2008 National Environmental Respect Award Winner Mott Grain & Agronomy has some out-of-the-box approaches to environmentalism.
October 13, 2008
City folks may think there isn't much to look at during a road trip through North Dakota. But Mott Grain & Agronomy's Todd Kautzman has been at work to change that. Between the stretches of highway that divide the state's major cities sit billboards thanking the American farmer — billboards designed and paid for by Mott Grain.
It's just one of the efforts Kautzman and his company have made to reach out to the community and tell the story of his grower-customers. In the town of Mott, speakers help educate school classes and 4-H groups on the importance of agriculture and the benefits good ag practices have on society. These speakers are employees of Mott Grain.
The local newspaper displays a "Tip of the Week," giving the community information on the ag world and the current safety issues people may encounter. These tips are an informational service provided by Mott Grain.
The list doesn't stop there. Through involvement in community functions, maintaining a clean and safe facility, and involving employees and community, Kautzman's team won the 2008 National Environmental Respect Award and the respect of their hometown, state, and industry.
Promoting The Industry
"Our main motto is to promote the farmer," says Kautzman, agronomy manager. "To promote the person that puts food on our table and supports our business. When the rest of the community sees this support and involvement, it sure makes a great impression for Mott Grain & Agronomy."
When the thought came to him that people need to better realize what the American farmer does for them, Kautzman took action — in a rather big way.
"I called the Newman sign company who does the majority of all billboards in the state and asked them what locations they would have open and what the yearly fee is for a billboard," says Kautzman. "I had enough funds of my own to get this project started, so I just decided to do it."
Kautzman contacted some of his grower-customers to pose for the signs, and a local photographer took the pictures and drew up the plans.
"This was just an idea of mine for all people to stop and realize what the American farmer really does for us every time they drive past a billboard," Kautzman says. "Sometimes ideas work and sometimes they don't, and you have to be willing to take chances and be creative in your own way. Since these billboards are placed outside of my trade area, on a nearby interstate highway, this has not brought a lot of new business. But it is my way to support agriculture and the U.S. farmer."
A Creative Business Approach
Advocacy is only one part of Mott's success. Kautzman has found creative ways to serve his customers and remain environmentally responsible. The seed and chemical storage facility is secured, heated, and all under roof for protection during the winter. Employees are involved in safety training and play a major role in the local volunteer fire department First Responders program. All equipment and materials are clearly labeled. Safety equipment is available and used on a daily basis.
"Protecting my business as well as the safety of others is very important to me and my community," says Kautzman. "The sooner we can avoid or control an environmental issue, the easier it will be to react and solve."
One of the challenges for the growers in Kautzman's area is a lack of hired labor. Most of his customers had cell phones and ATV's, but did not have any way to move their equipment from one field to the next — a safety hazard for the environment and his customers. To address this, Kautzman had a
trailer made which would allow the grower to always have a way to and from the field by hauling his ATV. The trailer has a unique hitch design so it is versatile and can hook up to any type of farm equipment.
"You simply load your ATV onto the trailer and pull it behind your equipment to the field and when you get there you just unhook the trailer and pull it home with the ATV," says Kautzman. "It's a much easier and safer way for my customers to transport materials."
In 2000, Kautzman decided to build an anhydrous ammonia facility to better serve his customers needs. Within weeks of the opening, his team noticed vandals had been stealing the fertilizer. Kautzman and his team immediately responded by calling local law enforcement and installing security cameras at the facility. With the help of the cameras and the security task force, the vandals were caught.
"This made a huge impact on my growers and our local citizens, showing Mott Grain takes safety very seriously," says Kautzman. "We are committed to keeping our community and children in a safe environment."
Respecting The Environment
Maintaining a clean facility, focusing on the needs of customers in a way that is environmentally responsible, and being a positive voice for ag are the assets that Mott Grain focuses on.
"I find it hard to believe that anyone involved in the ag industry wouldn't agree that investing in respecting our environment can be a huge asset to their business, since ag is the future," says Kautzman. "When everything is said and done, the most important need we have is food and shelter, which comes directly from respecting our environment."