There is no book that teaches how to start a farm supply business from scratch, but if there was, Environmental Respect Award winner Don Geist could write it. Geist is branch manager of the Fort Morgan, CO. Crop Production Services (CPS) 2010 Environmental Respect Award-winning business. Geist and long-time business associate Terry Linker decided to start their new business in 2007. Linker owned the application equipment and Geist sold crop protection products out of his pickup truck.
Both men had many years of experience working for the local co-op, so it didn’t take long for their venture to bare fruit. “We realized it would be very hard to make it entirely on our own,” says Geist. “So we were talking to United Ag Products when they were purchased by Agrium. Once we proved we could be successful working out of our pickups, our business relationship with Agrium’s CPS began to take hold.”
The arrangement, says Geist, allows them to have their own profit and loss statement. “We have to do good or we won’t be here,” he says.
The new CPS unit complete with buildings, modern load out pad, and storage tanks opened its doors in March 2009. Geist says he already has plans to add more liquid fertilizer, seed storage, and a dry blend facility in the coming year. “Overall, every aspect of our business has experienced a fairly large increase in the bottom line in just three years.”
Fertilizer mixing is accomplished at the Fort Morgan unit without a traditional mixer. Instead, multiple products are sent through a flow meter and mixed in the supply lines on the way to the nurse tank. “We only handle fertilizer products twice, first as they come into our storage facility and then when they move to the nurse tank,” says Geist. “We cut three to four hours mixing time out of our day. We mix and load a 1,000-gallon nurse trailer in about 2.5 minutes.”
A limiting factor to crop production in eastern Colorado is water, and Geist attributes his progressive thinking grower-customers for managing this issue through increasing efforts to no-till and minimum-till the soil. “We have learned that no-till works out here, and with new designs for grain drills and modern crop production products the practice is going to continue to increase,” he says.
The Fort Morgan Unit’s field agronomists see resistance as a growing problem in the area. “We need to make sure we do not cause additional resistance,” says Geist. “Very seldom do we ever go into a field and spray straight glyphosate. We always go with a double mode of action, and in our irrigated fields we are selecting three modes of action.
“If noxious weeds take over, we are not going to be able to feed the livestock or feed the people,” he adds. “This land needs to remain productive.”
For Geist environmental respect means following labels. “Nobody wants to contaminate our water. We can control what we put on fields and in our tanks. We try to be very conscientious about this. I’ve got 12 people working here and it’s my job to make sure they live long, happy lives,” he adds.