competition in an economy is important, he says, and is the best way to create innovation. And while this is just one way to come up with new energy solutions, Heavy D says it is good to have options.
“Farmers, consumers, everybody should be pumped, he says. “Good for Minnesota to be taking it on, to be pushing it and for making biodiesel become a mandate, a standard. I hope everyone follows.”
For Folland, the truck build is exciting because it will generate conversation.
“Think of it like this: When you tell a joke to someone, it lightens the mood,” he says. “Once you’ve lightened the mood, you can discuss more serious issues. We always want to talk the science and no one seems to listen. People will want to see this truck, and when they do, they’ll have questions. This gets them excited and lightens the mood so we can talk about the facts.”
Part of that promotion is enlisting the help of the DieselSellerz, stars of Discovery’s “Biodiesel Brothers” and experts in building over-the-top trucks. Not only will the DieselSellerz be building a truck with a focus on biodiesel for Minnesota soybean farmers to raise awareness for B20, the build will be filmed for a future episode. Here is what you need to know.