2011 Environmental Respect Awards: The State Winners

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These 17 retailers are recognized for their commitment to agricultural environmentalism:

Protecting Our Blessings

Crop Production Services, Wynne, AR
From a young age, children at the dinner table are taught to count their blessings before they eat. According to Carlton Fisher, location manager for Crop Production Services (CPS), Wynne, AR, ag retailers should do the same with their stewardship practices.

“We make our living based on the blessings of the environment,” says Fisher, whose location is an Environmental Respect Award state winner. “To care for and respect that which puts food in our families’ mouths is only common sense. The ability to have a safe, affordable and abundant food supply and fiber source is one of the most important things for the longevity of our society.”

To accomplish this, CPS Wynne employees scout more than 60,000 acres on a weekly basis to ensure that the company’s products are being applied at the correct time and rate, lessening their potential impact on the surrounding environment. The retailer also conducts a twice yearly total site clean-up (in addition to its regular monthly inspections) to make certain the company is in compliance with environmental regulations and CPS policies. While the outlet doesn’t mix crop protection products itself, the outlet does have the facilities for it, and applicators will occasionally pick up and mix products on site. “They understand that best practices must be observed and label-required personal protection equipment must be worn if using our facility,” says Fisher.

CPS Wynne also does its part to share its environmental message with the community. Employees at the location talk at local schools about the ag retail business, take part in community events and even sponsor youth baseball and swim teams. The outlet even has trained firefighters as part of its staff.

“Ours is an agricultural community, so people generally do feel positive about agriculture,” says Fisher. “Therefore, ours is a more educational task, to reassure community members that agriculture’s footprint on the environment is actually beneficial and not harmful to anyone or anything. We participate in several community events and speak to the scouts and Future Farmers of America at our schools.”

Making Up For Lost Time

Simplot Grower Solutions, Edison, CA
For some companies, environmental stewardship represents an attempt to make amends for America’s historic track record in this arena. “Unfortunately, our country has neglected and abused our Earth’s environment for centuries,” says Cathy Morris, operations supervisor for Simplot Grower Solutions in Edison, CA. “We have drilled, probed and mined our oceans and ground beyond repair in many areas. Now, as our way of life is threatened by our own greed, we are slowly realizing the injustice we have done to our Earthly home. Without the resources the Earth has offered us, we could not survive. Simplot relies on many of the Earth’s resources in order to do business. We as a company need to continue the effort we have been making to create better working practices to sustain our environment.”

At Simplot Edison, these practices include having all the company’s liquid blending done within a containment area or on a concrete pad, its dry fertilizer blending conducted in a designated area and under roof and adding plastic curtain strips on both ends of the outlet’s loading area to help contain the dust that some fertilizers create when being loaded. Simplot Edison has also installed additional rainwater diversion tanks to contain any run-off.

For product tracking, the company employs a comprehensive reporting system. “This allows the company to track and compile the incidents in informational charts showing any trends that are developing,” says Morris.

More recently, Simplot Edison has been monitoring the usage of its diesel and gasoline powered forklifts to comply with new state regulations. “In order to reduce diesel emissions, we are working toward replacing our large diesel truck fleet that does not comply with the new California regulations in the near future,” says Morris.

Respect For ‘People + Planet’

Wilbur-Ellis Co., Caldwell, ID
For the team at Wilbur-Ellis in Caldwell, ID, environmental stewardship is a way to care for current and future generations. This “People + Planet” mentality is what earned them a state Environmental Respect Award.

“Wilbur-Ellis must have environmental respect so that we are able to help American agriculture grow for future generations,” says Kenny Macy, territory manager. “Investments are made to sustain and protect our business and the public of all that could be affected from the fields to the end product.”

Located about 25 miles from Boise, this Wilbur-Ellis location serves growers with crop protection products and fertilizer, consulting and computer mapping services and vegetation management solutions. Employees are trained extensively in safety and emergency response procedures, and written emergency plans are made available to all staff and are updated continuously. To educate the community, employees participate in chemical drop and grower training and have reached the community, schools and growers through these programs.

“Environmental respect is important to sustainable agriculture,” says Macy. “Without proper stewardship, agriculture will become more restricted. It is most important to communicate the benefits of environmental stewardship.”

Communication Is Key To Success

Illini FS, Champaign, IL
“Outreach” is defined as the act of extending services and benefits to a wider section of the population, something that is normal business practice for the team at Illini FS in Champaign, IL.

“Our [agriculture's] positive farm image needs to be continued and replenished on a constant basis,” says Pat Titus, safety and regulatory administrator. “We cannot stand on our agricultural roots and experiences and expect our image to grow in value. The ag community needs to point out that farmers are one of the first environmental stewards.”

Community and industry outreach is the foundation that Illini FS builds its business on. Titus brings a communications background to the team, and encourages all employees to get involved in spreading the good news about agriculture.

The company is a member of the local Future Farmers of America chapter and, according to Titus, reached more than 7,000 preschoolers, grade schoolers and high-schoolers last year on the importance of farm safety. Illini FS also works alongside the local Chamber of Commerce, the Illinois Farm Bureau and the Carle Rural Health and Safety Department to give employees, customers and the community the message that safety and the environment go hand-in-hand. Strong grower relationships keep the company on top of current farming issues, helping them promote the “family farm” and build trust with the farming community.

“Whether it’s over a cup of coffee, or offering sweet corn out of our patch, we know our customers can trust and rely on our efforts,” Titus says.

Employee safety programs and training, well-constructed, updated buildings and rigorous emergency response procedures are expected. Going above and beyond the call of duty by educating the larger population is key to this company’s success.

“We, as suppliers, and our customer farmers live, work and play in the communities that we do business in,” says Titus. “As many of us look on the horizon for the next directive to environmental care, we know our industry will also be a part of the ‘big’ picture. Our industry has always been green. It’s not the ‘celebrity’ thing to do. It’s the right thing to do.”

Changes For The Better

Ceres Solutions LLP, Rockville, IN
What a difference a few decades makes when it comes to environmental respect, says Joe Hawkins, manager for Ceres Solutions in Rockville, IN. “When I look back at the way we did things when I entered the business in 1979, I would have to say that it is not something I am proud of,” says Hawkins. “The safety supervisor had just dropped a bomb on us. We as a company now had a zero-tolerance policy regarding chemicals and fertilizer being released onto the property. This meant no pumping of rainwater off of the loadpads or out of dikes, no washing off fertilizer or spray equipment and no longer leaving equipment out in the rain that had any fertilizer or chemicals on them.”

However, once the Ceres team got over the shock of trying to implement this new corporate approach to environmental stewardship, it found that a stronger position on protecting the environment helped not only the planet, but the outlet’s overall mind-set as well.

“Almost immediately, you could notice a change in the employees’ attitudes toward taking care of our plant because the benefits were apparent,” says Hawkins. “The grass in the ditches around the plant got greener and the equipment stayed cleaner. Our changes have allowed us to save thousands of dollars in equipment and made for a more appealing place for our customers. After all, we are a fertilizer plant. Who wants to do business with a fertilizer plant that cannot grow its own grass?”

In the end, Hawkins believes the mandate to “clean-up” was the best thing that could have happened to the outlet. “The message ‘be respectful and do the right thing’ is one that has been pretty easy to live by,” he says. “We have a good group of employees that strive to do their best and that attitude has brought good customers and business to our company.”

Precision Respect

MaxYield Cooperative, West Bend, IA
Tom Winkel began his career in ag retail in 1977, an age in agriculture, he explains, that was very different from today.

“Some important changes have taken place,” explains Winkel, safety operator for MaxYield Cooperative. “The usage rates of herbicides 20 to 30 years ago left countless pails and containers to dispose of. Staying on the cutting edge of production while doing the right thing environmentally keeps both MaxYield and our clients on course.”

Safety and compliance is the lead goal, and Winkel credits the facility’s accomplishments largely to the embracing of cutting edge precision agriculture techniques. The company realized that, in order to live up to its name, it needed to bring solutions to farmers, not just stuff.

SciMax, a subdivision of MaxYield, is the company’s successful attempt at being a solutions-provider for growers. SciMax is comprised of experts trained in precision technology, helping grower-customers maximize their profits and reduce their environmental impact at the same time. A grower that belongs to SciMax can take advantage of Learning Groups, advisers, planning meetings, “Yield By Variety” reports and password-protected internet access connecting them to data and reports from their farming peers.

“In the early 1990s,” explains Winkel, “we were named as the most condensed grid-sampling region in the state. We adopted precision early and have capitalized on the benefits of this knowledge.”

This precision focus helps MaxYield stay current, increase customer’s crop yields and promote the importance of environmental respect.

“Environmental respect is something that should come naturally to anyone that cares for agriculture,” says Winkel. “The companies that are satisfied with the status quo will soon become dinosaurs.”

Care Takers

Crop Production Services, Clarkson, KY
Growing up on a farm gives one a unique perspective on environmental stewardship, says Daron Bell, manager of Crop Production Services (CPS) in Clarkson, KY. “It becomes first nature to us that I have to take care of the resources that take care of me,” says Bell. “That means controlling any erosion of the soil within my means. It means applying only what is labeled and necessary to obtain needed results. It means protecting my family and community by using safe and sound practices in our operation so as to have a good reputation.”

CPS Clarkson accomplishes this by ensuring its crop inputs are contained and controlled. For example, the company’s product tanks, pumps and meters are plumbed separately, each labeled and locked when not in use. There’s also emergency equipment and products in an enclosed pallet box that can be loaded in a pick-up truck or trailer to respond to any product spills.

Bell himself also takes the time to promote CPS Clarkson’s stewardship efforts to the local community. “I often get on a crusade to tell others outside of this industry what we really do,” he says. “It really hurt me a few years ago when my child came home from school and was taught that people like his dad were poisoning the Earth and anyone who eats today’s crops.”

To counter these claims, Bell has given presentations at local schools. “I promote facts such as certain groups of chemicals, while sounding very potent with a rate of two-thirds of an ounce per acre, have less toxicity than an aspirin in a railroad tank car of water,” he says. “I tell them about our facility plans for different scenarios — even a stormwater plan to prevent runoff. Through truth and unbiased information, we have a moral commitment that we can continue to feed the people of this world a safe and ample food supply for many years to come.”

Committed To Improvement

Crop Production Services, Lake Odessa, MI
Like many agricultural businesses across the nation, the land this state-winning business sits on has housed many retail fertilizer facilities for as long as most in the community can remember.

“Unfortunately the handling practices and environmental stewardship that is prevalent today has not always been a practice in the past,” says Clay Martz, location manager at Crop Production Services (CPS). “We are responsible for and working to address current environmental conditions that have been the result of poor practices in the past.”

And CPS Lake Odessa has proven it’s up to the challenge.

Martz and his team have regraded the entire facility to direct and collect water in detention ponds to eliminate runoff and prevent large volumes of water from leaving the site. Numerous hybrid poplar and willow trees were planted to draw contaminants out of the soil in a natural way, while at the same time creating more green space for wildlife. All liquid material transfers are conducted within a contained, sealed facility or above an operational pad, so drips can be collected and removed to appropriate storage. Hydronic radiant floor heating keeps the floors in the dry fertilizer building free of moisture and containers are recycled as part of a state program.

CPS Lake Odessa has addressed security by surrounding the facility with a locked fence. Staff have created a spill kit that allows employees to quickly load a truck for rapid response in the event of an emergency. This spring, CPS invited the local fire department, county sheriff and regional Department of Homeland Security personnel for an emergency preparedness meeting and walk through of the facility.

“This facility has undergone many improvements to protect our assets and the land surrounding our property,” says Martz. “Our involvement with local service clubs, working with food banks and attending local events sends a message our staff is committed to producing agricultural products that are safe to handle and consume.”

Lessons Learned

Simplot Grower Solutions, Hatfield, MN
When considering the need for environmental responsibility in ag retail, Terry Swinson, operations manager for Simplot Grower Solutions in Hatfield, MN, says observers need only look to the recent past for some perspective.

“A small thing can grow into a big problem,” says Swinson. “We have seen city water that could no longer be drunk. We have seen the closing of sanitary landfills because of improper dumping. We need to take care of our environment as it directly affects our business.”

To this end, Simplot Hatfield has implemented many safety measures to its crop inputs business. This includes having all its dry fertilizer stored indoors, with loading and unloading conducted on concrete containment, all liquid fertilizer and crop protection products stored in or on concrete pads or dikes and having its entire mixing area under roof, with loading and unloading done with concrete containment.

Simplot Hatfield also makes certain its employees know all of the company’s emergency plans by holding regular right-to-know meetings. “We also inform them of new laws and ways that we are doing things in case of an emergency,” says Swinson. “We show them where the safety equipment is located for each job that they will be doing.”

In these and many other ways, says Swinson, Simplot Hatfield is doing its part for environmental respect. “It is an investment in our company’s future because if things are not done properly and there is not anything done to control the overuse of fertilizer, chemicals and pesticides, we will ruin the environment,” he says. “Then, we will no longer have a business or a place to work.”

Protecting The Land

Crop Production Services, Bernie, MO
Nestled in the Bootheel of Missouri, the city of Bernie is home to Crop Production Services (CPS), a company whose dedication to protecting the land earned it a state Environmental Respect Award and the respect of its community.

“Agriculture is a big part of the rural area that we work in,” says Matthew Pippins, warehouse manager. “It has held the economy up in our area and we haven’t seen the affects of the low economy other areas have endured.”

Because of the prominence of farming in the area, CPS Bernie has gone above and beyond to preserve the land. All product transfers occur in a contained area, which holds 100% of the capacity of the largest container. The processing and mixing area is located on a diked concrete pad so spills are contained and all jugs are triple pressure rinsed at the mixing site.

Within the last year, CPS Bernie has offered media and community tours of the facility, and has given presentations to local churches and civic groups on the importance of environmental safety.

“Environmental respect will keep our area clean and safe and make it available for years to come,” says Pippins. “Maintaining environmental respect will ensure our company of a long and prosperous future.”

Safety To Count On

CHS Agri Service Center, Loomis, NE
From August 2009 to August 2010, this outlet sold a total of 39.2 million bushels of grain, 10 million gallons of energy products and 34,159 tons of fertilizer. With this much product going through the door, safety is something this cooperative’s grower members need to count on.

Its focus on safety is what earned CHS Agri Service Center’s main branch, located in Loomis, NE, a state Environmental Respect Award for 2011.

“Farmers rely on CHS to safely bring them the fertilizer, grains, seeds and other products they need during spring work and harvest,” says Stacy Cash, office manager. “Our commitment is to service and meet the needs of our customers.”

The cooperative does this in many ways. Retail and wholesale towers house their own state-certified overhead scale, so no truck scale is needed during the loading process. The loadout areas are housed in a 110-foot by 56-foot building with overhead doors allowing for trucks to be loaded safely in all weather conditions. The facility’s state-of-the-art dry fertilizer terminal holds 28,000 tons of product and was designed with a barrel roof which eliminates wasted space inside the bins.

Upon arrival to the company, employees take a mandatory safety course and attend daily or weekly safety meetings. To help in an emergency situation, CHS established a “Headcount Area,” identified on its site map and in the Emergency Plan book. Once an employee arrives at the Headcount Area, the fire chief or supervisor instructs them on additional action to be taken.

To promote safety in the community, CHS supports the local 4-H groups, the local FFA, high-school career days, a wellness program, and a yearly food drive to the community pantry.

“We believe in a safe and healthy environment for our employees, customers and community,” says Cash. “Our team works to ensure effective nutrient management practices and that fertilizer is being used in an environmentally sensitive way. We want to keep our community safe and healthy for the future generation.”

Being A Good Neighbor

Simplot Grower Solutions, Langdon, ND
“Nothing hits the ground” unless it’s intended to be there. This belief is practiced daily by the employees at Simplot Grower Solutions in Langdon, ND, and is one of the many reasons this location was honored as a state Environmental Respect Award winner.

“We believe that environmental respect is everyone’s duty,” says Troy Olson, unit supervisor for Simplot Langdon. “It is a goal that we strive for each year here.”

Simplot Langdon delivers solutions to growers in the northeastern region of North Dakota by providing crop protection products as well as consulting services, computer mapping, and custom and variable rate application. Exceptional customer service is only one way this facility shows it’s commitment to stewardship.

“We care about the impact our business activities and the products we sell have on the environment and our community,” says Olson.

According to Olson, the Langdon facility has a close relationship with the community as it is largely agriculture-driven. The facility supports events at area schools, emphasizing the importance of protecting the environment. The message of public safety and stewardship is communicated to the local city council, town organizations and state agencies.

“Employees here have a sense of obligation to educate and inform the community of our business activities,” says Olson. “We are known in the community as an environmentally responsible entity.”

The facility relies heavily on local law enforcement and fire officials to protect the area’s health and safety. The company conducts annual tours with emergency personnel and has hosted full-scale drills with local fire agencies. In addition to its focus on neighborhood safety, Simplot donates and sponsors community events, baseball leagues, student field trips and works to educate on drug and domestic violence awareness.

“The future of all involved in agriculture is dependent on our environmental stewardship today,” says Olson. “Retail agriculture dealerships must invest and commit to respecting the environment.”

A ‘Common Sense’ Approach

Union Mill Division of Chemgro Inc., Belleville, PA
According to Donald Hartzler, assistant manager for Union Mill, there’s very little difference in respecting the environment at the personal and professional levels. “My feelings about environmental respect begin with common sense and personal responsibility,” says Hartzler. “I believe in picking up trash while taking a walk and properly disposing of soda bottles and candy wrappers while hunting and fishing. I also agree we need to continually make the necessary monetary investments in our business to protect the environment — not only for our company’s future, but also the future of our children and grandchildren.”

This business view on stewardship was on display as Union Mill recently undertook an upgrade of its diking and containment capabilities. In 2010, the company completely re-diked its crop protection tank farm and put a structure over all product tanks. Union Mill also revamped its mixing area to be in compliance with new EPA requirements on refillable pesticide containers.

This desire to protect the environment goes back much further than just last year, says Hartzler. “We were concerned about the environmental impact of our ag-chemical and fertilizer business long before there were regulations requiring diking and fertilizer tanks,” he says. “We implemented procedures to contain product and rinsate while mixing, loading and daily washing of our application equipment.” In fact, the company was recognized in October 1997 by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture for these efforts with a plaque for its “dedication to environmental stewardship.”

Union Mill has also done its part to spread this message to the local community. “We bring the third grade students from all of the schools in the county for a one-day event,” says Hartzler. “Stations are set up to educate the annual 150 to 400 students in crop protection, pesticide safety and soil conservation. Our goal is to present a real-life view of our business, along with stressing the need to safely handle not only ag chemicals, but also household chemicals as well.”

Protecting The Future

South Dakota Wheat Growers, Wolsey, SD
For Michelle Schimke, agronomy manager for South Dakota Wheat Growers in Wolsey, SD, the old proverb “we do not inherit the land from our fathers, we are borrowing it from our children” is how every business should approach environmental stewardship. “This proverb says it all,” says Schimke. “If we do not respect the environment and our commitment to the future of our children and our children’s children, we are shrieking a nearly sacred trust. Only through the proper care and respect of our environment today can we ensure our ability to produce the crops needed to feed a hungry world now and into the future.”

At its facility, South Dakota Wheat Growers makes certain to include all its employees on this process, particularly when it comes to safety. Not only are employees instructed how to properly use personal protection equipment, but they are kept updated on all safety-related training, along with training for local emergency response teams.

In terms of community involvement, South Dakota Wheat Growers provides information to patrons through a series of grower meetings, open houses and appreciation dinners. The company also sponsors the local youth girls in sporting activities.

Then there’s the company’s internship program. “I have personally developed one of the most active college internship programs in the state for wheat growers,” says Schimke. “This program provides students with the opportunity to learn and apply that knowledge in the real world so they can help growers make cropping decisions and adhere to the latest environmental safety and stewardship practices. College campuses look forward to our recruiting visits with their students about the long-term opportunities with agriculture.”

Never Losing Sight Of Respect

Helena Chemical Co., Sharon, TN
Keeping environmental stewardship top-of-mind can present challenges, says Jody Wamble, operations manager for Helena Chemical Co. in Sharon, TN, especially at the height of the busy season. “When we are in the heat of the season and extremely busy, it is very critical that our locations have environmental respect and safety on their minds,” says Wamble. “In today’s world, environmental respect is so relevant that if you neglect new rules, programs and policies, it will put your company at a severe disadvantage.”

To prevent this from happening, Helena Sharon has initiated a series of facility upgrades to improve its efficiency and reduce its environmental footprint. “This is an older location that has recently been revamped with new structures and equipment to comply with current and upcoming regulations,” says Wamble.

In addition to changes on its grounds, Helena Sharon has also reached out to its community. The company has helped support the Future Farmers of America and 4-H programs, sponsored the annual UT Martin Rodeo and provided assistance to the local schools.

“We have really worked very hard improving our location and its curb appeal,” says Wamble. “I think this is a great way of showing how much we mean to our community.”

Fair Treatment

Wilbur-Ellis Co., Rosebud, TX
The Wilbur-Ellis Co. outlet in Rosebud, TX, takes a unique approach to its stewardship efforts — treat the world with the same level of respect that it treats its grower-customers. “As in life, if you treat others fair and with respect, they will treat you the same in return,” says Justin Allen, branch manager. “I think Mother Nature is no different. It is our responsibility, for our generation and future ones, to keep the environment as clean and productive as we can.”

Following through on this philosophy, Wilbur-Ellis Rosebud keeps all of its bulk tanks under roof with proper containment. The tanks also feature a manifold system that the outlet says will keep contamination from happening when product is being loaded. Wilbur-Ellis Rosebud also has implemented an extensive safety program. The company keeps local emergency response teams aware and up-to-date on its safety and emergency plans. In fact, says Allen, these efforts have not gone unnoticed. “In 2010, we won the Top Safety and Regulatory Award for the entire company,” he says.

Spreading its stewardship message is also important at the outlet. Annually, Wilbur-Ellis Rosebud conducts field days to bring customers in to look at new and current products and educate them on the best methods to help improve their bottom lines.

“It is an investment in Wilbur-Ellis’ future because we believe in stewarding our products and helping our customers make a return on their investment,” says Allen. “If we do this, then we are being stewards of the environment.”

Advocates For Agriculture

Wilbur-Ellis Co., Spokane Valley, WA
“Environmental respect encompasses a broad range of processes and activities,” explains Wilbur-Ellis Manager Wayne Stewart. What’s important to note though, according to Stewart, is that real stewardship means caring for both the physical and non-physical needs of a community.

“On a deeper level, environmental respect means that we must be involved with public education, community support, industry participation and involvement in our public schools,” says Stewart. “Physical respect is a fundamental building block, but we also must consider the public and educational environment.”

The facility has made many physical improvements to emphasize its environmental commitment. Stewart explains that three years ago, a complete office remodel included the addition of heavy insulation, energy efficient windows, energy efficient lighting and entrance and exit air locks. The measures taken reduced the operation’s energy use by 50%. A Fire Marshall-approved key safe was installed so emergency response personnel could have immediate access to the facility, and all employees are trained in safety procedures.

But Wilbur-Ellis does not forget the broader meaning of stewardship and the importance of being advocates for agriculture.

Employees serve on industry boards, school boards, school curriculum committees, watershed and flood control groups and youth sports boards. Company leaders present information on food and environmental safety at the local community college, and Stewart himself is actively involved in communicating agriculture’s needs and challenges to political representatives.

The office has worked closely with the Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment and Washington Friends of Farm and Forest to communicate positive information to the public, legislators and community leaders.

“It is critical for companies to be responsive and active in political processes, and to become involved in discussions infiltrating the media,” says Stewart. “Long-term sustainability for our industry requires direct involvement in dealing with many of these short-term issues.”

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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