November 24, 2020

Remembering Yesteryear: Russ Imoehl Reflects on History as He Saw It

20140722_maxyield_153 (681x1024)Russ Imoehl celebrated his retirement from MaxYield Tuesday, September 23rd. We wish him the best! Here is the story from My Solutions magazine that chronicled his career….

History never looks like history when you’re living through it. Just ask Russ Imoehl, who has worked in the cooperative system for 36 years.

“When you look back, you see that you’ve been part of some big changes,” said Imoehl, MaxYield Cooperative’s operations/assistant safety director, who serves the company’s east region.

As he prepares to retire from MaxYield on Sept. 26, Imoehl reflected on how Iowa agriculture has evolved throughout his lifetime. Here are his top five observations.

1. The definition of a “big farm” has changed dramatically. Imoehl grew up on a 240-acre farm in northeast Iowa near Elma, where his family raised crops, hogs, beef cattle, and dairy cows. “We had a little bit of everything,” said Imoehl, a 1967 Cresco High School graduate, who earned his business/accounting degree from Loras College in 1972. “That was an era when a 320-acre farm was considered a big operation.” All those small farms supported Iowa’s small towns, which often boasted grocery stores, cafes, taverns, service stations, schools, dentists, doctors, veterinarians, car dealerships, sale barns, implement dealerships, and more.

2. The co-op was once a must-stop for every farmer. After starting his career at Standard Oil’s fertilizer division, Imoehl joined Farmers Co-op Society in Garner in 1978. “Back then, farmers usually stopped by the co-op every time they came to town,” said Imoehl, a U.S. Army Reserve veteran who managed the co-op’s agronomy department for 25 years. “We had three guys working behind the counter, because it was common to have 50 to 75 farmers a day in there.” When farmers stopped by to buy livestock feed, cat food, and dog food, they also checked the grain prices. “In those days, about the only way to get the latest grain prices was to hear them on the radio, or call or stop by the co-op,” Imoehl said. Farmers also frequented the co-op’s lumberyard to buy supplies. “Everyone had livestock, so there was always something to fix,” he noted. The co-op’s annual meeting marked a highlight of the year and was extremely well attended, Imoehl added. “The co-op was a hub of the community that brought people together.”

Russ I retirement (1024x768)

Russ celebrated his retirement from MaxYield on September 23rd. We wish you the best!

3. Crop protection and safety have come a long ways. When Imoehl started his career, the co-op sold 6-24-24 starter fertilizer and herbicides like LASSO®, Ramrod, and atrazine, which farmers applied themselves. As farms have grown larger, more farmers now hire the co-op to apply crop protection products. In turn, the co-op’s focus on safety has increased. “Back when I started, we got all our safety training in one day, and that was premier training,” said Imoehl, who noted that many companies didn’t even have any safety training programs. “Now, MaxYield makes safety training a priority throughout the year.”

4. Seed has grown into power traits. In the 1970s, the co-op sold Corsoy soybeans, Imoehl recalled. This public variety came from Iowa State University, a leader in seed genetics at the time. Imoehl knew that big changes were on the way, however, when he traveled to St. Louis in the late 1980s. “I was visiting Monsanto’s facilities, where scientists were working on Roundup® Ready. That technology changed everything.”

5. People stayed at the same company for years. It wasn’t uncommon for employees to spend their entire career at the local co-op. “You worked with the same small group of people, and they
became your family,” said Imoehl, who worked with longtime team members like Jack Toppin at Garner for 25 years. “All that’s changing as we become a more mobile society and lose the rural population.”

While agriculture continues to evolve faster than ever, some things haven’t changed, Imoehl added. “We’re still blessed with dedicated team members, good farmers, and a strong co-op. I’m glad MaxYield views clients as friends and focuses on their success.”

Editor’s note: Russ and his wife, Mary, who retired earlier this year from Winnebago Industries, have four grown daughters: Melissa in Ft. Worth, TX; Kristi in Galesburg, IL; Michelle in Mason City; and Laura in Marshalltown. The Imoehls also have nine grandchildren, ranging from a senior in high school to a one-year-old. Later this fall, the Imoehls look forward to traveling in their free time.

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