DIVISION HIGHLIGHTS

AGRONOMY

01

“All the credit for our last growing season really goes to the employee group for staying strong, steady and resilient through all the challenges we faced in 2021 while still keeping the needs of our growers the highest priority. Together, we are ready for the opportunities 2022 will bring us,” says Jason Throener, Senior VP of Agronomy.

Though 2021 was not quite the same roller coaster ride of 2020, there were still enough twists and turns to keep our agronomy team on its’ toes. This year we really benefited from the large capital investments we made in 2020, by strategically placing liquid storage in the key areas of Doniphan, Keene, Minden and Carleton. With the shortage of truck drivers last year, which has also crept into this year, those key areas of liquid storage was instrumental in delivering products on time. With our chemical storage facilities in Aurora, Hastings and Kearney, we were able to fulfill all our product commitments to our farmer-owners.

Labor shortages along with supply shortages were a few of the bigger challenges we faced this year. Even with the continued labor shortages, our team continues to invest in assets improving efficiency in automation to positively shape the future for how we serve our farmer-owners. Though we saw minimal product shortages last year, we were ahead of the curve and worked hard to secure products for our growers to have them on hand as often as possible. As a cooperative,
we believe that is one thing our farmer-owners shouldn’t have to worry about. 

Going into the 2022 growing season with the supply shortage still at the forefront, we plan on taking it on as an opportunity to effectively plan and secure fertilizer and crop protection products.

In order to be effective in this planning process, we launched FieldAlytics, a whole-farm planning tool, which will enhance our growers’ experience. The whole-farm solution will not only enable us to bring all grower’s data to them in one place, it will also allow us to track applications and give them a real-time experience. The keys to success for 2022 will be having a good plan in place for the growing season. With our FieldAlytics platform, we will be able to have solid plans before the growing season and the ability to adapt them, on the go, in season. Better planning on our part and our farmer-owners part will equal better service as we navigate these supply chain challenges in 2022.

Owners Acres Story EST 2017

It all started with a piece of land and a vision … a vision to learn, educate, and understand what it is like to walk the footsteps of a farmer, from planning to planting, irrigating to harvest, and those sleepless nights when the storms pass through, not knowing what will remain of the crops we so diligently worked to grow. 

Our story started in 2017, in Aurora, NE with 65 acres, and David City, NE with 24 acres.

The first year we were searching for that “silver bullet.” What we soon realized was that improving a farm takes more than a silver bullet. It takes hard work, persistence, patience, and Mother Nature to cooperate.

After realizing a magical solution wasn’t attainable,
we went back to focusing on many of the fundamentals that have built farms over many years. Focusing on soil fertility, managing variability and making informed decisions based on information from grid sampling, we used this process to identify and fix factors that were yield-limiting.

In an effort to conduct research on additional farming systems and soil types, 200 acres were added in Hastings, NE for the 2018 growing season.

An opportunity presented itself to expand into a sandy loam and high pH environment, so we added 33 acres in Central City in 2020 and 40 acres in Central City in 2021.

We have learned immensely through trial and error, grid soil samples, tissue samples, data, research and teamwork.

Our goal is pretty simple: help Aurora Cooperative’s farmers succeed one step at a time.

Owners Acres Mission Statement: To form a partnership with our producers to learn, grow and sustain agriculture.

PRAIRIE VALLEY

02

At Aurora Cooperative, we understand the uniqueness of your farm, no matter where it is across our beautiful state. That’s why four years ago, we brought back to life Prairie Valley seed, a formerly celebrated seed company and the perfect seed brand for Aurora Cooperative. Our new and improved seed under the brand, Prairie Valley, will help your farm reach new heights of success today and in the future with the most cutting-edge technology in seed innovation.

Prairie Valley started 70 years ago with humble beginnings. Aurora Cooperative revived and developed the Prairie Valley seed brand using historical data and research from our owners’ fields. We test all of our products and seeds in an eight-county seed zone, giving farmers a firsthand, tested and proven look at how our products perform in your local area. The Prairie Valley result is a seed with premier traits and genetics, making it the perfect fit for your field: The Seed For Where You Are.

Growth in Numbers

At Aurora Cooperative, we understand the uniqueness of your farm, no matter where it is across our beautiful state. That’s why four years ago we brought back to life Prairie Valley seed, a formerly celebrated seed company, and the perfect seed brand for Aurora Cooperative. Our new and improved seed under the brand, Prairie Valley, will help your farm reach new heights of success, today and in the future, with the most cutting edge technology in seed innovation. 

Prairie Valley started 70 years ago with humble beginnings. Aurora Cooperative revived and developed the Prairie Valley seed brand using historical data and research from our owners’ fields. We test all of our products and seeds in an 8-county seed zone, giving farmers a firsthand, tested and proven look at how our products perform in your local area. The Prairie Valley result is a seed with premier traits and genetics, making it the perfect fit for your field: The Seed For Where You Are.

What local really means outside of the data

This year, we took the chance to take a deep dive into our seed company, Prairie Valley. As with every year, our team was excited to see how our seeds performed with our wide array of hybrids and varieties across the Prairie Valley footprint. 

New to the team this year, Sam Larsen, Director of Prairie Valley Brand Strategy and Sales, was able to give us his thoughts on the brand.

 “Working at Prairie Valley has been the opportunity to pair a regional specific brand with the Western Corn Belt, and with local ownership, rooted in the same footprint. This connection will enable Prairie Valley to be flexible and also be able to change quickly in an evolving market locally, with strategic decisions made by people passionate about that area, because they are from these places.”

Prairie Valley will continue to develop in brand experience and distribution strategy, leveraging both the local retail market, and expanding independent farmer dealer relationships. As we grow, we will stay committed to our localized regional strategy, bringing a welcome approach to growers, as we focus on their needs first when we go to market.

Harvest brings many things, but perhaps what I’m most looking forward to is not only seeing the overall performance of our portfolio of products, but the realization of the Prairie Valley experience. What we have helped our growers do for their operation, and what we will continue to help them do, through the brand experience, is key.”

It’s clear that even from his short time being on the team, Sam has latched onto three of our biggest qualities as a seed company: Local, Relationships, and Performance. With those three attributes in mind, we are excited to be kicking off our new PV campaign, “The Seed For Where You Are” this fall. Based on all our grower feedback, this theme resonated with them, their farms, and most importantly helped draw them into learning more about what our PV seed brand has to offer.

Our regional badge concept is another new item we have created to keep our local message at the forefront. These regional badges will be images living within a seed zone our customers can relate to.

In the end, everything we do will continue to support our local message, our people that create meaningful relationships, and deliver unmatched, consistent product performance. We do these things very well and as a brand and a cooperative, we will continue to be successful. Prairie Valley – The Seed For Where You Are.

GRAIN

03

People are the most important part of our 2021 grain team. As grain made new investments in many areas, the number one asset we expanded upon was our team. Getting the right boots on the ground made for tremendous progress within the division. With the expansion of the three different millwright crews, we were able to address problems timely, efficiently and held dramatic cost savings to the cooperative and our patrons. This team, led by Nate Panko, took on the infrastructure and equipment rehabilitation to our Lincoln, Sedan and Grand Island locations. Many large repair projects that would have normally been taken on by outside vendors, were achieved by this group of outstanding individuals.

Aside from the millwright crew we realigned the structure by adding three area managers and an operations specialist. This gives the cooperative a better ability to be more efficient with grain handle, lines of communication with merchandising and origination and most importantly help redefine the safety culture.

“Over the last year, getting Superior East up and running was one of the largest achievements for the cooperative,” says Damon Kasselder, Director of Grain Merchandising and Origination. The Grain division also set grain records during harvest at Aurora West, taking in over 9.5 million corn bushels at harvest alone. 2021 was a year of change for the grain division as we continue to grow and move as a team. We look forward to the challenges and achievements the upcoming year will bring.

ANIMAL NUTRITION

04

In times of change and uncertainty, a familiar face can bring a sense of comfort.

“The animal nutrition team has worked to invest in communities and develop local talent. They care about those they are serving and want to do everything they can to help them succeed,”

says Andy Bowman, VP of Operations. Jefferson Keller, a native of St. Paul, is managing and working as a sales specialist at the St. Paul location. As a Hereford breeder, he has deep roots in Howard County and a passion for developing high-quality seedstock, a passion that will directly benefit the producers he consults. Jefferson has specifically taken his experiences in the show ring to help expand the A-Show team.

Cody Heinrich has years of experience and work ethic that has served him well as a member of the Animal Nutrition sales team. Cody has recently taken his skills and knowledge to the Upland location, as he serves as the location manager and sales specialist. Born and raised in South Central Nebraska, Cody knows the area and the producers like the back of his hand. In fact, most weekends you can find him in a field or in a pasture tending to his family’s operation near Franklin. He believes in the vitality of rural communities in his area, and he is working to provide the service and products that will allow those communities to thrive
for years to come. 

When we think about the history of agriculture, it’s hard not to have the image of “the cowboy” come to mind. Dru Melvin is a true cowboy, and as a member of the Animal Nutrition sales team, he has taken the Byron location under his saddle and brought new life to the mill. As a two-time NFR qualifier, he is committed to success. With that cowboy spirit and ethics, Dru is working eagerly to maintain tradition and simultaneously introduce producers to new information and processes. In a time of market volatility, ever changing political climates and worldwide pandemics, we’re on the hometown team with an unyielding loyalty to progressing the future of agriculture.

ENERGY

05

“Fuel the Cure” Results from the 2021 campaign.

 

“We had the fortunate opportunity to take part once again in the Fuel the Cure benefit. We believe in supporting ethanol through this promotion and bringing awareness to such a great cause,” says Bill Gowen, Vice President of Energy.

Fuel the Cure is an opportunity to raise awareness for breast cancer (and other cancers) by choosing cleaner-burning biofuel blends at the fuel pump.

During October, when drivers choose higher blends of ethanol like E15, E30 and E85 at participating retail locations, participating Nebraska gas stations will donate 3 cents per gallon with proceeds to benefit the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center. This year Aurora Cooperative donated $1,278.03. We want to thank everyone who participated in this event and made a difference for our state.

REAL FARM RESEARCH

06

All customer stats:

22 total testing sites this year

281 total acres, up 56 acres from the prior year

Number of unique trials

62 different customers we did research trials for

Real Farm Research had the ability to test several unique environments this year while experiencing many weather related challenges. In north central and northwest Kansas, conditions were extremely dry and hot. In the central part of Nebraska and up into Neligh, there was some greensnap to evaluate with the high wind challenges. Chad Hill, the RFR director said, “The good thing about extreme weather events in research, especially with hybrid evaluation, is that it allows you to see what can and can’t perform under extreme conditions.” The ability to see what greensnaps or what holds up well under heat stress is valuable information for the screening method done on hybrids. He said we don’t want it everywhere, but if we have a couple of events we can look at, we can see some trends with products and evaluate that across all the areas. The bad thing about extreme weather that Hill noted was more on our farmer-owners end. He never wants to see these extreme events for their sake and livelihood.

This year, RFR was able to lend a helping hand to an FFA group in the area and up at one of our location’s plots in South Dakota. The Hampton Nebraska FFA class works on some strip plots each year, and this year, RFR had the opportunity to help them harvest their plot and collect yield data for them. After helping with the end project, the RFR team has plans to help them redesign the layout of their plot and be more involved from start to finish. Also outside of their 22 locations, RFR was able to help our Mitchell and Tyndall, SD locations harvest their plots and collect yield data. 

“We were very busy at RFR this year with the large number of plots and locations that we were at in 2021. I was very proud of the RFR team for working hard and being able to provide our customers good reliable data to help make product decisions for the future,” says Chad Hill, Director of Real Farm Research.

SAFETY

07

The Safety & Risk Management department was full of new and exciting challenges this past year. To note a few:

 

Superior East Incident (10.30.20)

This is the biggest event on the list. The local fire department called it a “career fire” event. When the incident occurred, we immediately started working on
the problem. 

Safety – Our main goal with this event was safety, and we’re glad to say we made it through with zero injuries during the reconstruction. Great job to the entire span”> grain team for accomplishing this feat.

Rebuild – The elevator was able to take on the 2021 harvest and the Superior East team did a great job managing the process.

Insurance – The property and stock side of things are settled, and we are working through the business income side of things.

Kearney Dry Shed Fire (6.23.21)

This is only the second on the list because of the dollar amounts involved. Again, as the fire department says, a career fire event. Again, the incident occurred, and we immediately started working on the problem.

Safety – We have had zero injuries at this point.
The Kearney team is doing great.

Rebuild – The plan is to be ready to load dry for spring 2022 and we are on schedule to do so.

Insurance – All claims have been paid and settled.

SPCC – Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure for All Bulk Fuel Facilities

DHA’s – Dust Hazard Analysis for All Grain Elevators and Dry Fertilizer Sheds

Railroad Siding Inspections – Required by Insurance Loss Control

  • Numerous sidings repaired for future use.
  • Numerous sidings not in use are locked out to prevent possible railcar accidents.

DOT Scores – We Came in Below All Our
2021 Goals. Some Actually Came in at 0.00!

• These scores also determine the compliance of our trucking fleet.

• DOT stops with violations will make the score go up, while good DOT stops make the score go down.

    All Safety and Equipment Audits Were Completed by September 1.

    All Safety Policies Were Reviewed and Updated in November.

    We Conducted Successful Training for All CDL Drivers, and The Energy Team, Agronomy Team, Grain Team, Animal Nutrition Team
    and Ethanol Team.

    Our new team slogan is now, “Safety – Together We All Go Home”.

    “As you have seen, the Safety & Risk Management team has been rocking and rolling this past year.These are hard times for our employees, our community, our state and our country. We are deeply grateful for the patience, understanding and support our employees, customers and vendors have shown during these historic and turbulent times as we move into the next year,” says Shane Kluck, Vice President of Safety & Risk Management. Complete company safety will require the ultimate A-Team effort. The Safety and Risk Management Team values safety as our first priority and will continue to work closely with our employees, customers and vendors to ensure Aurora Cooperative Elevator Company is the safest and best it can possibly be: Safety: Together We All Go Home.

    ETHANOL

    08

    It’s safe to say 2021 challenged us as much as 2020. 
    We faced unheard of obstacles and changes, yet we shared in many successes throughout the year. Together we faced them all and moved forward. We offset the impact of COVID with effective protocols and we never suffered any production impacts from it. Still, we were forced to run pretty thin on staffing at times. Everyone came together, and some took on temporary roles to keep the corn coming in and products moving out.  

    The Arctic Blast in February, which affected millions of people throughout the Midwest, had its impact on us as well. While multiple facilities shut down in record low temperatures, we were able to adjust plant rates and keep the product moving. We were able to continue supplying feed to many of the cattle feeders in the area who were struggling to keep their herds fed.  

    Over the last year, we were able to get some much-needed repairs to plant equipment to help improve plant uptime and efficiency. The staff inside the plant remained diligent in adjusting the process. 

    We strive to always be adjusting and making things better than they were the day before.

    says Adam Neville, Ethanol Plant Manager. With this constant focus and fine tuning of the process, we’ve seen record alcohol and corn oil yields that would easily rival, if not surpass, some of the top producers in the industry. This has been no small task as it takes everyone doing their part and keeping attention on the details. In hindsight, the biggest success is that it was all done safely. In August, we hit two years with no lost time accidents. To put that in perspective, that is nearly 300,000 man-hours safely worked, which is no small feat. We’re proud of that record and our staff for making it happen.