From the top of the hill, it seems as if you can see the curve of the earth hundreds of miles away — beyond the green winter wheat, spring tillage and fallow ground. Dust rises from tilled ground a mile off and a tractor appears on the crest of a hill pulling an ammonia bottle atop a tillage rig.
“I just ran out,” crackles the radio and the rig driver responds by pointing the big tandem-axled nurse truck along the ridge to intercept. We’re near LaCrosse, WA, on the west edge of the Palouse. This is McGregor country.
David Hopkins, manager of the LaCrosse operation (and regional winner of the 2013 Environmental Respect Award), has been in and around the work here for 15 years, making sure growers get the service they need to push well beyond the average local winter wheat yield of 60 bushel per acre in this low-rainfall area.
“Following proper procedures is easy when you have lots of time,” Hopkins says. “Proof of commitment really comes when you do things right even when you are in a hurry and running short on time and energy.”
The LaCrosse operation serves as a hub to serve a territory some 120 miles across. Smaller satellites offer some additional storage and time savings, but the big ammonia bottle, seed bins and fertilizer/ag chemical loading facility at LaCrosse is the main event. GPS and variable-rate is adding capabilities that are optimizing use of chemicals, fertilizer and seed.
“We’re about to move the peg forward again with CropSync,” says Alex McGregor, on hand for a plant tour. He’s referring to McGregor’s precision agriculture offering, now ready for primetime. “It’s a bit daunting,” he says. “We intend to have maps on every field and that’s well more than 1.5 million acres.”
Beyond the computers, tanks, concrete and special NH3/liquid rigs there is something more: The responsible, positive Team McGregor can-do attitude. The current average employment span across McGregor is 13 years.
“We have people here that like what they do,” says Hopkins. “When you have people that care about their job, getting them to do the right thing is easy. Everybody here wants to live in a clean world and leave things better than they found them.”
Living this out involves outreach to policymakers as well as customers and community. The McGregor Co. hosted a tour for federal EPA and NOAA fisheries management personnel to help them understand the facts around agriculture, rivers and salmon migration.