In several of my last blog posts, I have talked about how agricultural retailers can, and should, provide conservation services directly to their customers. In this post, I am excited to highlight the very first coop I have talked to who is offering these conservation services.
As Agronomy Division Manager for East Central Co-op, Gene Mitchell is always looking for ways to provide better services to his customers. Recently, East Central Co-op signed on as a “SUSTAIN retailer” through United Suppliers’ (US) new conservation program. All US retailer-owners now have access to the tools to provide farmers with real-world solutions to the challenges of soil erosion and nutrient runoff.
Previously, any conservation offerings through East Central Co-op consisted of grid soil sampling and variable application of nutrients. Now as a SUSTAIN retailer, Mitchell says, they are able help farmers look at the soil savings of different conservation practices and offer designs for grassed waterways, sediment basins, and ponds.
Mitchell says the reason East Central Co-op is jumping in with both feet is that he has heard a lot about the hypoxia issue in the Gulf of Mexico and the talk about “regulating” farming. From his standpoint, providing conservation services to farmers is the right thing to do.
“This is not something his customers have asked for” Mitchell says, “most farmers haven’t thought about how their co-op or ag retailer could offer conservation services and I don’t see anyone else offering these services.” From East Central Co-op’s vantage point, it is a way to set themselves apart from their competitors.
At some point, Mitchell hopes that the coop can provide services directly to their customers instead of working through United Suppliers back office service. He would like to hire a person to work directly with farmers. He says it is all about adding to the relationship between the farmer and the co-op and he doesn’t really like the idea of giving that up.
Mitchell says this is something that should interest more than just the farmer. This is something that should interest the people in downtown Cedar Falls and Waterloo. Ultimately everyone should benefit from East Central Co-op’s involvement as a SUSTAIN retailer.
About ECI Co-op: ECI Co-op has offices in Hudson, LaPorte City, Jessup, Waterloo, and Cedar Falls. For more information: http://ecicoop.com/