Mark Helt, Strategic Accounts Lead, Monsanto; Joe Hodges, Vice President Southern Region Plant Nutrient Group, The Andersons; and Daren Coppock, President & CEO, Agricultural Retailers Association, pose for a photo after Hodges accepted the ARA Retailer of the Year on behalf of The Andersons. The recognition was presented today at the ARA Conference & Expo in Palm Desert, Calif.
Mark Helt, Strategic Accounts Lead, Monsanto; Joe Hodges, Vice President Southern Region Plant Nutrient Group, The Andersons; and Daren Coppock, President & CEO, Agricultural Retailers Association, pose for a photo after Hodges accepted the ARA Retailer of the Year on behalf of The Andersons. The recognition was presented today at the ARA Conference & Expo in Palm Desert, Calif.

The Agricultural Retailers Association named The Andersons as its Retailer of the Year for 2015.

The award was presented to Joe Hodges, Vice President of the Southern Region Plant Nutrient Group, during the ARA Conference and Expo.

"On behalf of all the employees of The Andersons - Thank you for this special recognition," Hodges said. "It's extra special when you are recognized by your peers, and to be included in the same circle with prior winners; The Tremont Group, Willards and Morral Company, just to name a few, makes it that much more prestigious."

The award, sponsored by Monsanto, ARA and AgProfessional magazine, honors retailers who represent the best of the industry. Retail outlets nominated for the award are evaluated based on innovative business practices, community and industry leadership, environmental stewardship, reliability, technology utilization, customer service and effective employee development programs. Recent winners have included NEW Cooperative, Morral Companies, Wheat Growers, Lyman/Tremont Group, Central Valley Ag and Willard Agri-Service.

"Ag retailers make significant contributions to feeding the world and responsible stewardship of our natural resources," said ARA President and CEO Daren Coppock. "The Andersons is a great representative of the industry and deserving of this award."

Headquartered in Maumee, Ohio, The Andersons operates in 20 states and employs more than 3,000 people throughout its operation. Established as a family grain business almost 70 years ago, The Andersons has grown into a diverse, publically traded corporation with several operating groups: grain, plant nutrients, ethanol, rail and retail. Although The Andersons may be a publicly traded company, its family emphasis remains. A third-generation Anderson, Mike, is the company CEO.

Chief Operating Officer Hal Reed, who has worked at several levels within the company in his more than 35 years, believes the success of the company is attributable to the guidance of the company Mission Statement: "We firmly believe that our Company is a powerful vehicle through which we channel our time, talent, and energy in pursuit of the fundamental goal of serving God by serving others. Through our collective action, we greatly magnify the impact of our individual efforts to: Provide extraordinary service to our customers, Help each other improve, Support our communities, Increase the value of our company."

The mission statement is a guiding light, according to Reed. "We have that standard out there that in some respects is never truly attainable but always cries for continuous improvement, better service and more attention to customers, employees and communities."

Environmental Stewardship

With operations in the Lake Erie watershed and throughout Florida, The Andersons works in areas concerned with nutrient runoff and under significant public scrutiny.

"We're working with the 4Rs Nutrient Stewardship Program," said Doug Busdeker, senior manager, Northern Farm Centers. "We started with that clear back in 2010, and a lot of it was educating ourselves of the issues that were out here as far as crop nutrients and water quality."

Education has been far ranging to employees throughout the organization.

"We feel that it's important for our growers to put out the right material at the right time in the right crops. We make sure that our ag advisors know that," said Barney Cherry, general manager, The Andersons' Florida Farm Centers. "Our ag advisors take soil samples and water samples and interpret results for the customer. They sit down and use their experience with the customer's experience to be able to put out the right fertilizer at the right time and rate to do what they want to improve their crop."

Environmental stewardship is mandatory, Reed said, and The Andersons focuses on it in many ways. Strong supporters of 4Rs research and education of customers "is something we have to do in being part of the whole agricultural community."

Business Innovation

Since Harold Anderson started blending fertilizer in a cement mixer in the 1950s, The Andersons has cultivated a progressive culture when it comes to the services provided to farmers. Staying informed about new technology, information services and product development are mainstays of the business.

Being part of solutions for farmers is key, according to Busdeker.

"Most notable to me is the professionalism of our staff, the growth that they have had over time and bringing the proper information to our growers," he said. "We have got to have a vision to look a little farther out as to what the customer needs and what he may not even recognize that he needs yet."

Employee Relations

The Andersons values its employees. God and community are key components of the organization's mission and are on display in how the company is operated.

"If you let employees do their job and you listen to them when they want to talk to you about issues, whether it's good, bad or ugly, then they tend to feel like they're part of the team," Cherry said. "They make suggestions, and we can sometimes make changes; sometimes we can't, but being there and listening to people makes a big difference. They feel like you care, and it's important."
Busdeker added, "The Andersons was originally a family-owned company. And one thing that is remarkable, even though we're a public company today, is that the family flavor is still in the company."