In The Heart Of The City

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Employee unloading fertilizer, Wilbur-Ellis

Driving through tiny Grant, MI north on route MI-37, visitors will notice two things right away. For one thing, this town of less than 1,000 residents has two gas stations, located about 1 mile apart. The second curiosity is the main city government building, which is located directly across the street from a Wilbur-Ellis facility. As Case DeYoung, branch manager for the outlet, explains, being this close to the center of town has served as a great catalyst for Wilbur-Ellis when it comes to environmental stewardship.

“Anyone visiting Grant will likely pass right by our facility on their way in,” says DeYoung. “So we have to do our best to keep everything clean and safe as possible. That way, visitors to Grant will have a good first impression that our company is not only a successful business, but a good community steward as well. Also, our city leaders are right across the street from us. If there was a problem, we would definitely hear about it.” It’s this level of commitment to its city and the environment that has helped the Wilbur-Ellis Grant facility win a regional honor in the 2008 Environmental Respect Awards competition.

“We are very flattered to have won this award,” says DeYoung. “It’s always been important for our company to put its best foot forward when it comes to protecting the environment around us and everyone’s been behind this effort 100 percent. It’s nice to see this acknowledged on a more public stage.”

Fruit & Row Crops

In many ways, the mix of grower-customers serviced by Wilbur-Ellis Grant is unique, with a mix of fruit/vegetable and row crop growers. In fact, of the region’s 14 salespeople, three are dedicated exclusively to catering to the needs of the area’s apple and cherry growers. “Besides doing about 50% of our business in fertilizer with crop protection products and seed in the mix, we have a pretty active business when it comes to testing fruit for local growers to help them increase their yields and make more money,” says DeYoung.

Given this market dynamic, a good portion of the Wilbur-Ellis Grant facility is dedicated to the storage and processing of crop nutrients. The outlet — which the company purchased in 2000 from Northern Star Minerals — has seen many upgrades in the intervening years. This includes the addition of 1,000 tons of dry fertilizer storage, 300,000 gallons of liquid fertilizer storage, and the construction of a precision blending building, completed in 2007, which is used to “melt” dry fertilizer into precision blends for grower-customers.

Of course, environmental considerations play an important role in Wilbur-Ellis Grant’s operations. “Our facility has concrete pads at all load-in, load-out points,” says DeYoung. “There is a separate diked loading pad for liquid fertilizer that uses a touchscreen system for automated filling. Dry fertilizer is loaded out using two covered belt conveyors with telescoping chutes to act as dust controls. We are also planning to add rings to our two 8-ton TriTon mixers this season that will serve as additional dust controls.”

Besides these measures, Wilbur-Ellis Grant also takes similar steps with its crop protection products. In its chemical warehouse, the outlet features a washing station for cleaning used shuttles. Also, all rinsate is reused through the company’s normal agronomic production.

“Right now, there are lots of opportunities for our business, and it’s an incredibly exciting time for us all,” concludes DeYoung. “We seem to be getting busier every year and we want to show our pride in our workplace and to our community. There are lots of positive incentives for us to be good neighbors, and plenty of negative ones if we’re not. It’s important for us to be doing the right thing environmentally, all the time.”

Sfiligoj is the Editor for both CropLife and CropLife IRON magazines. He travels regularly to cover industry events and has been dedicated to the ag retail industry since he joined the staff in 2000.

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