This is one in a series of posts covering what a few progressive ag retailers are doing to address sustainability in their organizations. This week we will take a look at GROWMARK’s sustainability initiative endure which focuses on practices that endure over time to make the most prudent use of natural resources to enhance customer profitability and environmental longevity.
As GROWMARK leaders discussed the company’s endure sustainability initiative before it launched earlier this year, they realized they could best promote sustainability by continuing to build on the company’s long-term mission.
“Our mission is to keep our members and their customers profitable over time,” says Lance Ruppert, GROWMARK director, agronomy marketing. “Our focus in endure is on bringing leadership to our member companies to help their customers achieve both economic and environmental sustainability, one field and one grower at a time.”
GROWMARK’s Agronomy Division has promoted best management practices for nutrient management for years, and has now branded that work under the endure umbrella. “Our Agronomy Division has been at the forefront until now, and now our grain, energy, and other divisions of the company are also participating,” Ruppert says.
The company’s sustainability platform emphasizes activities and best management practices that endure over time to keep its customers profitable. “Much of our focus is on helping growers maximize the use of inputs for crops,” Ruppert says. “That includes promoting the 4R concept for nitrogen management. For instance, our farmer customers can realize more profit and environmental benefits using practices like split applications of nitrogen, and best management practices like soil testing, variable rate technology, and cover crops.”
In addition to continuing education and awareness of best management practices, GROWMARK intends to document the use of those practices to help farmers realize their benefits.
No new employees were hired to carry out the initiative, but GROWMARK is providing advanced training with its Nutrient Management Specialist Program. Designed to help develop nitrogen management experts and nutrient management trainers within the GROWMARK System, the advanced specialists will help identify nutrient management issues, assist with local nutrient management outreach, train other crop specialists on nutrient management planning, and write reviews for N-WATCH.
“In addition to more training of our crop specialists who work directly with growers,” Ruppert says, “we’ve created an endure 4R Advocate award to give company-wide recognition to crop specialists who do the most exceptional work in promoting nutrient stewardship and the endure initiative. We’re planning to expand that idea with a grower recognition program next year.”
A pollinator program that was launched as part of the sustainability initiative has been very popular among members. “We’re trying to promote bee health and habitat,” Ruppert says. “One thing we’re doing is donating Green YardTM Honey Bee Wildflower seed to member companies, who then plant flowers that support pollinator populations. People have had fun with it, and it’s had positive impacts. We had intended the mixes for use by employees and our members, but the interest went beyond that; about 40 4-H clubs asked for the flower mixes and planted them this year, too.”
GROWMARK has members and does business in more than 40 states and Ontario, Canada. GROWMARK owns the FS trademark, established in 1955, which is used by affiliated companies to serve more than 250,000 customers. The endure initiative extends across the GROWMARK system.