At the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania, Ted Stutz, owner of Ohio Earth Food, took a week-long course from Dr. Elaine Ingham, microbiologist, soil biology researcher and founder of Soil Foodweb Inc., he says. She gave an overview on the life of soil and the roles different microbes play in the health of the soil.
“She kept speaking so highly of mycorrhizal fungi and a huge part it plays in [the soil food web], and that if soil has been left bare for a length of time, that [fungi] might have died off,” Stutz says. "To get it back in the soil, she said it needs to get inoculated. She really believed in a product called Mycorrhizal Applications out of Oregon. So I tracked them down.”
Hearing Ingham talk highly of Mycorrhizal Applications was enough to persuade Stutz to search out to the company and use their product in his potting mixes. “When you describe mycorrhizal fungi to a person, it takes either one of two things [to convince you to use it]: a deep understanding of soil life, or you have trust in the person that’s selling it, because it sounds a little bit wild,” he says.
This is in part because mycorrhizal fungi is considered one of the more complicated products for growing if you don’t already understand it fully, Stutz says.
While Ingham’s course was the impetus to him seeking out the company, Mycorrhizal Applications’ product quality and service is what kept him as a returning customer.
“We make our own potting soils, including The Seed Catapult, and we’ve been making our standard potting soil, which is called Plant Pro, for probably approaching 30 years,” he says. Mycorrhizal Applications sold him their MycoApply’s Endo granular and allowed him to mix it into his potting soils to repackage and sell them.
“I sent them a sample of it, and they tested it to make sure that it was a good environment for the mycorrhizal fungi to perform,” Stutz explains. The lab services provided by Mycorrhizal Applications are one of the key features that sets apart the services provided by the company.
Stutz says by having the best-quality mycorrhizal inocolum available through Mycorrhizal Applications, Ohio Earth Food gains credibility as a distributor of potting soil with mycorrhizal fungi and the interest of consumers.
“People will throw the word ‘mycorrhizal’ on anything, any product with hardly any backing. So having [the] backing of a mycorrhizal manufacturer [like Mycorrhizal Applications] on our products, that’s kind of like having a name-brand ingredient,” Stutz says. “It has allowed us to get the premium price for that product that it deserves.”
Stutz explains, “The bottom line is now you can get this super, high-performing mycorrhizal fungi that normally was in such a large-quantity bag from MycoApply, and we put it in our stuff and you can get it in one small bag of potting soil [that you can get] for $9 … People loved that they get high-quality mycorrhizal fungi spores in a potting soil that's already proven for just a dollar more per bag.”
When it comes to its customer service and support, Stutz says Mycorrhizal Applications goes beyond other suppliers.
By having reps from the Oregon company visit Ohio Earth Food at trade shows or its retail locations in Ohio and Wisconsin, despite being across the country, Stutz says he was able to learn more about the fungi and feel confident explaining its benefits to potential customers.
“You get this expensive product and [it’s] one that needs to be explained and used properly,” Stutz says. “Having all that training was amazing for our profitability. They are super committed to their product performing … I sell 120 other products [from different suppliers] and their dedication to performance and support for their dealers is way beyond anybody else. It's not even in the same league.” — Samantha Cottrill