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Plot partners

Co-op works with landowners to create favorable habitats for wildlife
Story and photos by Hannah Nave and Chris Villines 8/29/2018


Sunflowers are planted for food, protection, and comfort for wildlife in the area. But animals will eat the flowers to the ground if the plot is not protected with deer fencing. If allowed to grow, the plants create a thicket where deer can bed and later eat the seeds and leaves. Comfortable and healthy wildlife is a priority.
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Whether serving a land owner or manager, small beef producer, large crop producer, or pet owner, Co-op aims to meet a person’s needs in a convenient, cost-efficient way. And throughout the Volunteer State, many Co-ops have found that people need advice on creating favorable habitats for wildlife.

Williamson Farmers Cooperative Manager Randy Stubblefield has found a way to serve his farmer owners through a partnership in land management. Working closely with Philippe Vander Elst, principal-project manager at Franklin-based Vander Elst Land Management (VELM), the Co-op provides expert guidance for the best practices, products, and procedures for optimal wildlife management.

In Williamson County, many large landowners have property managers to implement a wildlife management program. Many of these owners are hunters or enthusiasts interested in land and wildlife health, so it’s important for them to have abundant food options to attract a herd of deer, flock of turkeys, or covey of quail.

This is where Randy and Philippe’s advice comes into play. Philippe works with property owners to find what products and services they need, then turns to Williamson Farmers for these products. The symbiotic relationship between Randy and Philippe helps them both in terms of improved knowledge, sales, and customer satisfaction.

“Philippe and I work together well because we share a common passion,” says Randy. “We both really care about wildlife and habitat. From the day we first met, we knew a partnership would work. Since then, we’ve grown together in knowledge and the business of providing wildlife land management solutions.”

With each property client he advises, Philippe gains an understanding of the desired goals and objectives, then works with Randy and the Co-op to make these wishes a reality.

“It’s essentially a partnership between Co-op and VELM to effectively create and design a wildlife management plan that provides multiple food sources for wildlife,” says Philippe. “We execute the plan through the products purchased from the Co-op. We plant soybeans, sunflowers, sorghum, and corn depending on what wildlife the landowner wants to see and what purpose the crop serves. We focus on seasonal food sources, comfortability, and overall health.”

Randy and Philippe provide outdoor knowledge, practices, and products in their home area, but Co-ops throughout the system can be counted on as trusted advisors for land management and food plot establishment. Randy recommends beginning a food plot by using blends like Co-op’s Horn Madness (#8156553), introduced last year.

“It’s a good mix for someone who doesn’t have a drill or planter because it can be raked into the ground,” Randy says. “The blend is 30 percent wheat, 30 percent triticale, 30 percent oats, and 10 percent crimson clover and canola rape, so there’s a little bit of everything for the deer to try.”

Dylan Hagewood, a product manager in Tennessee Farmers Cooperative’s Seed Department, agrees that blends give deer options to choose what they like:

“If you plant two varieties and one is eaten to the ground while the other remains untouched, you will then know which is preferred and will have that knowledge for next year’s planting.”

“That’s the key,” adds Randy. “If you find something that works on a specific farm, stick to it.”

Dylan says one of the first steps on Co-op’s end is to answer essential questions for those interested in managing wildlife on their land.

“We need to figure out how much food plot land a customer wants, know the condition of the soil by soil testing, and find out what is planted and living in the area to give deer options,” he says. “The employees at your Co-op will have recommendations and can help you get the answers you want.”

TFC Home, Lawn, Specialty Product Manager Chance Martin, who oversees TFC’s line of hunting products and is an avid hunter/food plot manager in his own right, says the scope of services, expertise, and items under the Co-op umbrella for land managers and hunters is proof positive of Co-op’s ever-expanding reach.

“Co-op is not just agricultural products,” he says. “Not every town has an outdoors store, but many have a Co-op. Hunters don’t have to drive so far to these other places because the products are in their local Co-op, and if they’re not, the Co-op can order them. We don’t just point you in the direction of an item on the shelf.”

Randy says that it all boils down to helping landowners, and those who hunt the land, be successful.

“That’s been my goal from day one,” he says. “Whether it’s working with Philippe on land management or working with farmers, I want to figure out how to make them successful.  That’s the key.  If my customers and members are successful at what they do, then I have done my job.”

For assistance or advise on managing your land and creating wildlife food plots, visit with the professionals at your local Co-op.

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