I must confess that when it comes to awards and accolades, I tend to be a curmudgeon. I’ve always felt that our work should be judged by the support we get from readership and advertisers, not from some outsider trying to judge the quality and value of our work from some distant, unknown industry. And having been a judge for some of these programs, I can tell you that more often than not, tiny, inconsequential things separate winners from also-rans.
But there are times when awards transcend ego gratification. Beyond bringing individual recognition for a job well done, they provide inspiration to like-minded businesses to achieve more. And they serve as “good news” stories for an industry that is in desperate need of highly visible heroes to rally around.
ERA honors individual retail locations for demonstrating exceptional environmental stewardship at multiple levels: the physical plant, among employees and management, and in the community. Acting as one of several judges called into duty over the years, my personal observation is that we’ve seen a real evening out in the quality of physical plants among entries. While there always seems to be someone with a twist or innovation in their location, the differences have become less glaring.
Where we do see a wider spectrum of achievement is in community outreach and communication. We see retailers visiting schools and talking to students and teachers about agriculture and the benefits that ag retailers provide farmers and the community at large. We see retailers signing on to committees at the local and state level where issues such as water quality are being considered. They are ensuring that regulators and the public at large know how hard we are working to maximize the products we use, and how we’re working closely with growers to make best decisions about what we apply, as well as when and how it is applied.
We see retailers meeting with local, state and national legislators, opening lines of communication about what’s happening “on the ground” in agriculture and making sure that the products we use are not limited in a way that negatively impacts the crops we’re helping growers to produce.
I hope you’ll consider filling out and submitting a self-audit package this year, and tell us your story. All entries are judged by a robust team of judges, including representatives from past ERA winners, as well as representatives from The Fertilizer Institute, CropLife America and the Agricultural Retailers Association. And it’s a pretty rigorous day for those chosen to judge … we take our responsibility seriously and work very hard to select out the top achievers in each of the five regions.
Regional winners travel to Washington, DC, and have the chance to network with each other, meet with representatives and senators on Capitol Hill and hear from regulators about key ag issues. It’s a tremendous opportunity.
Entries are being accepted through March 18, so get busy! You can fill out the self-audit package online here, or call Sue Betteley at 440-602-9133 to receive one via mail.