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

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
StewardshipCTIC Granted Nearly $500,000 To Examine Benefits Of Cover Crops
October 17, 2013
The Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) has received a $482,000 Conservation Innovation Grant to study the benefits of cover crops. Read More

Trending Articles

Green Valley Ag facility
Retail FacilitiesGreen Valley Ag Adopts A.J. Sackett’s Precision Fertilizer Blending® Technology At New Facility
July 8, 2014
Sackett's Precision Fertilizer Blending® Technology is making huge strides around the world. Green Valley Ag adopts the technology at its new facility to support its advancing agronomic needs. Read More
Retail FacilitiesWaconia Manufacturing Builds Facility Designed For Speed, Efficiency
July 7, 2014
To make its new hub facility more efficient, Cooperative Elevator enlisted the aid of Waconia Manufacturing. Read More
EquipmentSummer Show Preview 2014: Superior Sprayers Take The Field
July 3, 2014
In this final installment of our coverage of the major categories of Big IRON that retailers can expect to test-drive at this summer’s events, here is a look at 19 sprayers. Read More
Scouting a soybean patch at Green Valley Ag.
EmployeesCropLife Compensation Survey: Battling Talent Drain
July 2, 2014
Retailers too often lose employees to companies outside of agriculture, while recruiting efforts are most often limited to competitors and other ag-focused organizations. Read More
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences Introduces SureStart II Herbicide
June 16, 2014
The enhanced formulation has improved viscosity and increased stability under heat and controls more than 60 high-anxiety grasses and broadleaf weeds found in corn fields. Read More
HerbicidesBASF Investing $270 Million To Expand U.S. Herbicide Production
June 11, 2014
BASF has invested more than $270 million to expand herbicide production capacities in the U.S., including more than 20 new products to be launched over next two years. Read More

Latest News

StewardshipMonsanto Joins Panel Of Innovators To Advance Research …
July 30, 2014
Monsanto Co. and The Climate Corp., its division, recently joined a roundtable of experts at the White House to share ideas and research approaches to help the world’s farmers manage and adapt to the impact of climate change on the global food supply. Read More
Crop InputsSoybean Checkoff Produces Big ROI
July 30, 2014
Under the soy checkoff program, all U.S. soybean farmers contribute a small percentage of their gross soybean sales for research and marketing projects that maximize their profit potential. Read More
CropLife 100Learfield Sports, CHS Agree To Football-Centric, Colleg…
July 30, 2014
CHS Inc. will embark on a highly integrated collegiate sports sponsorship platform with 24 Division I universities in 19 states designed to reach the farmer-owned cooperative's rural owners and customers. Read More
LegislationUSDA Implements Key Farm Bill Crop Insurance Provision
July 30, 2014
The new Supplemental Coverage Option, available through the federal crop insurance program and set to begin with the 2015 crop year, is designed to help protect producers from yield and market volatility. Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Forms New Organizational Structure For Its…
July 30, 2014
The new structure will provide more responsive internal support and will allow regional vice presidents and area managers to spend more time with customers, on talent development and on operational excellence across branches. Read More
Palmer pigweed in cotton
HerbicidesNew Training Modules On Herbicide Resistance Now Availa…
July 30, 2014
The Weed Science Society of America has announced the availability of three new education modules on herbicide resistance in weeds. Read More
HerbicidesWillowood To Market Glufosinate
July 28, 2014
Willowood USA recently announced that Federal EPA has approved its technical registration for glufosinate. Read More
InsecticidesHow To Scout For Corn Earworms In Corn
July 28, 2014
In her weekly report, University of Missouri Agronomy Specialist Jill Scheidt discusses what to look for when scouting for corn earworm. Read More
Crop InputsDuPont Pioneer, Weyerhaeuser Enter Technology License A…
July 28, 2014
The agreement brings together agricultural and forestry know-how to sustainably improve crop productivity for corn growers around the world. Read More
EquipmentAGCO Launches Global iPad App
July 28, 2014
The free AGCO Global iPad App can be downloaded from the Apple iTunes Store and features the full family of RoGator self-propelled sprayers and TerraGator high-floatation spreaders. Read More
Eric SfiligojYuma Centennial Ag Supply Earns 2014 National Environme…
July 28, 2014
Colorado-based ag retailer receives top trophy in 24th annual DuPont Crop Protection/CropLife ceremony. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Forms Alliance With Wildlife Managment, Seed O…
July 25, 2014
The strategic alliance will provide Tecomate with key wildlife products, processing facilities, distribution centers and sales through Pinnacle’s ever-growing retail network. Read More
ManagementFranken Presses White House On RFS Support
July 25, 2014
Al Franken and a group of Senate democrats recently met with senior White House official John Podesta to urge the administration to change its position on an EPA proposal. Read More
ManagementASA, FarmLink To Launch ‘Operation Benchmark̵…
July 25, 2014
The American Soybean Association (ASA) and FarmLink are teaming up to help farmers close the $11 billion gap between what they harvested in 2013 and what they could harvest annually. Read More
StewardshipNorthey: Farmers Commit $1.4 Million to Try New Water Q…
July 25, 2014
The practices that are eligible for funding include cover crops, no-till or strip till and using a nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer. Read More
Precision AgFarmers Learn How Changing World Will Impact Iowa
July 24, 2014
Technology and understanding global consumer demand for Iowa farm products brought hundreds of farmers and agribusiness leaders to Ames recently for the annual Iowa Farm Bureau Federation Economic Summit. Read More
HerbicidesPurdue: Late Season Weeds May Require Manual Removal
July 24, 2014
Hand-rouging and pulling late season weeds by hand may be the best way to remove them, more so than using a herbicide, a Purdue Extension weed scientist says. Read More
Soybean Field
InsecticidesTransform WG, Closer SC Insecticides Receive R&D 10…
July 23, 2014
Dow AgroSciences has received the award from R&D Magazine for Transform WG insecticide and Closer SC insecticide with Isoclast active. Read More