Farming and ranching co-op style


November 30, 2017

Amy Votruba

Frenchman Valley Coop's Pine Bluffs office

One of the best known co-op locally is the Frenchman Valley Coop, fits all of the definition of a co-op per wikipedia. Definition of Agricultural supply cooperatives aggregate purchases, storage, and distribution of farm inputs for their members. By taking advantage of volume discounts and utilizing other economies of scale, supply cooperatives bring down members' costs. Supply cooperatives may provide seeds, fertilizers, chemicals, fuel, and farm machinery.

Seeds that are available by Frenchman Valley Coop are corn, alfalfa, some flower and grass. Other products are fertilizer, chemical for weed control and propane.

Frenchman Valley has been serving the farm and ranches since around 1912, the local office since approximately 2008 when it merged with Farmers Elevator CO., per Kevin Schinzel, which had been doing business in the area since around 2002.

Frenchman has 3 sales, 5 operation and 1 clerical employee in this particular office. The sales personal official title are Agronomy Production Advisor, which indicates that they have a strong education back ground in the science of producing plants for food, fuel, fiber and land reclamation. One of the local advisor for Frenchman specialize in organic farming and ranching.

Steven Girmus, Agronomy Production Advisor, offered a over view of the particular aspects of his job. Girmus shared "The most important part of my job is developing a relationship with the farmer, working with each individual farmer to determine what is needed to reach his financial, as well as growth potential." Girmus has a 4 year degree in animal science and agronomics, as well as completing the course this spring for certified crop growing. Job duties include from agronomy scouting, that is all about taking soil samples, making fertilizer and seed recommendations and chemical application for weed control. The soil samples take about a week to get back from the laboratory, in Omaha, NE, where they are sent for testing. Getting to know the farmer, what the farmer is interested in growing, and the testing of the soil, is all a part of the recommendation that are given by the advisor. Another helpful part of the advisor job is to take tissue samples, during the growing season, to see if nutrients, or what type of nutrients are needed, to produce a good crop. The nutrients can be applied several different ways, by spraying on, running through the pivots or applied dry directly to the ground, depending on what the crop needs. The amount of the dosage is not determined on how it is apply, that is the farmers decision.

For Frenchman Valley Coop sales personal this is the busy time of the year, as they are selling seed, taking soil samples, making fertilizer recommendations and helping with crop budgets. That is different than the operations employees that do blending of fertilizer, drive truck, run sprayers and make deliveries, during the growing season, March through the end of October.

Frenchman Valley Coop has about a 2 % organic farmers and 98% conventional farming customers. With that being said, they do not have any special equipment that is only used for organic applications of fertilizer or nutrients. They make sure the equipment is cleaned throughly before using on organic farms. The cleaning process is intense. It consist of filling the tanks with water, spraying out the contents on a stubble field, filling up again with ammonia and water mixture that is sprayed on a conventional field, then rinsing with water again. Sometimes a soap, that is environmentally safe is added in the final rinse.

Girmus said he has seen an "explosion" in technological farming in the last 5-10 years. He feels that this is a driving force, the farmers are improving on the yield of their crops.

With locations in Chappel, Chadron, Grant, McCook and Imperial Nebraska Frenchman Valley Coop is there for local farmers needs and recommendations.


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