Rolling On The River

Jim Swinney, Posey County Co-op

Mt. Vernon, IN is not your typical small Midwestern town. Nestled along the Ohio River about 50 miles upstream from its confluence with the Wabash at Indiana’s “toe,” the city features a sizeable port that has drawn world-class manufacturing and distribution centers.

This means that unlike most Mid­west farming communities, the local cooperative — Posey County Co-op — is not the biggest fish in the industrial pond. But it still considers its responsibility to be environmental stewards to the community to be paramount, says Jim Swinney, general manager.

Posey County Co-op’s journey toward becoming a Regional Award winner began back in 1991, when the Board of Trustees established a new mission statement: “To be the premier provider of goods and service at competitive prices to customers while considering the ever-changing needs of agriculture, our trade area, and being stewards of the environment, and also while preserving the financial welfare of the association.”

The headquarters location is a few blocks from the heart of downtown Mt. Vernon, and at one time the cooperative board looked seriously into moving out into the country. But the decision was made to stay put, buy parcels and expand on the current site. This would mean even greater attention to detail as the renovation was planned and constructed.

We made a concerted effort, not just to comply with the law but go above and beyond,” says Swinney. “We wanted employees to understand that protecting the environment is a priority, and we try to establish an atmosphere of environmental responsibility.”

The facility underwent significant improvement and expansion in all aspects of the business. A new fertilizer storage facility provides completely covered loading and unloading, and enough open bay space to store several of the location’s spreaders.

The chemical facility is completely enclosed and diked, and loading is also under cover. The fuel storage area is amply diked and loading is likewise performed under a roof. Inside the fuel storage diking, a special filter pump gathers up rain water and separates out any  fuel, then discharges the clean water outside.

Ideas That Work
Creating the culture of stewardship has led to some good ideas for Posey County Co-op. Here are some that are working for them:
  • Recovery Vehicle. This specially equipped trailer contains everything that would be needed in the event of a spill. Swinney says that they will respond to any spill call, be it one of their own, a grower, or a competitor. “We can’t have environmental problems around here,” he says. “Being so close to the river, the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) is very active around here, and quick response is demanded.”
  • Safety Specialist. One member of the Posey County Co-op staff has been designated the safety specialist. He acts as liaison to the local emergency planning committee, and coordinates internal training and safety activities at the cooperative.
  • Rewarding Stewardship. Incen­tives are provided, both on an individual and divisional basis, for consecutive days without incidents.
  • Appreciation Day. Posey County Co-op hosts an annual event that everyone in the town may attend, featuring food, fun, and a sharing with the community of what the company does for the city, farmers, and agriculture in the area.
  • Community Involvement. Be­sides being highly active in 4-H and FFA, Posey County Co-op participates in educational activities at the high schools, and donates time and money to charitable causes such as the American Cancer Society Relay For Life and the Community Foundation Alliance. And Swinney has been active in professional groups, serving a stint as president of the Chamber of Commerce for Mt. Vernon and as a member of the Local Emergency Planning Committee.
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