December 3, 2020

MaxYield’s Algona Location “Feels Like Family”

MaxYield AlgonaWhen Mike Schmit stops by MaxYield Cooperative’s Algona location, he enjoys chatting with the other farmers and visiting with MaxYield’s team members. This comfortable environment feels like the Plum Creek Elevator, which used to be located northeast of Algona.

“I get the type of personal service from MaxYield that I appreciated from Plum Creek back in the 1950s and 1960s,” said Schmit, who delivers grain to Algona and purchases his crop inputs there. “It’s nice to work with people who are friendly and helpful.”

He also appreciates the Algona location’s focus on efficiency. “When you don’t have to wait in line to unload your grain, that saves a lot of time.”

Scales on the grain dumps at the Algona elevator mean clients only have to check in once at the office. This is just one of many ways that Algona strives to meet clients’ needs, noted Rich Hanson, Algona’s client service representative.

“We’re surrounded by some of the best farmland in Iowa, and we’re fortunate to work with some of most progressive farmers around. They are good managers, and many have been early adopters of technology, from grid sampling to tissue testing.”

Remember five-gallon pails of LASSO?

Just as area farmers have adapted to changing times, so has the coop. MaxYield’s Algona location was owned by Cargill in years past and was purchased by the Whittemore Co-op in 1989 before being acquired by the West Bend Elevator Company in 1995. That same year, the fertilizer plant was torn down and moved east of town, where the current fertilizer plant is located.

This was a state-of-the-art facility when it was built, Hanson said. It was designed to hold 2,000 tons of dry product, 500 tons of UAN, and 30,000 gallons of anhydrous ammonia. Its spill-containment system earned the plant an Environmental Respect award, which is the ag industry’s highest recognition for environmental stewardship among U.S. ag retailers.

MaxYield AlgonaHanson noted that the agronomy business has come a long way since he began his career with the co-op more than 30 years ago. In years past, farmers purchased substantial amounts of insecticides, including THIMET® and Counter®. They had a limited selection of herbicides, including atrazine, Banvel®, and LASSO®, which was shipped to the co-op in 55-gallon drums. “Farmers brought in metal five-gallon buckets to pick up LASSO,” said Hanson, who noted that many modern herbicides are applied in fractions of an ounce per acre.

Just as yield monitors, auto steering, and global positioning systems have transformed production agriculture, technology has also streamlined Algona’s agronomy division. Cell phones have made life much easier, as have computer mapping programs that generate work orders. “Before we had these programs, we relied on Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS) maps and plat books, and we’d color the areas where the fieldwork needed to be done,” Hanson recalled.

Coffee crowd meets daily in Algona

Hanson is one of seven full-time MaxYield team members, plus seasonal help, who work at the Algona location, which boasts 1.4 million bushels of grain storage. The grain business has changed a great deal at the Algona location, said Hanson, who can remember when the co-op had its own locomotive and team members would load several 25-car trains each month.

Algona’s close ties with Hobarton have also influenced the grain business. When the Hobarton facility was sold to Murphy Family Farms (now Murphy Brown, LLC) around 1995, the co-op began originating grain for Murphy Brown’s feed mill. Today, approximately 80% of the producers in the area deliver grain directly to Murphy Brown, which buys 12 to 15 million bushels of corn each year.

Even when farmers deliver their grain to Hobarton, they like to congregate at the Algona office, said Carol Laubenthal, who has served as MaxYield’s client care leader and grain solutions specialist in Algona for six years.

The daily conversations range far beyond the grain markets, added Laubenthal, who handles grain settlements, answers the phone, and weighs loads for Cook Scrap Metal, which is located next to the co-op. “It’s easy to get to know the people here, and you feel like you’re part of the family.”

Long-time team members are proud to serve the second and even third generations of local farm families. “I’m also pleased that many good team members who started as applicators here at Algona are now team leaders in the company,” Hanson said. “We work hard here, but we have fun, too.”

After many years of serving area farmers, Rich Hanson retired August 31. We extend a big thank-you for his dedicated service and wish him well in his retirement.

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