Stewardship Across The Chain

Ted, Louanne Deerkop ERA Sign

Change is constant, and learning to cope is critical. And, as agriculture becomes more global, there is much to learn from others in similar businesses, whether they are in the next county or half-way around the world. That’s what one U.S. ag retailer took away from his recent trip to Mexico.

“I would never have been able to imagine how much I would learn from this trip,” said Ted Deerkop, manager of The McGregor Co.‘s Garfield, WA, location, as he prepared to return home. The McGregor Co. — Garfield, was recognized as the 2006 Environmental Respect Award National Winner, and Ted and his wife, Louanne, made the trip as a result of this award. The Deerkops visited Latin America winner Pro-Agro del Noroeste near Culiacán, Mexico, and other Mexican locations as guests of DuPont Crop Protection, CropLife® and Farm Chemicals International

Pro-Agro: Social Responsibility

In a conference room in Pro-Agro’s new office, Cos­me Cota, Culiacán Branch Manager, presents the Pro-Agro story in English to his guests and co-workers. Pro-Agro’s story of success as a dealer/distributor of crop inputs is similar to many ag retail businesses in the U.S.: hard work, service to growers, and education in helping customers understand the value of knowledge and service.

Founded in 1986 and owned by Roberto Her­erra, Pro-Agro considers its competitive edge to be made up of three elements: a full line of crop input products, the best technical support, and “truly personal service.” Making it work, said Cota, is a commitment to people.

“It’s very clear to us that a company’s future can not be built without quality, committed people who will not neglect their responsibility to protect the environment as they serve our customers,” said Cota. 

Pro-Agro, explained Cota, is intent on providing state-of-the-art technology that enables growers to express value through the chain. The 70 top growers they serve are shipping about 90% of their vegetable products to the U.S. Pro-Agro works to hold their customers to U.S. regulatory standards rather than those of Mexico. The company achieved an ISO 9001 certification in the year 2000 for its efforts toward a quality process for service.

Stewardship issues, it would seem, run across borders and throughout the value chain. Product stewardship, as practiced by DuPont and other basic manufacturers, is also expressed through companies like the McGregor Co. and Pro-Agro. In turn, those dealers and distributors must help growers express this stewardship to the consumer. Whether it’s proper product use or appropriate food safety measures, missteps may affect the whole chain. Just ask any spinach grower about the effect of tainted produce.

Agricola Pony: Premier Brands

Jesus Masao Castro blows the horn on his white pickup truck. It’s the signal for his employees to come to the packing facility. The trucks full of tomatoes are arriving from the field and he needs all hands on deck.

A forklift unloads huge white bins from the truck and an automated system takes over, tipping the tomatoes down a chute into their disinfecting bath, then rinse, then a sort for obvious culls, another electronic sort by size and color and a final sort by hand into waiting boxes bearing one of three Agricola Pony brands. It’s a process that continues seven days a week during the long growing season in the tomato state of Sinaloa, Mexico.

This growing operation is clean to the point of compulsion. A small snack food wrapper has somehow found its way onto the concrete apron of the processing plant. In seconds, it gains the hurried attention of a nearby worker dashing to retrieve it before it’s noticed. 

It’s a part of the culture for this Mexican company that sells 3.5 million 25-pound boxes of special Roma tomatoes each year in the U.S. Masao, who started the business 40 years ago, knows that continued success for him and his son, Omar, in marketing his produce in the U.S. requires a special emphasis on food safety. His system is working; the Agricola brands are commanding a premium price. Pro-Agro adds value to this business relationship by helping Agricola safeguard its produce — and its image — from the time the seed goes into the soil. 

How much things change; how much they stay the same. 

We are standing in the Museum de Anthropologia in Mexico City reading a translated account of how Mayan agriculture operated and how important corn was to that society, hundreds of years B.C. 

One museum writing points out that those Mayans who studied the way corn grew and became experts in these agronomic activities were revered as having a special knowledge of their gods. These ancients studied the weather, the soil, the path of the sun, they studied the plant. In many ways they were considered priests. 

Ted Deerkop chuckles when I mention that perhaps this is a description that his big wheat-growing customers of the Palouse would buy, since they so rely on advice from him and his staff. “Yeah, I may not be charging enough,” he smiles. But then, today’s U.S. ag dealers don’t run the risk of being publicly sacrificed, either, as did some Mayans.

It’s fair to say that Mexico’s tradition of “crop advisors” or “agronomic consultants” predates our own U.S. experience. In the U.S. during the 17th Century, there was Squanto, long the example used by the fertilizer industry as the origin of the knowledge of plant nutrition in the U.S. The Mayan culture was studying this about 2,000 years earlier. 

After eight days of touring dealerships and growing operations in Mexico, what did we learn? Environmental stewardship crosses centuries, time zones and countries. It is important, not only to agricultural dealerships, but across the entire value chain. Manufacturers are pioneering new ways to help dealers; dealers are looking for the best ways to serve growers and growers are looking to serve their customers with the best products. Top notch business, in all areas of agriculture globally, focus on customer service, environmentalism and ultimately food safety — from seed to supermarket. 

Leave a Reply

Stewardship Stories
StewardshipA Multi-Layered Approach To Water Quality
October 6, 2014
Illinois event highlights research and technology designed to better monitor and improve water quality — and the benefits of cooperative, coordinated effort. Read More
StewardshipMichigan Agriculture Leaders On Toledo Water Ban: We Want To Be Part Of The Conversation
August 8, 2014
Leaders of Michigan agricultural organizations said Thursday that the government should not have a “knee-jerk reaction” based on last weekend’s water ban in Toledo due to fertilizer run-off in Lake Erie. Read More
StewardshipBayer Lands Honor For Bee Care Center, Other Initiatives
June 3, 2014
Bayer Corp. has been named a 2014 Responsible Care Company of the Year by the American Chemistry Council, thanks in large part to its Drive Toward Zero initiative and North American Bayer Bee Care Center. Read More
StewardshipStrip-Tillage: A Sustainable Effort
March 3, 2014
As sustainable agriculture grows in popularity, interest in custom strip-tillage is growing. Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100CHS Partners With Northern Partners Coop On Fertilizer Warehouse
January 21, 2015
In addition, the two companies will form a joint venture to build and operate a grain barge loading facility that will handle corn, soybeans and wheat for export through the CHS terminal at Myrtle Grove, LA. Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Move To Colorado Complete
January 20, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Co. announces the opening of its new Agribusiness Division location in the Denver, CO, Metro Area. The new facility will host key personnel as the company shifts the base of its Agribusiness operations from California to Colorado. Read More
CropLife 100United Suppliers, McGregor Co., Five Others To Form Aligned Ag Distributors
January 20, 2015
These companies will continue to operate as independently owned and operated businesses, however, their crop protection divisions will now be formally aligned under the umbrella of Aligned Ag Distributors. Read More
CropLife 100Bozeman Named SEEDWAY Chief Operating Officer
January 16, 2015
He succeeds Donald Wertman, who will retire at the end of August 2015 after 40 years with the GROWMARK subsidiary. Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis’ Craig Bair Honored For Safety Contributions To Ag Aviation
January 14, 2015
The William O. Marsh Safety Award recognizes significant achievements in safety, safety education or an outstanding operational safety program. Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Gearing Up For Another NASCAR Season
January 13, 2015
BRANDT will return for its fifth year as a primary sponsor of the No. 51 driven by Justin Allgaier in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Read More
Latest News
ManagementRetail Collaboration, Communicating Agriculture’s Good …
January 23, 2015
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfliligoj discuss the recent creation of Aligned Ag Distributors, and the US Farmers and Ranchers Read More
FertilizerOSU Expert: Toledo Water Crisis A Turning Point For Ohi…
January 23, 2015
The August 2014 water crisis in Toledo, OH, impacted Ohioans’ views of Lake Erie algae problems by increasing the attribution of blame of algae growth on agriculture. Read More
FertilizerH.J. Baker Launching TIGER XP
January 22, 2015
Tiger-Sul introduces this next generation sulphur-bentonite product with a proprietary activator – ensuring farmers have a well-balanced nutrient replacement program. Read More
Crop InputsH.J. Baker Expands China Sales Force
January 21, 2015
Global Agricultural firm H.J. Baker announced that sales veteran Shi Dongshen has joined their Shanghai office in China. This newest hire follows the recent opening of their Lianyungang Sulphur Bentonite Plant. Read More
CropLife 100CHS Partners With Northern Partners Coop On Fertilizer …
January 21, 2015
In addition, the two companies will form a joint venture to build and operate a grain barge loading facility that will handle corn, soybeans and wheat for export through the CHS terminal at Myrtle Grove, LA. Read More
Matt Hopkins5 Bold Predictions For Ag Retail In 2015
January 21, 2015
This past year was filled with ups and downs for the nation’s top ag retailers, but what will 2015 have in store? Read More
SoftwareDeere Launches App Center
January 20, 2015
The John Deere App Center provides users the ability to search and find apps most useful to their business or operations. Read More
Crop InputsNew Syngenta Herbicide Approved In Soybeans, Sunflowers
January 20, 2015
Syngenta will sell BroadAxe XC herbicide in 2015 for use on soybeans, sunflowers and dry peas Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Move To Colorado Complete
January 20, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Co. announces the opening of its new Agribusiness Division location in the Denver, CO, Metro Area. The new facility will host key personnel as the company shifts the base of its Agribusiness operations from California to Colorado. Read More
Crop InputsNovozymes Sales Figures Up For 2014
January 20, 2015
Novozymes announces its sales growth in 2014 was in line with expectations as sales grew by 7% compared with 2013. Read More
CropLife 100United Suppliers, McGregor Co., Five Others To Form Ali…
January 20, 2015
These companies will continue to operate as independently owned and operated businesses, however, their crop protection divisions will now be formally aligned under the umbrella of Aligned Ag Distributors. Read More
Eric SfiligojGMO Or DNA? LOL Or WTF?
January 19, 2015
A new survey finds the American public seems generally confused when it comes to any three-letter descriptor for their food. Read More
FertilizerAGROTAIN Wins No-Till Product Of The Year Again
January 19, 2015
This marks the 10th straight year AGROTAIN nitrogen stabilizer has been named the top product in this category; no other product has matched this honor Read More
FertilizerTFI President To Give Update On Nutrient Management Eff…
January 19, 2015
The Fertilizer Institute President Chris Jahn will give the keynote address at the 2015 Ohio AgriBusiness Association Industry Conference February 4. Read More
Seed/BiotechUnderstanding The Role Of Seed Enhancers In Seed Treame…
January 17, 2015
Seed enhancers such as polymer play a key part in helping to improve germination, seed growth or accuracy of planting. Read More
Crop InputsUSDA Signs Off On Dicamba-Tolerant Trait In Cotton, Soy…
January 16, 2015
A registration decision by EPA for BASF's Engenia herbicide is anticipated to follow the dicamba-tolerant trait deregulation milestone. Read More
CropLife 100Bozeman Named SEEDWAY Chief Operating Officer
January 16, 2015
He succeeds Donald Wertman, who will retire at the end of August 2015 after 40 years with the GROWMARK subsidiary. Read More
Crop InputsDan Clinker Joins Monty’s Sales Team
January 16, 2015
Monty's Plant Food Co. has hired Dan Clinker as a Product Consultant and Sales Support Representative for the Central Ohio region. Read More