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

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
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

ManagementExpert To Discuss Farmland Value, Rent At Farm Science Review
August 18, 2014
While cropland values in Ohio increased in the past two years, they have remained flat in 2014, declining in some cases, according to an Ohio State University agricultural economist. Read More
EquipmentAdvance Your Technology IQ At MAGIE
August 13, 2014
The Midwest AG Industries Exposition (August 20-21) is the place you need to be to see, study and evaluate how new advances in the equipment, operations, crop protection and fertility sectors can help your business prosper. Read More
HerbicidesScouting Key To Next Season’s Soybean Herbicide Program
August 12, 2014
When growing soybeans, growers need to think ahead to stay one step ahead of weeds. That means examining weed threats and evaluating which herbicides work best. 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
CropLife 100BRANDT Acquires Lemon Ag Services
August 4, 2014
The acquisition of Lemon Ag fits BRANDT’s aggressive corporate strategy of providing superior agronomic advice and services for customers in central Illinois. Read More
Eric SfiligojThe Resurgence Of Crop Protection
August 4, 2014
Plenty of new offerings over the next few years should see a rebirth for the crop protection products category in terms of market share. Read More

Latest News

CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires California-Based Retailer
August 29, 2014
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings will acquire Kerman Ag Resources, Inc., which will operate under Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
Allied Cooperative Grain Plant
ManagementArcadia Co-op To Merge With Allied Cooperative
August 28, 2014
Allied Cooperative has announced that members of Arcadia Co-op voted in favor of a merger with Allied Cooperative, paving the way for the consolidation which will be effective on December 1, 2014. Read More
InsecticidesBioinsecticide VENERATE Now Registered In California
August 27, 2014
Marrone Bio Innovations' VENERATE is a new tool to help California growers control crop-damaging insect pests, fight the development of insect resistance and reduce pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables. Read More
CropLife 100Two Iowa-Based Ag Co-ops To Merge
August 27, 2014
The Board of Directors and management of United Western Coop, Missouri Valley, IA has completed a merger with Heartland Co-op, West Des Moines, IA, effective September 1, 2014. Read More
FertilizerKoch Expands AGROTAIN Nitrogen Stabilizer Portfolio
August 26, 2014
Koch Agronomic Services, LLC has added two new innovative nitrogen stabilizers to the AGROTAIN product family – AGROTAIN ADVANCED and AGROTAIN DRI-­MAXX. Read More
Seed/BiotechDuPont To Build Two Seed Treatment Centers
August 26, 2014
DuPont has announced construction on two state-of-the-art centers dedicated to developing and testing seed treatment formulations, applications and seed handling techniques in an important step toward bringing new solutions to growers. Read More
Seed/BiotechLoveland Products Acquires A Controlling Interest In Ag…
August 26, 2014
Loveland Products, a subsidiary of Agrium , has announced the company has acquired a controlling interest in Agricen, a Dallas-area agricultural biotechnology company delivering biochemical-based products for efficient and sustainable plant nutrition. Read More
StewardshipUp Close Look At The 2014 Environmental Respect Award W…
August 25, 2014
The 2014 Environmental Respect Award winners were honored recently at the 24th annual event in Wilmington, DE. Read More
Eric SfiligojAg Science Rejection Carries Consequences
August 25, 2014
As innuendo and fear dog the regulatory process, agriculture can’t get the new tools it needs to combat world hunger. Read More
LegislationFarmers Dismayed As New Farm Bill Dumps Direct Payments
August 25, 2014
The threatened end of cash subsidies to the nation’s row crop farmers dates back through at least the last two iterations of national agriculture policy legislation. Read More
MAGIE 2014 ShowStopper
EquipmentJohn Deere Again Wins MAGIE ShowStopper Award
August 25, 2014
For the second consecutive year, John Deere was honored at the Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) for its new R4045 sprayer. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK CEO To Retire
August 22, 2014
GROWMARK chief executive officer Jeff Solberg has announced his retirement effective September 15, 2014. Read More
InsecticidesDuPont’s Prevathon Approved For Dry Beans
August 22, 2014
DuPont Prevathon insect control powered by Rynaxypyr has received EPA registration for foliar use on dry bean crops, including dried shelled peas and beans. Read More
ManagementNCGA DuPont New Leaders Program Enters Sophmore Season
August 20, 2014
The National Corn Growers Association and DuPont are pleased to announce the second year of the NCGA DuPont New Leaders Program. Read More
FungicidesVerdesian Links Up With Mitsui, Hokusan
August 20, 2014
Mitsui Chemicals Agro, Inc., and Hokusan Co., announced the signing of an exclusive licensing agreement allowing Verdesian Life Sciences global access to its patented technology for suppressing mycotoxin contamination in wheat and barley. Read More
SprayersUniversity Of Illinois Introduces New Spray App
August 18, 2014
University of Illinois Extension has released a new smartphone app for making sprayer-related calculations. Pesticide Spray Calculator, or Spray Calc, Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Names New Manager Of Federal Government Relati…
August 18, 2014
Laura Wood Peterson has joined Syngenta as manager of federal government relations, based in Washington, DC. Read More
ManagementExpert To Discuss Farmland Value, Rent At Farm Science …
August 18, 2014
While cropland values in Ohio increased in the past two years, they have remained flat in 2014, declining in some cases, according to an Ohio State University agricultural economist. Read More