Illinois Ag Retailer Named ICCA Of The Year

Mike Wilson (right) and Illinois farmer John Haase make decisions on drought damaged corn. Southern Illinois is experiencing its worst drought in 76 years.
Mike Wilson (right) and Illinois farmer John Haase make decisions on drought damaged corn. Southern Illinois is experiencing its worst drought in 76 years.

 

In the spring of 1994, Mike Wilson nervously sat down between two Ph.D.s in an Indianapolis convention center.  “These two geniuses are sitting on each side of me, and I finished the exam 30 minutes before they did,” remembers Wilson of his CCA certification exam. “I remember sitting out in the hallway waiting for everyone else to get done, and thinking, ‘I must have screwed this up so bad!’”

He passed.

And 18 years later, Wilson has been named the International Certified Crop Advisor of the Year, an accomplishment that validates his 32 years of crop advising experience and far-reaching contributions to the CCA program.

Wilson grew up on a family farm in Owensville, IN, a small town nestled in the Hoosier State’s southwest corner. Agriculture has always been a natural part of life for Wilson, who learned the basics of seed production at a young age.

After finishing high school, the Indiana native attended Purdue short courses on plant and soil science before returning to the family farm. For the next 13 years, he would continue to help manage the farm while working for the company his family raised seed for.

“I worked in all areas of seed production, from tillage, planting, herbicide and pesticide applications, conditioning, harvesting, grading, bagging, seed size. All of that,” says Wilson. “There’s not too much in the seed business I haven’t done.”

Specifically valuable was his experience in hybrid fields. “Dealing with inbred plants in hybrid fields was pretty extreme,” he says. “When something goes wrong, man, it goes wrong.” Working in that environment has helped Wilson learn how different plants react to different environments, a skill that would prove useful later as a crop advisor.

After leaving the family farm more than 20 years ago, Wilson found himself in ag retail as a crop salesman in Orange County, Indiana before ending up at Wabash Valley Service Co., Grayville, IL, where he’s been ever since.

Wilson is the specialty products coordinator for the agricultural cooperative, which serves more than 5,000 customers from 10 counties in Southern Illinois. “My primary job function is to look at how we can affect crop yield using what some would call unconventional means,” says Wilson. These include the use of foliar fertilizers, micronutrients, and variable rate planting techniques. He’s also working on developing a micronutrient plan designed specifically for Southern Illinois that would be the first of its kind.

One of the clients Wilson serves is Tom Marks, who operates a 2,200-acre corn and soybean farm with his father in Edwards County, Illinois. Marks says that their farm’s soil isn’t highly productive, and compensating with fertilizers can be a costly alternative. Wilson has helped him apply fertilizer more efficiently using grid mapping technology, which allows farmers to vary nutrient application to specific parts of their farm using GPS technology.

“By helping me, the grower, apply only the plant nutrients that are needed, I can continue to reduce the use of extra nutrients and save money that can be used on other areas of my farming operation,” says Marks.

Allen Rusk, Assistant General Manager at Wabash Valley Service Co., feels Wilson has found the right balance of applying newer technologies to existing farming methods, enhancing the more traditional practices instead of replacing them. “Mike is looking at things that are still sound agronomically, but are maybe a little bit more out of the mainstream,” he says.

Wilson credits his colleagues and company for supporting his research of more advanced agricultural practices. “They want to be on the cutting edge. They want us to be out there doing nonconventional things,” says Wilson.

As agriculture evolves and Wilson continues to experiment with new technologies in the field, he hasn’t forgotten about the role education will play in the industry’s future. “We start out with Agriculture in the Classroom through the Farm Bureau here in Illinois focusing on first through fifth graders,” says Wilson. “We bring important topics down to a level they can understand.”

Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC) programs are implemented in every state, creating a network of individuals at the local level that seek to improve agricultural literacy among both teachers and students. Instead of introducing complicated farming concepts to the children, Wilson and other AITC coordinators apply agriculture to common, everyday things in the lives of students.

One aspect of their program involves sending coordinators into Chicago to educate children about where their food comes from. “We had the kids make a pizza, and explained how all of the different ingredients come from agriculture,” says Marks, who works with Wilson in the Illinois AITC program.

Wilson’s passion for education may have been a result from his own youth. The Illinois CCA never got a bachelor’s degree, instead opting to take short courses and continue working on his family farm. He’s now on the advisory council for the agriculture department at a local community college in Wabash County, where he encourages graduating students to continue their education at a four year college.

“We want these students to get their bachelor’s degree in ag business, plant and soil science, or whatever they want,” Wilson says. “But they need that degree, because not everyone is going to be as lucky as I’ve been.”

He certainly has set the bar high. Prior to being selected as the 2012 ICCA of the Year, Wilson was named the 2011 Illinois CCA of the Year. Receiving that award allowed him to reflect on the relationships he has built over the years, and how the CCA program has given back to him.

“There are 350 or 400 people in this room, and they’re all CCAs. They’re people I’ve known for 20 years and have an awful lot of respect for,” says Wilson of the Illinois CCA convention last December. “And they were recognizing me as a CCA of the Year. It was all very humbling.”

Wilson, who is a father of three and has been married to his wife Christine for 32 years, has been with the CCA program since its inception, and believes credibility has remained the program’s greatest strength after all these years. “Even though we’re working in an industry that is so profit driven, it’s important we maintain that integrity,” he says.

But while the values of the program have remained constant, the technological aspects of agriculture continue to evolve. “We have to continue looking at nonconventional ways to help improve crop yield,” Wilson says. “Because they are viable, and they will work.”

Leave a Reply

Management Stories

ManagementMACA 2014: The State Of The Agricultural Industry, And Then Some
October 9, 2014
The trade association’s annual gathering featured speakers from across agriculture and beyond. Read More
StewardshipA Multi-Layered Approach To Water Quality
October 6, 2014
Illinois event highlights research and technology designed to better monitor and improve water quality — and the benefits of cooperative, coordinated effort. Read More
StewardshipMichigan Agriculture Leaders On Toledo Water Ban: We Want To Be Part Of The Conversation
August 8, 2014
Leaders of Michigan agricultural organizations said Thursday that the government should not have a “knee-jerk reaction” based on last weekend’s water ban in Toledo due to fertilizer run-off in Lake Erie. Read More
ManagementRussia Bans U.S. And EU Ag Product Imports In Ukraine Sanctions Battle
August 7, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin has banned the import of agricultural goods from countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia. Read More

Top 100 Articles

CropLife 100CHS: Driving Momentum To Help Farmer-Owners Grow
December 11, 2014
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, must capture new opportunities to Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT, Verdesian Ink Distribution Agreement
December 9, 2014
The agreement grants BRANDT the exclusive right to sell and market Verdesian’s patented Steric chemistry in the Turf and Ornamental and eastern U.S. ag markets under the BRANDT Reaction product line name. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: The Colors Of Custom Application
December 5, 2014
Although many color spray rigs are in the yards of the nation’s top ag retailers, the majority of them still come in only a few shades. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Invests In Meridian Agriculture Distribution
December 4, 2014
Meridian will provide retailers with supplier-branded products and numerous opportunities to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: Entering A New Seed Era
December 4, 2014
The seed category has been re-vitalized during the past few years, and more good news (and varieties) are headed the industry’s way in 2015. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: The Depressed State Of Fertilizer
December 3, 2014
Following downright giddy growth earlier this decade, fertilizer sales have fallen back down to earth the past two years. Read More

Latest News

Seed/BiotechKaren Arthur Joins AgriThority As Seed Treatment Produc…
December 19, 2014
Prior to joining AgriThority, Arthur directed research and development programs, overseeing laboratory and field research, to build the Valent U.S.A. seed treatment portfolio. Read More
EquipmentJohn Deere To Sell Crop Insurance Business
December 19, 2014
Deere & Co. has reached a definitive agreement to sell its crop insurance business, subject to regulatory approval, to Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. of Iowa. Read More
Crop InputsNufarm Fills Regulatory VP Position
December 18, 2014
Nufarm announced today that Rob Schwehr has been promoted to the position of Vice President of Innovation & Regulatory Affairs for Nufarm Americas. Read More
Seed/BiotechReport: China Approves Viptera Corn, U.S. Officials Awa…
December 17, 2014
Chinese authorities have informed some agriculture industry officials the government has approved U.S. imports of a type of genetically modified corn developed by Syngenta. Read More
FertilizerMonty’s Plant Food Brings In New Sales Rep
December 16, 2014
Monty's Plant Food Company has hired Warren Kearns as its newest Sales Representative for the South Carolina area. Read More
EquipmentHagie Wins 2014 CropLife IRON Product Of The Year Award
December 15, 2014
The self-propelled sprayer maker has a hit on its hands with the new STS Series model. Read More
Syngenta
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Sees China Approving Contentious GMO Corn Soon
December 15, 2014
Syngenta will make an announcement when it receives official documentation from China that Agrisure Viptera corn, known as MIR 162, has been cleared for import. Read More
Crop InputsVerdesian Life Sciences Names Vice President Of Communi…
December 15, 2014
Amy Bugg will oversee the execution of all promotional strategies for the corporate brand and the complete product portfolio. Read More
StewardshipFarmers, Retailers Attend 4R Certification 4U Workshop
December 15, 2014
More than 160 farmers and ag retailer attended the “4R Certification 4U” workshop December 12 to learn more about the 4Rs of nutrient stewardship, water quality research in the area and cost-sharing opportunities. Read More
Matt Hopkins10 Best New Agriculture Apps For 2015
December 15, 2014
These new agriculture apps are certain to help ag professionals do their jobs more efficiently in 2015 and beyond. Read More
ManagementARA Learnings, Retail Buying Intentions: Welcome To Cro…
December 12, 2014
This informal video program puts news and events effecting retailers into context, and features Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Herbicide-Tolerant Technology Closer To Commer…
December 12, 2014
The final EIS moves Monsanto one step closer to the introduction of Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton and Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans, paving the way to provide access to dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton. Read More
Seed/BiotechUSDA Issues Final Environmental Impact Statement On Her…
December 12, 2014
The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is issuing a final environmental impact statement on varieties of cotton and soybeans that have been genetically engineered for resistance to several herbicides, including the one known as dicamba. Read More
CropLife 100CHS: Driving Momentum To Help Farmer-Owners Grow
December 11, 2014
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, must capture new opportunities to Read More
LegislationARA Applauds CFATS Passage Prior To Holiday Adjournment
December 11, 2014
The streamlined bill provides a four-year authorization of the CFATS program and guidance to DHS on key issues of chemical facility security Read More
Seed/BiotechBayer CropScience’s ILeVO Approved By EPA
December 11, 2014
EPA has approved ILeVO, the only seed treatment that protects the root system against infections caused by the Sudden Death Syndrome fungus and has activity against dangerous nematodes. Read More
Biologicals in Emerging Markets Map.
Crop InputsBiocontrols Could Quadruple By 2025; Will Regulators Pl…
December 11, 2014
The European experience with GMOs offers caution — and a promise — for biologicals. Read More
Crop InputsBASF Donates $75,000 To Feeding America
December 10, 2014
The donation will support Feeding America’s National Produce Program, an initiative that helps with planning, transportation and logistics to ensure fresh produce deliveries to the 200 member food banks around the country. Read More