Revving up for the spring season

May 08, 2024

Heavy rains fell as more than 20 Co-op operators and fertilizer managers filed into the conference room at First Farmers Cooperative’s (FFC) Lexington location for their third annual Fertilizer Truck Rodeo, a day of education for the Co-op’s fertilizer applicators to enhance their skills to better serve the farmers of West Tennessee.

“This is the third year we have hosted the Rodeo for our employees,” says Anthony Hastings, FFC chief operations officer. “It’s something the team looks forward to each year and allows them to be as prepared as possible for the spring season.”

Hastings says the event represents the one time each year when the employees are not on the road, can enjoy fellowship, and learn together before they assist farmers.

The rodeo normally starts with classroom work in the morning and fieldwork in the afternoon. Due to the weather at this year’s event, the team had to postpone the fieldwork until a clearer day, though it failed to disrupt the classroom activities.

Tennessee Tractor employee Jim Layne was on hand for guidance and to help answer questions, and GreenPoint Ag Senior Manager of Advanced Services and Operations Ben White helped prepare the curriculum and served as the instructor for the event.

White provided a range of information such as preventative maintenance and safety,machine calibrations, spinner pattern testing, potential infield mistakes, inspection items, and innovation details.

“This event is great for new employees but also for the team members who have been at the Co-op for many years,” says White. “The training serves as a reminder for many things, including maintenance, the set-up process of the machine, what products to use, and pattern testing.”

Hastings highlighted the significance of agronomy services within FFC’s business, as the Co-op has dedicated team members specifically focused on fertilizer operations.

Hastings says that the expertise shared by instructors like White, who draws from years of experience across the entire GreenPoint Ag system, enhances FFC’s knowledge base and contributes to continual improvement.
“Each year, the agenda is a little different to keep the team members engaged,” he says, “but the overall message is similar – providing educational opportunities that will benefit employees as they are out in the field with the farmers.”

White conducted inspections on a few of the trucks that were present in the shop during the training, but the hands-on activities had to be postponed. However, they were able to carry out pan testing in the field later. Pan testing is done to examine the spreaders’ accuracy, which is accomplished by placing small pans every five feet within the spread pattern. Setting adjustments on the machines are often required between products to ensure even distribution and maintained precision in the application process.

“I learned a lot at the Fertilizer Truck Rodeo,” says Chase Teague, agronomy assistant with FFC. “It’s a great idea to keep things fresh on the operators’ minds, like learning about the general maintenance of the equipment, and what potential problems to look out for while in the fields.”

Teague says that he appreciates the time that FFC devotes to educating its staff and appreciates how the Co-op lets the team know how important their work is to both the farmers and the business.

“I’m thankful for the Co-op community and I’m appreciative of the teamwork and learning opportunities that I have had so far at First Farmers,” says Teague, who began his career at Mid-South Farmers Cooperative on the Cooperative Training Program before transitioning to FFC. “The agronomy assistant position is new, and I’m looking forward to continuing to learn and support the farmers in West Tennessee through this role.”

Tennessee Tractor has been participating in the event since Mike Clayton was involved in first starting it 3 years ago. Jim Layne, an application consultant and salesman for Tennessee Tractor, helps with the ag retail side of the business.

“Getting the team members together before the spring season kicks off is
always a great idea,” says Layne. “Ben [White] and I have worked together on this event from the beginning, and it truly makes a difference with the team members because they can have their questions answered before the long hours of spring season begin.”

For more information about agronomy products and services, reach out to your local Co-op and speak with their knowledgeable agronomy experts.

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