This week, a bunch of Wall Streeters have traded in their suits and ties for jeans as they make the annual pilgrimage to the Midwest to check out this year’s crops.
It’s what New York-based Societe Generale commodities analyst Chris Narayanan describes as “boots on the ground analysis.”
“It’s a way for people covering the space in whatever capacity to get an idea as to what’s out there and talk to people,” he told us in a telephone interview.
The Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour, which has been held since 1993, attracts bankers, brokers, investors (both domestic and international), hedge fund portfolio managers and folks from big corporations.
Narayanan has been participating on the tour for six years now.
He said that folks on the tour would joke and say, “‘Hey, Mr. Wall Street’s back.'”
He’s not afraid to get dirty, though.
“The first time they were a little sceptical,” he explained. “In the first field, they realised ‘OK this guy gets after it and gets his hands dirty.'”
“They know that I know my stuff. I’m not afraid to ask questions.”
Narayanan is originally from Texas. He was on the Texas A&M rodeo team riding broncos and he’s a Marine Corps veteran. Every year, he gets paired with a newbie to help show them the ropes.
“I love what I do. I like to learn and I like to help out.”
Here’s how the crop tour works:
There are two legs — the western one begins in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and the eastern one begins in Columbus, Ohio. Combined, the two tours cover about 70% of the country’s soy and corn crop fields in four days before convening together in Minnesota.
Each day, the two big tours are divided into smaller groups and given routes to drive. There are about 12 to 15 routes each day. They stop every twenty miles or so to take samples and measurements. At the end of the day, they aggregate the data that they have all compiled.
Most of the Wall Street community tends to stay on the east side. That’s usually the bigger tour, according to Narayanan. It’s his first year on the western leg of the tour.
Since Monday morning, he has headed southwest from Sioux Falls, South Dakota to Grand Island, Nebraska. He then headed into southwest Iowa before turning north en route to Spencer, Iowa. That’s where he’ll be on Wednesday night.
“Seeing some good, some bad corn and soybean fields, but corn seems to be in better shape. Others have seen much better fields on their routes,” he told us.
When you think of Wall Street, you certainly don’t picture analysts in corn fields. This is something that Narayanan enjoys and looks forward to.
“This is something I like to do because there’s only so much I can tell sitting behind a screen. I like to get out there and see what’s going on.”
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