Thom Winninger, marketing strategy specialist, was the final speaker.
Thom Winninger, marketing strategy specialist, was the final speaker.

The 2011 ARA Conference and Expo wrapped up on Thursday, Dec. 1 with a retailer panel, which discussed how retailers can address the issue of sustainability, awards and tips for developing a marketing strategy.

The conference, Growing a Sustainable Business: What your customers, consumers and the government want from ag retailers, was held Nov. 29-Dec. 1 in Boca Raton, Fla.

The retailer panel included Dave Coppess with Heartland Co-op, Bob Willard with Willard Agri-Service and Orvin Bontrager, Servi-Tech. Each shared their individual challenges of tackling sustainability from their region’s and business’s perspective. Willard spoke about the issues Willard Agri-Service has faced surrounding the Chesapeak Bay area. Bontrager offered his perspective from a crop consultant's point of view and as the past president of the National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants. Coppess shared his leadership role with getting other Iowa retailers together to share data about nutrients in the soil and fertilizer's impact on water supplies.

ARA conference concludes with awards, tips for retailersAwards presented at the show included the national winner of the Environmental Respect Award, the Jack Eberspacher Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2011 AGCO Operator of the Year finalists and winner.

The Jack Eberspacher Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Al McQuinn, who is the former CEO of Ag-Chem Equipment Company, which was purchased by AGCO in 2001. McQuinn founded Ag-Chem in 1963 and grew the company. Today, he serves as chairman and CEO of QuinnStar Investment Partners.  

ARA conference concludes with awards, tips for retailersIn addition to awards, ARA announced that Billy Pirkle will be the ARA chairmain for 2012. At the conference, it was recognized with a passing of the gavel from outgoing chairman Doyle Pearl. Pearl shared information from his year of serving in the role. Pirkle shared his views about growing ARA and tackling the issues retailers face in the future.

ARA conference concludes with awards, tips for retailersOther awards announced on the last day of the conference included the finalists and winner of the 2011 AGCO Operator of the Year Award. The finalists were announced at the show Wednesday. They included Gary “Butch” Hammond, Cargill Inc.; Ken Nystedt, Hudye Soil Services Inc.; Lonnie Reckmann, Hamel Seed & Farm Supply Inc.; and Michael Spade, Harveyville Seed Co.

The winner of the Operator of the Year was Gary “Butch” Hammond.

Wrapping up the conference was speaker Thom Winninger, a marketing strategy consultant. He told the attendees about how to capitalize on sustainability by how they market it to the farmer. He provided real-world examples of how marketing messages changed the value of what's being sold. ARA conference concludes with awards, tips for retailers

Next year’s conference will be held Nov. 27-Nov. 29 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego, Calif.