ARA: Wheat Growers is Retailer of the Year
Wheat Growers Co-op has adopted a simple business model. The company helps its farmer-owners make the best profit possible, which results in the company also making a profit, and those profits are reinvested to keep the company providing cutting-edge service and technology to help their patrons be successful in future years.
Much of the success and growth of the cooperative has come in the last 10 years although it has been a financially sound company for its entire 90-year history—all the way from 1923 through the Great Depression and agricultural industry slumps that drove other companies out of business.
The success and total operation of Wheat Growers was the basis for the cooperative being named the Agricultural Retailers Association’s 2012 Retailer of the Year. Judging determined the quality of the management, employees and board of directors is second to none. The co-op also has a strong record of effective employee relations, a strong concern for employee safety, community and industry leadership, environmental stewardship, technology adoption and innovative business practices.
LOOKING AT THE BUSINESS
Dave Clark, one of the agronomy sales managers, who oversees 15 agronomy sales people, started with the company 19 years ago as an applicator equipment driver, and he has worked his way up through the organization. He notes how Wheat Growers was doing business in the James River Valley when he was growing up on an area farm. He said he was surprised at what was going on when he joined the co-op after college.
“When I came to work here, I’d never seen such a dedicated bunch of people providing customer service. They totally differentiated themselves in a customer service standpoint. Their goal was plainly to out service the competitors in the area, and that is primarily where the company got its agronomy foothold,” Clark said. “I think we have established ourselves as a perennial powerhouse in agronomy for eastern North Dakota and South Dakota based on the level of service we provide.”
Dale Locken, CEO of Wheat Growers, [left] accepts the ARA 2012 Ag Retailer of the Year crystal award from ARA Executive Committee member Jon Nienas of Monsanto. The award program’s main sponsor is Monsanto. Today, the co-op has 34 locations in South Dakota and three in North Dakota. Even though its name is Wheat Growers, its 5,500 members grow more corn and soybeans than wheat. That transition from wheat to the row crops has really jumped in the past 10 years.