“The 17 Ranch” says the sign hanging high above the gated entrance. It was enough to bring a smile to Laurel’s face. “Can’t wait to tell my dad,” she says. “He’s a big Rockies fan.”
We are out to see an application rig running on irrigated corn ground belonging to Todd Helton. A regional winner of the 2013 Environmental Respect Award, Centennial Ag Supply, Kersey, CO, would seem a good match for Helton, a 5-time All-Star first-baseman who wears #17 for the Colorado Rockies.
That’s because Centennial, founded by Jim Klein in 1976 at this location, seems to have an all-star team of its own: Laurel Deringer at safety and compliance; Ignacio “Nacho” Santa Cruz at fertilizer blending; Severo Hernandez, applicator; Francisco Sandoval, aqua ammonia; and Linda Hulse, human resources, to name just a few key players. Jim Fargo, plant manager of the operation, is quick to call his people the difference.
“We are in the people business,” he says. “We sell to people, we employ people, we help grow crops to feed people. We need to be healthy and wise in how we work with people.” And part of the commitment at Centennial involves giving those people a facility that is safe and efficient.
In group meetings, Fargo explains, any employee can offer thoughts on safety changes. Such input has led to adding safety cages and platforms for top-of-truck safety, as well as steel walkways to bridge pipes and avoid falls. The sizeable yard is fenced and fully contained with rinsate being tested and field-applied. Slope is designed to send fertilizer toward one end and chemicals toward the other. Vehicles serving those different sides of the business are rinsed on separate pads.
More than nine million gallons of liquid fertilizer is stored at the Kersey location, where a portable reactor visits, as needed, to make liquid solutions and suspensions. A 20,000-square-foot dry warehouse is surrounded by a concrete dike. Fargo says ammonium nitrate is only used on a “just-in-time” basis and never stored overnight, a decision that was made eight years ago after a safety trainer pointed out that we stored ammonium nitrate in a wooden warehouse.
“We evaluated the compliance concerns with AN,” explains Fargo, “and how we were handling the product and decided to change our process.” Centennial also hosts local emergency responders for safety training annually, and they invite city council members from nearby Kersey for a tour and barbecue.
“We are leaders in productivity and profitability for our customers,” says Fargo, “but more importantly, we are dads, moms, sisters, brothers, best friends and neighbors. Our passion is helping you grow — not just for our customers but for everyone.”