Agronomy centers ready for spring rush

Farm Forum

Gentle rains over the weekend are tempting farmers to head to the fields, with some pushing the season by planting wheat this week. As snow banks diminish and fade away, it’s a waiting game for farmers. They worry about when the frost will come out of the ground and when soil temperatures will dictate when to drop seeds in the ground.

As farmers ready their wait and worry, those who service the industry are making sure they have the products needed for the compressed planting season. Bags of corn and soybean seeds and tanks of fertilizer line the warehouse area of agronomy centers across the region.

On Friday, Wheat Growers opened a new 10,400-square-foot agronomy center along U.S. Highway 281 outside of Frederick.

Not even half of a mile south, Frederick Seed LLC, is stacking bags and mini-bulks of seed. In a town the size of Frederick, population around 220, having these two businesses join the community is a plus.

Those at Wheat Growers say the Frederick location will provide member-owners with agronomy solutions at the new agronomy center and the 60,000-gallon liquid fertilizer plant.

“We want to encourage all producers in our area to tour this new facility and talk with our agronomy team about the best agronomic input and grain solutions,” Frederick Ag Center Agronomist Jay Barnett said. “This full-service agronomy retail facility has an on-demand seed treatment system along with bulk liquid fertilizer and bulk chemical storage. It’s all part of Wheat Growers’ service center concept that revolves around getting products and product knowledge closer to the producer.”

When asked why the company decided to locate at Frederick, Wheat Growers location supervisor Corey Siefkes said, “We found that there was a need for Wheat Growers to have an agronomy center here since we have a lot of customers in the area. We’re looking to provide efficiency and speed. We want to get them in and out as quickly as possible. Time is money to farmers.”

Instead of traveling to Bath to pick up a load of product, Siefkes said customers can drive 10 to 15 minutes. “We hope to expand our customer base to Leola and Forbes. We’ve heard that farmers coming from the north hate to make the turn from Brown County Hwy. 14 onto U.S. Highway 12 with their farm trucks so this should give them another option.”

At the new location, two full-time people will be at Frederick plus two part-time people. Agronomist Barnett will be visiting with customers, too. “The facility will be able to work with the Bath Fertilizer Center to make sure they have needed product,” Barnett said. “We’re trying to provide an efficiency for our customers. We want to try to make sure we have what they need when they need it. It’s a matter of getting a system set up to save the customers a trip.”

“We’re pretty excited,” Siefkes said. “Right now we think we have the right amount of help. We may need to add people in the future. It’s a good challenge for me.” Siefkes said he’s prepared for the job by working long hours at the Bath facility for the last 4 ½ years.

Phil Gilbert, Northwest Regional Manager for Wheat Growers said it’s an opportunity to keep the supply close to the people who need service.

With Frederick Seed just across the road, Siefkes thinks the businesses can help to serve people in the area in their own way. Some farmers are loyal to brands. It’s not so much competing with the established business as offering an opportunity for producers to shop a little to provide options. “We’re here to be part of the community, not to overrun anyone,” Siefkes said. “I’ve made it a point to meet people in the community.”

“Some have told me they have prior commitments as far as seed and chemical,” Siefkes said, “They said they may try us later, ‘now that you guys are part of the community.’ “ Siefkes said he understands and respects those obligations.

Being part of the community means offering some assistance when needed. The local fire department did a walk-through of the facility to let the volunteers know what is kept in the center in case of an emergency. Siefkes said the site has a 10,000 tank of water that can be used to help with fires that occur in the community.

The center will supply chemical for farmers and Wheat Growers equipment working in the area. Siefkes said as the business grows, it may be able to provide additional new jobs.

The newest system in seed treating is installed at the site. It is totally automated, controlling the flow, weighing batches, treating and blending the products, Siefkes explained. “We hit the button, tell the system what to do as far as what quantities and what products are required. Starting with the 5,000 bushel bulk tanks outside that hold four varieties of products, the seeds required for treatment are weighed out with a self-calibrating scale. A conveyor carries the seed inside where it will be treated. The equipment has a capacity of 2,500 units per hour. Once the seed is blended with the needed treatment, it’s ready to go out to the farmer’s truck.” Inventory is tracked so that needed product is kept in stock.

According to the Wheat Growers annual report, several new agronomy service centers and fertilizer storage units have been added to the system. Included are:

•Berlin, N.D., has a 25,000-square-foot agronomy service center and a 60,000-gallon liquid fertilizer plant.

•Carpenter has a 5,500-ton-capacity fertilizer shed.

•Chamberlain has a 20,000-square-foot agronomy service center.

•Columbia has a 14,080-square-foot agronomy service center.

•Kimball has a 25,000-square-foot agronomy service center and a 120,000-gallon liquid fertilizer plant.

•McLaughlin has a 210-ton-capacity fertilizer tower and a 1.62 million-gallon liquid fertilizer terminal.

•Miller has a15,000-square-foot agronomy service center and a 150,000-gallon liquid fertilizer plant.

•Roscoe has a 25,000-square-foot agronomy service center, a 120,000-gallon liquid fertilizer plant and a 11,500-ton-capacity fertilizer shed.