Lindsay Dixon, field consultant, looks at the activity around the loading pad, puts her hands in her jacket pockets and smiles. “It’s unusual to see so many of these guys here,” she says, “but since it’s so wet they aren’t out spraying today.”
Here in Yerington, NV, home to Silverado Ranch Supply, surprise moisture is indeed a rare occurance. Average rainfall for the area runs about 4 inches per year. This day, though, marks another day in a pattern that has delivered 2 inches of rain — half a typical year’s supply — within the 10 days just past.
“Growers are holding their water,” says Bill Chounet, Silverado owner-operator. “They’ve already paid for their irrigation water.”
It’s just another day of managing crop production variables for Chounet. He started this business in western Nevada two decades ago after moving over the Sierra Nevada mountains from California. Concerned with the difficulty vegetable growers had in getting quality inputs and service here in Lyon County, Chounet began to warehouse fertilizer and sell crop protection products to growers along with recommendations. The business has grown into three companies: Silverado Ranch Supply, Advanced Applications, and PROfessional Agronomic Consulting.
A Diverse Market
There are thousands of acres of lettuce and onions under Silverado’s care. There are also dozens of fields of other crops including garlic, baby leaf spinach, and alfalfa.
“We help raise the stuff that goes into the bagged salad you see at the grocery store,” explains Chounet.
The company has now been certified with a “NutriClean” status for adherence to strict protocols for inspection, sampling, and testing of product purity.
“Lindsay (Dixon) will do all the food safety (tissue) sampling and she will organize it to help growers gain certification for organic produce if desired,” Chounet explains. To him it’s another part of being proactive, staying on top of the regulations and exceeding customer expectations.
“It’s like, no one told us to build containment or put up a fence — we’ve done these things voluntarily,” says Chounet. “And I think we have a great relationship with the state agencies and local officials because we’ve been proactive.”
Dry fertilizer is under roof, and liquid fertilizer and chemicals are diked and contained. The entire yard is fenced and containment is planned for the runoff of the whole site, just to make sure. After learning there was no program to recycle containers in Nevada, Chounet engineered a proposal and located a grant to get started. Containers are now recycled.
Chounet’s ingenuity is on display when he gets that little something extra out of his customer-appreciation dinner. Chounet includes everyone in supporting the local chapter of the Boys and Girls Club. The Club does the food, Chounet pays the bill, plus 30% on top for the service and he encourages his suppliers to contribute, too. And in the midst of it, all his customers get a great meal and are made part of the community spirit. “I suppose the Boys and Girls Club ends up netting $5,000 or $6,000 for the deal,” he says.
Chounet says any success he has is really about his people. “I’ve got loyal people and that’s something I look for,” he says. “I have a few tough requirements.” Like: all field staff need to get an applicator license. And most field staff get a HAZMAT license so they can haul any of these products Silverado handles. And, he says, ” we do a lot of meetings” on the different crops — alfalfa, garlic, onions, and so on.
“I don’t want attendees here,” says Chounet. ” I want participants. I want my people to have a passion for service and a passion for crop production. We attempt to gain as professional of people as we can get — we really stress on any job we do being aware of the environment and also the grower. We GPS-map all the growers’ fields so we don’t make any mistakes in application. This business is not any one specific thing. I think it’s more important to have an attitude for it. An attitude that carries into anything you do.”
Spend a day with Chounet and his passion is easy to see. He’s the guy at the town lunch spot that everyone knows has a joke. It seems that everyone has his cell phone number. Questions about application. Scouting. A plane trip to California to check a field or countless other tasks. All taken in stride, all part of the program.
“There’s no way I really want to stop,” he says. “I love what we are doing out here.”