October: National Cooperative Month

October is National Cooperative Month and the perfect time – as we roll into another harvest season at each of our ag centers – to highlight what makes our business so unique.

The national theme for Cooperative Month this year is “Cooperatives Commit.”  By committing to education, sustainability, community, and members, our cooperative provides a strong foundation that improves the lives of our members and others in the area.

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Cooperatives are found in all sectors of the economy, including agriculture, retail, utilities, housing, banking (credit unions), healthcare, and childcare.  Blue Diamond, Ocean Spray, Land O’Lakes and Sunkist are all cooperatives you may be familiar with at the grocery store. U.S. cooperatives actually provide more than 850,000 jobs, resulting in $25 billion in annual wages. There are more than 40,000 cooperative businesses in America, serving 350 million people.

Hagerstown

Harvest Land, your local farmer-owned cooperative, employees more than 300 people and is owned by 5,500 farmers in Indiana and Ohio.

Despite a wide variety of products and services provided to their members, all cooperatives follow seven universal principles, first adopted in Rochdale, England, in the mid-1800s. These are:

  • Voluntary and open membership: Cooperative membership is open to all who are able to use its products and services and willing to accept the responsibility of membership.
  • Democratic member control: Cooperatives are controlled by their members who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.
  • Members’ economic participation: Members contribute equally to the capital of the cooperative. This benefits members in proportion to the business they conduct with the cooperative.
  • Autonomy and independence. Each cooperative is managed by an independent board elected from its membership, and decisions are made that democratically benefit its members. We have nine Board members, representing all areas of our trade territory.
  • Education, training, and information: Cooperatives provide education and training for members, managers, and employees, as well as information to the general public about the benefits of cooperatives and the products and services they provide. Our Winter Innovation Forum is a fantastic example of this principle.
  • Cooperation among cooperatives: Cooperatives serve their members by working together through local, national, regional, and international structures. Land O’Lakes, CountryMark and Growmark are just a few larger cooperatives that Harvest Land is a member of.
  • Concern for community: While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of communities through policies and programs accepted by the members. Our Cultivating Communities program proves this principle, tried and true.

We offer a sincere thanks for your continued business with our farmer-owned cooperative.  October may be National Cooperative Month, but every day we’re working to provide quality products and services created to serve your family.

 

 

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Be Still

After 27 inches of rain in the last 31 days for some parts of our trade territory, there is nothing like waking up to this forecast earlier this week:

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As we recover from another shower, we wanted to share with you a video from one of our customers, Alan Bays.

Four generations of Bays have used Harvest Land’s service and products, forming a business relationship that spans fifty years. Excellent reliability with fuels, competitive pricing, available purchasing options and a knowledgeable team are all qualities on which the Bays family relies on Harvest Land.

If the name sounds familiar, it should. The Bays were the cover family of our 2012 Annual Report.

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Justin Bays, Brian Bays,  Elle Contos, Bennett Contos and Sarah Contos

Brian Bays once said of the family’s history with Harvest Land:

“With Harvest Land we’ve sustained a very long-term, business relationship that has provided quality supplies and price-competitive opportunities. We’ve consistently had good relationships with Harvest Land employees, and they always strive to provide solutions for our operation.”  -Brian Bays

The Lapel area, where the Bays farm, has gotten the brunt of the 2017 torrential rains. It seems that if a shower hits Indiana, it’s sure to hit their farm.

But, there is still hope.

We invite you to take a look at this inspiring video from Alan, brother of Brian:

We are so proud to be a small part of Bays’ family operation.

 

 

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Were You Hired To Do That?

A middle school student, from a town not far from our cooperative headquarters, was given the assignment to job shadow someone working in a field that might interest him down the road.

His top choices for a future career – at age 14 – were

  • a pediatrician (should a student spend their day in a medical office during flu season?)
  • a preacher (he gets weekly insight from this field every Sunday and at youth group)
  • the agricultural field (he chose to spend his day at our farmer-owned cooperative)

I had a meeting with our agronomist and the gentleman that this student was shadowing for the day, our Chief Operations Officer. The three of us discussed plans for an upcoming presentation we are giving at Ball State University, while the student sat in quiet observation. After collaboration over a meal, we engaged the student by explaining to him our individual paths that lead to the current positions we have within Harvest Land.

It was a really valuable conversation. Not only did I learn about the very unique roads my coworkers have taken to get to the successful levels they’re at today, but I also noticed a trend that I think is worth sharing with you.

One employee never went to college, they went straight to into the work force out of high school.

One employee went to a highly accredited 4-year university (after turning down an offer at Notre Dame) and even went on to attain their Master’s.

One employee graduated with a bachelor’s degree in a non-agriculture field.

All three were leaps and bounds above the level – both in position and pay – in which they were first hired (one started at $1 an hour – and it wasn’t 1929). All three shared oddly similar stories when visiting with the job-shadowing-student.

All three never turned down a job.
  • Sweeping the shop floor
  • Answering phones
  • Tying feed sacks
  • Mixing chemicals
  • Making the office coffee (which could be comparable to mixing chemicals)
  • Washing trucks
  • Delivering meals to the field
  • Cleaning up after meetings or guests
  • Taking out the trash
  • Sweeping out bins
  • Working in the pit
  • Loading trucks with bagged feed
  • Painting tanks
  • Making parts runs
  • And more

These were just a few of the things these highly successful adults did in their early careers.

“Were you hired to do that?!” the student asked the COO.
“No, I wasn’t. But it needed done.”

What a lesson that can resonate with today’s students about to begin their careers. There is a strange expectation from many who are early in their career that they will get hired into a middle management position and climb the ladder of success by starting on the third rung. Today’s work force doesn’t work that way. The workforce in 2007 didn’t work that way. The work force in 1997 didn’t work that way. The work force in 1987 didn’t work that way. Do you notice a trend?

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What an advantage someone will have if they choose early in life to do the work that needs to be done, whether it was written in their job description, or not. Those who keep the phrase “That’s not my job,” off their lips will have a far greater advantage over those who use it.

Now, this isn’t giving every supervisor across America to take advantage of those who work hard.

But we offer this encouragement to those who want to be successful in their field of choice: If you’re willing to do more than what is expected of you, more opportunities than you expect will come your way. 

work bootsWe believe that farm kids get hired and promoted regularly because they understand that there is work to be done, no matter who does it. They come from a place where 5:00 PM simply means that there is still four more hours of daylight and work ahead of them. They come from a team that doesn’t clock in or clock out – their work begins when the boots go on and it ends when they come off…and then they have to eat dinner with their co-workers.

Farm kids understand that even the bosses have to do the dirty jobs sometimes – – -because they’ve seen their grandfathers use auto steer in the brand new tractor in the same day that they saw him picking up rocks out of the field.

rock in field

We encourage those early in their career to take full advantage of the opportunities to do many different jobs – the good, bad, and ugly – when given the chance. Not only will it offer you new experiences, it will expand your skill set and build your character.

And who knows, it might start a really enlightening conversation in 30 years when you’re being job shadowed by an eager middle schooler trying to figure out the world.

The Cooperative Spirit: A Brief History

We’re so glad you stopped by to visit.

Do you have a quick minute for a story?

Or maybe, a history?

Years ago – we’re talking long before weather maps were kept on cell phones in pockets – folks relied on working together to defend their land, hunt, produce and gather food and create shelters and clothing. It was their cooperative spirit, one that encouraged working together to achieve a common goal, that allowed the people to create more, support larger groups and elevate success as culture evolved. It was through information sharing that early societies were able to triumph through the most arduous times.

At Harvest Land Co-op, we’ve never forgotten that cooperative spirit. In fact, it’s the very fabric of our business.

Our cooperative is unique from many businesses in that nearly 5,000 farmers who have made their homes in Indiana and Ohio own us. Together they collaborate for our success by utilizing Harvest Land’s services, sourced products and expert employees. Continued investment in our farmer-owned cooperative ensures the longevity of such a system that welcomes and serves so many.

This blog was created as a resource for our members and also those with whom we share communities. We want to use this space to answer questions about what our cooperative does, explain why we’re so passionate about land and resource conservation and share our steadfast belief in creating a responsible food system (speaking of food systems: don’t forget to pick up milk after work).

Join us on this expedition and come back weekly as we dig deeper to the roots of Harvest Land Co-op and the many fibers that make our cooperative spirit sturdy, nearly 100 years after our inception.

strong roots