Today's adventure took us through two states (three if you count the fact that we woke up in a tiny sliver of West Virginia). We spent the morning with Jan and the amazing people at the East Liverpool, Ohio fertilizer location. They were unloading a barge full of MAP and I was so impressed with the efficiency of the unloading process. The crane operator moved the product directly from the barge into a large hopper and the hopper dumped straight into the trucks of the lined up customers. No middle man there!
Also at East Liverpool we got to check out the custom fertilizer bagging setup. The automation and precision of the operation was definitely a sight to be seen (don't worry, we took plenty of video so you can see it yourself soon)!
After wrapping up in Ohio, we headed to Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania, where we visited our first SEEDWAY location of the trip. At Mifflinburg the cheery and accomodating staff were working with their own bagging operations - both turf seed and treated corn seed. We met some wonderful people, got some great footage, and saw some beautiful countryside.
As night two wraps up, I'm left excited about our day tomorrow and touched by the warm welcome we've received everywhere we've been so far. Stay tuned for more stories and photos tomorrow.
I've been with GROWMARK for four years and I've had the wonderful opportunity to travel a fair amount within the System. However, I'm still amazed at how much I haven't seen. This week, a few locations will be crossed off of that list. This week, myself and three of my corporate relations coworkers have loaded up a minivan full of cameras, notepads, and chocolate and hit the road. Over the course of the week, we will visit 8 different System locations in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. Our trip will take us to fertilizer facilities, SEEDWAY locations, and more. You can follow our trip here on the blog and on the GROWMARK facebook page, where you can guess where we are that day based on a photo that I post.
Today, our first day on location, we visited the GROWMARK Fertilizer Facility in Cincinnati, Ohio. This facility, formerly a CF terminal, then a part of a joint venture between GROWMARK and Bunge, is now a wholly-owned GROWMARK location. Equipped for 60,000 tons of dry fertilizer storage and 32,000 tons of UAN storage, the terminal is located on the Ohio river and receives all product by barge. With a staff of 10, the incredibly efficient facility can load 120 trucks in an 8-hour day.
While the statistics and process at the Cincinnati terminal are very impressive, what really stood out to me were the people. Throughout our visit, I had the opportunity to meet nearly all of the 10 staff members and spoke with several customers. I was proud to hear each and every employee remark about what an excellent facility it was and how pleased they were to work there, and to be a part of the GROWMARK System. Customers remarked at how much they liked doing business with the Cincinnati facility compared to competing terminals in the area. I left Cincinnati feeling honored to be connected to System of hard-working and loyal employees and members.
I will give a brief recap of the journey each day here at the blog but we will be using the footage, photos, and stories from our trip in a variety of ways, including in Spirit magazine.
I was first introduced to the Midwest Food Bank about two years ago during a tour with the GROWMARK Volunteer Network. Immediately, I was inspired by the mission of the food bank and the hundreds of volunteers who make achieving that mission possible. The Midwest Food Bank was founded 10 years ago by a McLean county farmer and has grown to serve over 200 food pantries in the area, providing more than 400,000 cases of food last year to those in need.
The Midwest Food Bank is entirely non-profit, employing only three full-time people; an administrator, an operations manager, and an office manager. All other activities, everything from warehouse management to truck driving to food sorting and distribution, is handled by hundreds of volunteers. Donations power the food bank and I’m proud to say that GROWMARK is a sponsoring organization – providing in-kind donations for all of the Midwest Food Bank’s graphic design, printing, and social media needs. GROWMARK employees also volunteer at the food bank three times a year (there is such a long waiting list for a volunteer time slot that we can’t get in more often than that).
So it was with great pride that I recently read that Charity Navigator, a New-York-based non-profit agency which assesses over 6,000 U.S. charities on their financial accountability and transparency, ranked the Midwest Food Bank as the top charity in Illinois and the BEST food bank in the country, an outstanding (and well-deserved) honor. Its report shows Midwest Food Bank spends 98.5 cents of every dollar donated on feeding families and the rest on administrative costs.
Although I never questioned GROWMARK’s support of such an admirable organization before, I understood the connection even better after learning of the Charity Navigator report. It only makes sense that the GROWMARK System, a System owned by farmers, would support an organization founded by a farmer, whose mission is to alleviate hunger, and who takes such great care with the funds they receive that 98.5 cents of every dollar goes towards fulfilling that mission.
Congratulations to the Midwest Food Bank, we are proud to be your partner!
With the drought last summer and the strange weather this spring, we've spent a lot of time talking with our farmer customers about the weather. How's it impacting their business? What's the result on the System? These are the questions that we talk about with our farmer-customers and board members a lot. We don't often think to ask the farmer's wife those same questions.
The wives of our farmer-customers are a huge part of the family farm operation. They may be the farm's major decision-maker, the bookkeeper, tractor-driver, or off-farm second income earner. Regardless of their role in the farm, one thing is certain - the farm wife is a major source of moral support on the farm! One farm wife, Bridget Chinowth (also an AgriVisor farm market advisor) shared this glimpse of life as a farm wife on the AgriVisor blog, AgriZone. Thanks Bridget, for all that you do for your farm family and the GROWMARK System!
We all wear different hats in our lives and I am no exception. In a typical day I juggle between my professional hat as a farm market adviser, the mother of two small boys and farmer’s wife. The hat of a farmer’s wife, I likely wear with the most comfort, as I have been a farmer’s daughter for 35 years. There is a quote in a movie, “It’s not too difficult to go from a farmer’s daughter to a farmer’s wife”. My husband has been a part of our family farm operation for approximately 11 years, so this transition came extremely easy for me, but that does not mean that being a farmer’s wife does not come without its own challenges.
When you are married to a farmer, it is simply not his career, but it is the essence that defines your entire family. The drought of 2012 and the current conditions unfolding this spring, tend to bring another element to the marriage. On the first day there is a “hint” of spring in the air, his mood picks up, as he anxiously prepares for the coming planting season. This year was no different; he disappeared to the machine shed for hours, as he went through the planter one last time. Unexpectedly the weather started to shift, rains began to fall, and once again he was pleased. As soil moisture reserves were extremely depleted, he welcomed the rains, as the drought was all too fresh in his mind. As the month of April progressed and forecasts continued to call for above average precipitation, his mood started to decline. One rainy evening I walked into the kitchen to find him staring aimlessly out the window watching the rainfall. The only thing he said was, “Will I ever get to do my job?” So, in that moment I had to give my best “pep” talk that everything will be fine. The entire time I am trying to silence my inner voice that is just as worried as he is about getting the crop put into the ground, however; you never let him know you are concerned too.
I always remember growing up my mom saying winter was her favorite time of year because she did not have to worry about the weather. After going through the drought last year and this wet spring, I think winter just might be my new favorite season!!! As a farmer’s wife, you have ownership in what your husband is doing; you have a strong vested interest in everything that goes on in the farming operation. You take on the role of a cook, accountant, weatherman, part delivery person, counselor, farm marketer, and much more. However, at the end of the day, you would not change a single thing, as I cannot think of a better environment for my two young sons to grow up. They have a strong moral backbone, incredible work ethic and a true passion for farming. That does not mean they too do not worry, as on several occasions of being tucked into bed, the boys will comment on the weather and pray for the rain to start or stop so daddy and papa can get the crop in the ground. Our entire family is on the rollercoaster ride of farming where the highs are exhilarating, the lows are tough, but it is something none of us would ever change. While this spring is yet another hiccup in the process, I continue to repeat the motto of generations of farm wives that came before me, “Everything has a way of working out”……
Severe weather last week brought excessive rainfall to much of the FS System. The imminent danger, flash flooding, shut down county roads and building offices and turned 80-acre fields into lakes. Then an even more worrisome danger began; the flooding of the area’s major river systems. Both the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers have experienced severe flooding, lock closures, and breaches.
Our System has not gone without impact. The Mapleton, Ill. fertilizer facility has been closed due to high waters around the facility. The fertilizer bays themselves are dry but the terminal access road is under two feet of water, the truck scale is under three feet of water, and the roads within the facility are under four feet of water. Mapleton hopes to reopen the truck scale on Tuesday of next week and will evaluate the reopen date for the rest of the facility on Monday.
Lock closures along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers have caused barge delivery delays but sales likely won’t be impacted because System facilities have enough product in stock to meet demand. The Illinois River crested at Peoria overnight but remains closed until water levels fall at least another 3.3 feet. Locks at Marseilles and Starved Rock remain closed due to water conditions and damaged locks. The Mississippi remains closed from Muscatine to Burlington, Iowa and from Quincy, Ill. to Hannibal, Mo.
Some members have also been impacted either through location flooding or personal property loss on behalf of employees. Please keep these affected System members in your thoughts as we await more news of flood damage and impact.
Flooding has obviously kept farmers out of the fields as well. This delay has reduced seasonal demand for product from the warehouses but we anticipate that the end impact to the System and to farmers will be minimal and we will all be able to jumpstart the spring season soon.
How has the recent severe weather impacted you? How can your fellow System members help?
Who do you get your commodity market news from? Do you have a hard time sorting through all the speculation to find the news and opinions that really matter to you? Does it seem like all market news is just a little dry and lacking a personal connection?
Cory Winstead and Nick Klump from AgriVisor have heard all of these complaints and more from members and AgriVisor customers. They wondered what could be done to make commodity market news more relevant and interesting to people like you and me. A long-time subscriber to podcasts, Cory said he had been kicking around the idea of an ag markets-based podcast for a while. A podcast is an audio recording made available online and through mobile download. Typically podcasts are created on a recurring basis, almost like a radio show. The connection to radio is interesting, especially considering that Cory’s idea really got fueled during a conversation in a radio booth. “I was downstairs on a Monday morning doing a radio interview with Alan Jarand at RFD radio,” says Cory, “Off the air we started talking about it. He said he thought it was a great idea and to come down that week to record the first episode. It has grown from there!”
Cory and Nick thought that a podcast would give them a chance to talk conversationally about agriculture and the markets that are such a big part of that industry. They wanted to be approachable, have a little fun, and provide a high level of value to their listeners. By combining the sound market expertise of AgriVisor with their own personalities, they created “The AgFanatics.”
The AgFanatics host shows on Tuesdays and Thursdays (or try to anyway). They often bring expert guests on their show to discuss important topics and give a little background on an issue or market trend. Some topics they have covered recently include RINs, crop insurance, and the USDA Quarterly Stocks and Planting Intentions report. They do an excellent job of breaking down complex topics into understandable, relatable tidbits that even someone like me can understand (and I’m definitely not schooled in futures, puts, and calls).
Cory, Nick, and the rest of the AgriVisor team are thrilled with the success of the show. AgFanatics has about 2700 regular listeners, over 12,000 episode hits, and has generated a lot of positive media buzz. If you haven’t tuned in to an AgFanatics podcast, give them a listen – hopefully you will find the show as valuable and enjoyable as I do!
AgFanatics podcasts are available at http://agfanatics.podbean.com
Subscribe to AgFanatics podcasts on your apple device by downloading the “Podcasts” app and then searching for AgFanatics.
Follow AgFanatics on Twitter @AgFanatics to be alerted whenever a new episode is posted.
The spring season is upon us and that means the same thing to each of us - it's gonna get busy! Maybe in your area things already ARE busy. We just want to take a moment before the heat of the spring rush overcomes us to say THANK YOU.
Thank you for the service that you provide to your members and customers. We know that not all of you get to be out in the field directly interfacing with farmers, but you are a crucial part of our System and it's times like these that we need every hand on deck. Thanks for your dedication and your commitment to service. Have a safe and successful spring!
Gary helps Members keep financing available for their customers, and raises championship horses in his spare time. Watch the story here!
This week is National Ag Week and tomorrow – Tuesday, March 19 – is National Ag Day. National Ag Day is hosted by the Agriculture Council of America and is all about recognizing and celebrating the impact that agriculture has on our daily lives. Farmers and ag industry leaders use Ag Day as a time to join together to recognize the contributions of agriculture. Many people in agriculture will also participate in Ag Day events in Washington, D.C. today and tomorrow, including visits to Congressional leaders on Capitol Hill.
In honor of Ag Day this year, the Agriculture Council of America sponsored a video essay contest for students. This year’s winner was Lebo Molefe of Naperville, IL. Watch her amazing video here:
How will you celebrate National Ag Week?
This list is adapted from Mary Shelman’s presentation at the Global Agribusiness Summit
- Globalization – global companies must address the needs, cultures, demands, and limitations of their diverse customers and employees
- Technology – advances in equipment, genetics, and communications tools will impact efficiency, yields, and information
- Scarcity of land, water, and talent – As the world’s population rockets towards 9 billion people, available arable land decreases and water is in tighter supply. Further, agribusiness must recruit and retain top young talent in order to remain competitive and relevant
- Consolidation – Companies with stronger infrastructure, governance, and talent will continue to grow and will acquire smaller, less efficient companies in their wake
- Consumer engagement and activism – Affluent consumers will leverage their freedoms to demand products that are made in environmentally and ethically sustainable ways. It is up to agribusiness to educate consumers about what that means
- Tight supply chain - A variable supply may lead to inconsistent availability of products
- Food security –Gaps in the supply of available food lead to food insecurity, which is a matter of national security and stability
- Volatility – Globalization, food insecurity, and activism are all indicators that can lead to political and cultural volatility
- Sustainability – With limited supply of available land and water agribusiness must make a concerted effort to engage in practices that conserve resources and are sustainable in the long-term
- Food Safety and Health – Consumers are not only interested in an affordable and available food supply, they are also concerned that the food will be safe and nutritious for their families