Environmental Respect Awards: 2008 State Winners

Environmental Respect Awards: 2008 State Winners

Ritter Crop Services


Editor’s Note: The Environmental Respect Awards are in their 18th year, honoring and celebrating agricultural environmentalism throughout the industry. Over the years, hundreds of retailers have been recognized for their efforts and CropLife magazine has been showcasing some of these facilities since 2001. This month, we profile retailers that have won 2008 state awards for their efforts. These companies have filled out the Environmental Respect Awards Self-Audit booklet, pledged their commitment, seen results, and are proof that participation matters.

Less Is More At Ritter

Ritter Crop Services
West Ridge, AR

Through employee training, innovative chemical application techniques, an investment in top-of-the-line equipment, and a can-do attitude regarding environmental safety, Ritter Crop Services has demonstrated why it earned a 2008 State Environmental Respect Award.

“Ritter Crop Services continually provides a positive message about agriculture by showing that less is more,” says Douglas Stephens, facility manager. “Fewer facilities can mean more service and more environmental quality through a cleaner environment.”

To this end, Ritter has adopted innovative ways to do its part for the environment. Over the last three years, the company has invested in equipment and training to conduct seed treatments — a method of chemical and nutrient application that Ritter believes is a vital way to reducing chemical exposure to the environment.

“By treating the seed with nutrients and chemicals before planting, smaller amounts of chemicals are used,” says Stephens. “Thus total environment (air, water, and soil) exposure to chemicals is reduced.” 


Making A Positive Impact

Simplot Grower Solutions
Lodi, CA

For employees at Simplot Grower Solutions in Lodi, CA, environmental stewardship is a financial investment the company takes very seriously. “I want not just our branch, but the whole company to prosper in the future financially and to make an impact on the environment in a positive way,” says Steve Woods, operations supervisor.

The perimeter of the property is fenced, and emergency signs are posted where all employees can view them. The company’s processing and mixing area is under roof and located on a diked concrete pad to manage accidental spills. Employees are trained in product knowledge, mixing and loading procedures, and application skills.

The company gives back to the community through education to local schools and universities. Employees conduct training at Cal Poly University and San Joaquin Elementary School on how the company “brings Earth’s resources to life.” The company also attends and teaches the annual Safety Day for Applicators.


Your Friendly, Neighborhood Retailer

Crop Production Services
Broadbrook, CT

Located close to Hartford, CT, Crop Production Services, Broadbrook, has many non-farming neighbors to consider when looking at environmental safety and stewardship of the land and its resources. New upgrades to the facility over the last several years have helped the company gain the respect and trust of their neighbors while adding to the safety of its employees and community.

“We are close to urban centers here and our commitment to agriculture is clear to our customers and the community,” says Bill Syme, manager.

The location, built in the 1930s, is being updated with a new storage facility. The facility contains heated floors for dry fertilizer storage and a robotic palletizer, resulting in zero fertilizer loss and more efficient use of labor. The company stays up to date with all federal, state, and local compliance regulations and is committed to employee training on the latest safety procedures.

“Environmental respect is a core value for doing business now and in the future,” says Syme.


A Careful Eye On The Environment

Douglass Fertilizer & Chemical
Hastings, FL

According to Matt Keith, plant manager for Douglass Fertilizer & Chemical, the best way to preserve the environment is through careful consideration of application techniques and the processes and procedures set up to maintain a clean facility. “We protect the environment to the best of our ability by utilizing best management practices,” says Keith. “Applying timely and correct rates of fertilizers and pesticides protects the community and the environment.”

To this end, the company uses cement containment pads in the loading and unloading area in addition to drip pans to prevent soil and groundwater contamination. Employees apply all products and rinsate in the fields to maintain a clean operation and add value for the company’s farmer customers. The perimeter of the property is fenced and locked nightly for security, emergency plans and signs are posted, and employees are trained on all emergency procedures.


A Commitment To ‘Clean’

Crop Production Services
Meigs, GA

“Our land, Our Commitment” is the title on the Crop Production Services Web site and Crop Production Services in Meigs, GA, is living up to that commitment through its top-notch environmental initiatives. “When I began my career in agriculture 35 years ago,” says Ernest Johnson, manager, “we were not taught and trained to protect the environment like we are today.”

The company does this through its attention to detail and its care for customers and community. The entire perimeter of the facility is fenced and locked for the safety and security of employees and products. The location has developed a spill kit for emergencies, which is located in the warehouse next to postings of the company’s rules and safety policies. Safety training programs are offered to employees, and all employees are required to wear the correct protective equipment when exposed to hazardous materials.


Educating The Future

Sunrise Ag Service
Manito, IL

A positive attitude toward environmental responsibility and a special focus on educating young people on the agriculture industry are two key focus points for 2008 state winner Sunrise Ag Service.

“Environmental respect is not an option,” says Zac Charlton, location manager. “It’s an ever-changing industry that never has sat still. That’s good and it’s exciting. We want to share that excitement.”

The company demonstrates this excitement by placing a large focus on community education and the education of future generations. Sunrise works with Midwest Central High School and local FFA chapters with field plots, education on application equipment, and information on new electronic technology.

In addition to carrying a positive message on environmentalism and agriculture to their local community, Sunrise has been an example through its everyday business practices. This full-service retailer has constructed secondary containment structures for liquid fertilizer tanks, and coordinates all of its mixing and loading in a contained area or on a concrete pad to catch accidental spills.

“Fertilizers and herbicides are needed to produce commodities for an ever-growing nation and global market,” says Charlton. “These products must be handled in a sound manner so as not to negatively impact the community, our neighbors, wildlife, and the environment.”


Community Approach To Respect

Posey County Co-op
Mt. Vernon, IN

An obligation to community is what drives environmental initiatives at Posey County Co-op. This full-service retailer from Mt. Vernon, IN, not only takes personal responsibility for the quality of life in its hometown, but focuses heavily on carrying the environmental message to its neighbors as well.

“Our company benefits greatly from the communities of which we are a part,” says Jim Swinney, general manager. “We have an obligation to these communities to contribute to the aesthetics and quality of life, be it in the form of good facilities, good equipment, safe and courageous personnel, or donations of time and funds.”

The company takes an active part in the Local Emergency Planning Committee, assisting in planning sessions, and providing assistance in training exercises. All facilities were improved for the purpose of making them more efficient. Posey County employees work with area Extension, local elementary schools, and area businesses to train them on the agriculture field and the importance of crop protection products and product safety, and to participate in a countywide safety fair designed to expose the general public to all issues of safety and the environment.


Protecting Future Generations

Crop Production Services
Worthington, IA

There’s no secret to why Crop Production Services (CPS) of Worthington, IA, won its 2008 Environmental Respect State Award. In fact, says Terry Bockenstedt, manager, environmental respect is part of the company’s corporate culture. “CPS works very hard to train all its employees on following the environmental issues we encounter in our everyday activities,” says Bockenstedt. “Following the rules and regulations CPS has implemented stresses the importance and promotes good work habits by all.”

This commitment to community is evident, he adds, by all the projects CPS has initiated since first purchasing the location in 2001. In the fall of that year, the company constructed a building over the chemical and liquid fertilizer load pad, which is located right next to a nearby stream. The location also extended its dry fertilizer concrete load pad, allowing for easier clean-up by company employees.

Also, Bockenstedt has conducted classes at the local high school on topics pertaining to chemicals and the risks involved, exposure, and how to deal with an incident.

“I have been employed in the retail fertilizer business for over 33 years and I have tried very hard to make sure that our most precious resources — our land and water — are to remain as clean as possible for my family and future generations,” he says.


A Core Value

Moundridge, KS

At some companies, environmental stewardship is something to get around to when there’s the time, money, or resources available. But this isn’t the case at MKC of Moundridge, KS. Here, says Erik Lange, area manager, environmental stewardship takes on a much greater role. “Environmental respect is not something we at MKC take lightly,” says Lange. “It is more than just something we make time for when it is convenient. It is part of our core value.”

To this end, MKC has installed many environmentally friendly systems at its operations. This includes installing storage tanks that are independently vented and having its buildings vented with gable vents. The company also maintains an emergency response plan that is reviewed annually and kept on file with the local fire department, county emergency response agency, hospital, and EPA office.

“We have found that through growth, we can minimize our footprint on the environment through increased efficiencies,” says Lange.


Commitment Keeps Growing

Wilbur-Ellis Co.
Grant, MI

Keeping up-to-date on regulatory issues is a priority for Wilbur-Ellis. “Having Internet access allows us to take advantage of Web sites such as CDMS.net to help us keep current with labels and MSDS information. We are also fortunate to have a Wilbur-Ellis Safety and Operations Support office,” says Irene Fullmer, location manager.

The facility in Grant, MI — which custom applies crop protection inputs for row crop and vegetable growers — also makes best use of its products and by-products, Fullmer explains: “We are able to agronomically apply the rinsates we incur through normal production.”

Facility safety measures include concrete pads for load-in/load-out. “Each pesticide tank line is plumbed to the diked pad to keep pesticides segregated,” says Fullmer. “There is a separate, diked loading pad for liquid fertilizer transfer with a touch screen for automated filling. Dry fertilizer is loaded out in two covered belt conveyors with telescoping chutes for dust control.”

“We want to balance the needs of our customers with the obligation we have to future generations,” says Fullmer. “Whatever is within our power to control in regards to water quality, soil quality, or air quality, we’re committed to do.”


Making Amends

Watonwan Farm Service
Truman, MN

According to JoAnn Gumto, communications and advertising director for Watonwan Farm Service (WFS) in Truman, MN, being environmentally conscious is the right way to operate in the ag retail community today to make up for past lapses. “Unfortunately, we as human beings have abused the environment for centuries and the agriculture industry has played a huge role in this abuse,” says Gumto. “Chemical spills, overapplication, and wasted product have led to contamination in our groundwater and soil.”

To make up for this, WFS has spent many years building up its environment programs and promoting best practices to protect the surrounding countryside. The company’s ag chemical and fertilizer load pad is under roof and features an automatic pumping system which discharges product into a nearby containment tank if a leak occurs. WFS also promotes crop protection container recycling in each county in Minnesota and chemical safety through the local Farm Bureau Safety Day Camp annually.

“As a company, we feel very strongly about protecting the environment for the future generation of farmers,” says Gumto. “We promote soil and grid sampling so that fertilizer is only applied where — and in the amount — needed, avoiding overapplication.”


Protecting The Environment

Agri Co-op
Holdredge, NE

According to its corporate mission statement, Agri Co-op of Holdredge, NE, aims to “provide quality products and services creating long-term benefits for our customers and communities through sustainable long-term profits.” Good environmental practices, says Erin Velazco, agronomy center office manager, go hand-in-hand with this approach.

“We’re utilizing and selling products that if measured wrongly or misapplied could be harmful,” says Velazco. “That’s why it’s so important to have the correct message sent to the community. If our community doesn’t understand what we’re doing or how we’re doing something, only a cloud of doubt will build.”

To aid in this business philosophy, Agri Co-op has implemented many upgrades to its operations. These include putting all its mixing facilities under a roof with containment, allowing customers and non-customers alike to bring in old chemicals and containers for proper disposal, building a new dry fertilizer storage and distribution facility in 2007, and constructing a new grain storage ring in one of its communities. The company also participates in the area’s Farm Safety for Kids events and local high school career days. In addition, says Velazco, Agri Co-op serves lunch at each of its locations during harvesttime as customers are waiting in line to store their grain.

“We want our communities to be happy with us due to the impact we could ultimately have on the environment,” she says.


Showing A Little Respect

Silverado Ranch Supply
Yerington, NV

For Silverado Ranch Supply of Yerington, NV, respecting the environment is more than a way of doing business. It’s a way of life. “We believe in environmental respect and fundamentally behaving in environmentally respectful ways,” says Lindsay Dixon, consultant. “This belief is based on ethics and good business practices. As our company has grown, we have implemented policies to keep our employees educated and built environmentally friendly buildings and containments.”

Examples of this kind of environmental respect in action, she adds, include Silverado’s building of two separate containment sites for bulk containers in 2006 and completing construction of a roof to cover the containment area in 2008. The company also organizes 30- and 60-mile bike rides for the community called “Tour de Cebolla” to celebrate the area’s agricultural heritage.

“We take great care when working with agricultural inputs to protect, conserve, and preserve the integrity of our local ecosystem, recognizing we are part of a global ecosystem,” says Dixon. “Through education, outreach, and example, we hope to encourage our customers and the surrounding communities to mirror our efforts.”


Tied To The Town

Crop Production Services
Amenia, NY

To appreciate just how important its local community is to Crop Production Services (CPS) of Amenia, NY, just consider how the town’s founding principle applies to the retailer. “Our town has a statement in its creed that its main purpose is to keep agriculture flourishing to maintain the pastoral surroundings,” says Adam Cook, manager. “We have carried that message to the local zoning and planning boards.”

Part of this carry-through has to do with how CPS Amenia has designed its outlet with an eye toward the community. Recently, the company invested in a new warehouse at its location. In addition to providing the retailer with a state-of-the-art and environmentally sound structure to store its crop protection products, the new warehouse also features a landscape plan that helps it better blend in with the surrounding area, says Cook.

“I feel that it is very important to be a good steward because it shows our commitment to our community and to the environment,” he says.


Billboards Across North Dakota

Mott Grain & Agronomy
Mott, ND

In the small community of Mott, ND, there are some large challenges, says company President Todd E. Kautzman —  and Mott Grain & Agronomy has made many adaptations to growers’ needs. When one of these changes — the building of an anhydrous ammonia facility — created complications — i.e., vandals stealing the product — Mott Grain & Agronomy immediately called in local law enforcement and installed security cameras on the property, which assisted in the capture of the vandals within weeks.

“Mott Grain & Agronomy takes safety very seriously,” says Kautzman; three employees, as well as Kautzman himself, “play a major role in our local volunteer Fire Department, are also ‘First Responders,’ and are part of our local ambulance crew.”

Last year, the company began a billboard campaign urging people to thank and support their local family farmers, with a goal of placing a message every 75 to 100 miles across the entire state. “My goal is to get everyone who reads the billboards to reflect for just a minute that it’s not the material things in life that are important,” he explains. “It’s our everyday food and shelter that the farmers provide.”


Like A Good Neighbor

Wilbur-Ellis Co.
Monroe, OR

From the perspective of environmental respect, Wilbur-Ellis of Monroe, OR, definitely practices what it preaches. Given where the facility is located, says Roger Haffner, manager, this only makes sense.

“At this location, we are very visible to the local community,” says Haffner. “If we were perceived as not being good environmental stewards, it would certainly affect our ability to do business in this community.”

Recently, the company had a chance to further prove this commitment to the local community when it decided to upgrade its chemical storage building. As Haffner explains, Wilbur-Ellis’ old chemical warehouse was an old railroad depot — what he describes as “a historic wooden structure with an elevated floor, and a fire hazard to the community.”

So in 2007, the company built a brand new chemical storage facility. Unlike the old structure, says Haffner, this one is completely contained to prevent any product from getting into the surrounding area. 

As for the old building, it wasn’t torn down or destroyed in the process. In fact, according to Haffner, the old chemical warehouse was donated to the city of Monroe and moved to another location for re-use — a move that has been very well received by the local community. “It will become the new Monroe City Library,” he says.


Spreading Community Awareness

South Dakota Wheat Growers
Huron, SD

Huron-based South Dakota Wheat Growers has made many improvements over the last eight years, according to Location Manager Brad Sibson, and these changes are ongoing as the facility is “constantly upgrading our storage facilities, plumbing, and tanks.”

This investment in the company’s future takes many forms, including educating employees through regular meetings and teaching them how to correctly handle products that could potentially harm the environment.

South Dakota Wheat Growers’ efforts aren’t just annual — such as the local fire department tour of the facility every year, or the booth it has at the state fair each year, but a daily commitment: “Every day I think about what can be done to help conserve and protect our environment,” says Sibson. “We invest money in facilities and employee education; we know if we do this today we will save tomorrow.”


Lessons From Our Forefathers

Olton Grain Coop
Olton, TX

For Olton Grain Coop, Inc., good stewardship is more than just protecting the environment; it’s propagating community awareness and training future generations. As well as sponsoring the Olton 4-H Livestock program and various community sports teams and facilities, the Coop sponsors agriculture programs and co-hosts several training conferences every year to benefit and educate area growers and the next generation of growers. 

“It is incumbent upon us now to teach our children to be good stewards of the environment,” he continues. “Whether we are developing good land management skills, protecting the water table from toxic pollution, or recycling plastic shopping bags, we are empowering the next generation with life lessons necessary to invest in their future.”

Not only is good stewardship necessary for survival of the family, but for the health of the industry. “Without continued and progressive good stewardship of the environment our industry will not survive,” says Lehman.


For Service Of Community And State

Precision Ag Services
New Richmond, WI

Playing frequent host to such widely diverse groups as university students, groups from Land O’Lakes national headquarters, and on several occasions, the governor of Wisconsin, Precision Ag Services facility in New Richmond, WI, is “a leader in showing our community what we are doing to protect our environment,” says Compliance Manager Tom Overby. “We have had the honor of hosting Gov. Jim Doyle at our facility to announce several key legislation bills that benefit agriculture throughout Wisconsin.”

The facility is environmentally designed and maintained. “Our buildings were constructed with curbing throughout to minimize the chance of any chemical reaching outside,” explains Overby. The facility also recently paved its driveway and lots, and has installed two retention ponds in the past two years.

Additionally, Precision Ag Services has worked closely with local emergency services to protect the community, having implemented an emergency response plan that has been provided to the fire department and Local Environmental Protection Center (LEPC). Training exercises for both the fire department and LEPC have been conducted at the facility.


Fighting The Good Fight

Goshen County Weed & Pest District
Torrington, WY

Goshen Country Weed & Pest District offers a multi-stage protection system in their facility, from an underground vault with 1,000-gallon storage capacity to emergency recovery drums and spill kit located in the transfer area. The walls have all been treated, and crop protection products are secured in locked storage. Even the sump system is in multiple parts — the first drainage vault collects large pieces of rocks, mud, and plant material; the second collects smaller material that passes through the first vault; and the third collects the finest materials and oils.

Supervisor Steve Brill, who is on the area’s Homeland Security Committee, has ensured that there is security lighting on every side of each building, and that buyers present their private applicator card in order to purchase restricted chemicals.

“Proper pest management using best management practices have been integrated into all aspects of my programs, including prairie dog control, mosquito management, noxious weed, and grasshopper control programs,” explains Brill. The company’s mosquito management program — which received recognition for the fight against West Nile Virus — offers internships to local university students.

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