Seven years ago, Jamie Wetzel realized a goal when he accepted the crystal trophy in Washington, DC, signifying his employer, AgVentures LLC, had won the 2004 National Environmental Respect Award. “We entered the competition just to see how we measured up to our peers,” says Wetzel, manager of the Shawano, WI, AgVentures retail facility. “I guess we measured up quite well.”
Wetzel accepted a second crystal trophy recently, this time for being selected the Environmental Respect Spirit Award winner for 2011. The Spirit Award, initiated last year during the Environmental Respect Award’s 20th anniversary celebration, is given to one past regional or national winner that exemplifies continued improvement in their environmental philosophy and operations.
Continuing Good Ideas
Wetzel agreed to give CropLife® magazine a guided tour to update readers on the improvements made to the award-winning business during the last seven years. “Perhaps there are some ideas that others can borrow from our experiences,” he says.
The first visible improvement to the plant is a new entryway fence that features an electronic pass code system. Other improvements to the security of the facility include new strategically placed video surveillance cameras.
Major traffic areas around the plant were mostly graveled seven years ago when AgVentures won the national award. Since then, nearly every outdoor surface area in the multi-acre facility has been blacktopped or cemented. The new surfaces led to another major facility improvement. “We contracted with Environmental Partners, a consulting firm, to conduct a stormwater run-off assessment of these paved areas,” says Wetzel.
From that assessment, AgVentures initiated a series of grass ditches and drainpipes that channel the rainwater run into a settling area at the lowest point of the grounds. “All the water is gathered and comes on to the settling area at two outlets,” explains Wetzel. “Run-off water slows down and flows into an area where grass absorbs any nutrients we might not have collected from spills or drips on the blacktop.” This grass is cut and then spread on a field or fed to dairy cattle. “What’s interesting is the project looks so simple, but we hired an engineer to calculate water flow capacities and the correct angles and pitches. It almost looks like the water is running up hill — that’s how precise it needed to be,” he says.
The facility also constructed a new 80- by 100-foot building that is used as an indoor parking area for application rigs during the busy spring season. “This area has given us added security for our equipment, but it also prevents rain from washing product residue off the equipment,” says Wetzel. “We have also added a maintenance and wash bay with a separate containment for washing equipment.”
Two good ideas for a retail outlet include a new automated fuel system that keeps track of vehicle maintenance items while employees pump gas. The system tracks mileage and sends a message to maintenance when it’s time for an oil change or other regularly scheduled maintenance.
The second tip for any location unloading railcars is to lay rubber mats along and between the tracks where there can be small product spills. “Clean-up around rail tracks is always difficult,” say Wetzel. “The mats have made it easy and that encourages employees to keep the area clean.”
AgVentures continues to look to the future, increasing its dedication to environmental respect. A recent innovation for the company has been to brand their crop consulting business under the name Enviro-Pros. “Our Enviro-Pros team will work as a liaison between our growers and the government agencies,” says Mike Mleziva, general manager.
Wetzel summarizes his participation in environmental respect this way, “It’s all about taking the time to do things right. We get in a hurry and skip over critical details. It’s also about being a good neighbor and communicating with the people around you. Finally it’s about doing things in a profitable way so we can advance our facilities and people while staying on the cutting edge.”