Monday, October 27, 2014

It's More than Just a Telephone - Technology Continues to Change How We Do Business

By Nichole Gouldie, Communications Specialist
What quacks like a duck and tells you when MKC is leaving your field?

That would be an MKC customer’s cell phone.

While your phone may not quack like a duck, you can receive notification within minutes of when MKC completes your customer application order.

Last August MKC launched the customer notification system. The first of its kind, this system brings a new level of communication to MKC customers. Using an electronic tabloid in spray rigs, rig drivers use technology to notify customers via email or text message letting the producer know their field has been sprayed.

Recently, Ryan Patrick received a text message from MKC notifying him his milo field scheduled to be sprayed was complete. Patrick, who operates a diversified crop and cow-calf operation near Lindsborg, recalls working in their shop fixing equipment that was down when he received the text message.

“It’s convenient to receive these notifications,” Patrick says. “Especially when you aren’t around the day your field is being sprayed, you know the job got done. It is especially beneficial when I am trying to plan other jobs that need done on the farm instead of waiting and wondering exactly when my field got sprayed.”

According to Shane Eck, senior location manager for MKC, more than 500 producers are currently signed-up for the electronic notification. Eck commented the system eliminates the producer having the unknown of their spray order.

McPherson County producer Larry Dahlsten appreciates the promptness of the notification system. “I don’t have to wonder if my spraying got done today or tomorrow, or take the time to drive out to the field to look for tracks,” he says.

For Dahlsten and Patrick, a partner and source of expertise in technology is MKC. “The application notification system is one more way MKC is providing efficiencies and expertise using technology for its’ customers,” Eck says.

Patrick is the first to admit technology isn’t at the top of his list of priorities. “I still have a flip phone,” Patrick chuckled. “I leave being up-to-date in the area of technology up to the co-op.”

Today, the cell phone is more than just a telephone for Dahlsten. He uses it for markets, weather, communicating via text message and much more.

“It isn’t always easy to learn [technology] but it has a lot of benefits,” Dahlsten says. Dahlsten tries to keep up with the technology the younger generation uses and he laughed as he admitted it is difficult at times. Besides the application notification system through MKC, he uses precision ag and enjoys staying up-to-date through MKC’s Facebook page.

“Most producers, regardless of size, see the benefit in using technology,” Eck added. “The customer notification system is just one more way MKC is enhancing the customer service experience for our customers.”

The equipment has not yet been installed at MKC’s northern locations including Alta Vista, Onaga, Westmoreland and Manhattan. Customers in these areas can plan to see this technology offered from MKC in the near future. To sign-up for notifications, contact your field marketer or nearest MKC location.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Enhancing the Overall Customer Experience

By Dave Christiansen, President and CEO

How to enhance the overall customer experience is one initiative that continues to rise to the top in our strategic planning sessions now held twice a year. Initially, the challenge with an initiative like this was creating a clear definition that would be actionable. First it meant we needed to make certain our company was easy for our customers to do business with. Secondly, when the customer did do business with us, they would be left with the feeling they selected the right partner.  

One of the challenges to executing an initiative like this is we have to be willing to challenge virtually everything we are doing today, regardless of how well we think we are doing.  We must go to our customers and ask the terrifying question, “How well are we doing?”  Only then, and only if we really listen, can we get the information that will lead us to start making the changes customers say will set us apart from everyone else who is wanting their business.  

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

October is National Co-op Month

Do you remember why you chose membership with your local cooperative? It may be among many reasons shared by 130 million people who have also chosen cooperatives, but it most likely has something to do with the common philosophy of people helping people.

Cooperatives have a rich and diverse history in the United States and around the world. Ben Franklin is credited with bringing the cooperative enterprise to America in 1752 when he and fellow Philadelphians founded the first mutual insurance company in the country.

Cooperatives operate across all sectors and include agriculture, food distribution and retailing, childcare, credit unions, purchasing, worker-owned, housing, health care, energy and telecommunications cooperatives.

Despite their diversity, co-ops are guided by shared values and principles including democracy, self-help and social responsibility. They exist to serve their members, and that level of service remains high even during even the toughest times. Instead of issuing stock or paying dividends to outside shareholders, co-ops provide value to their members through their level of customer service and membership checks at the end of each year.

According to the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA), there are nearly 30,000 co-ops in the U.S., serving more than one in every four Americans. Around the world, an estimated 1 billion people are members of co-ops.

"Every day, MKC works to demonstrate cooperative enterprises build a better world," states Dave Christiansen, MKC’s President and CEO. "Not only do we provide product and services to help our members succeed, but we believe we are helping to strengthen our communities through our people, jobs, services and community involvement."

As part of the month-long celebration, MKC hosted a coloring contest for kindergarten through 4th grade students. Fifty-six schools received a packet from MKC containing a supply of coloring sheets and information on the cooperative system to use as education tools in their classrooms .
Prizes will be awarded to 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners in each age group. Winning entries will be posted on www.mkcoop.com and featured on MKC's social media sites throughout the month.  
 
 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Farm Safety for the Next Generation

By Melissa Woeppel, Communications Intern

There are so many adventures to be had when you’re a kid on the farm. But those adventures can come with risks.

According to Farm Safety for Just Kids, “one child dies every three days on a farm. Every day 38 kids are injured in an agricultural related accident.” In 2012, over 7,700 kids were injured on a farm.

To help keep youth safe and reduce these statistics, the McPherson County Farm Bureau and K-State Research and Extension McPherson County joined forces more than 15 years ago to host a farm safety day camp. The annual program raises awareness of safety hazards for youth ages 8 to 11 to learn more about rural dangers, specifically on the farm. MKC has helped sponsor this event for the past seven years.

While many youth are taught safe farm practices at home, farm safety programming reinforces the importance of safety. “As producers, we know we work in a hazardous environment. Even though we try and teach our youth to be safe, hearing it again from another person in their community may be
what is needed for the message to sink in and help keep them safe,” said Jonie James, agriculture and natural resources agent for McPherson County.

Eighty-three youth attended the 2014 day camp on June 12 at the McPherson County Fairgrounds. The program began with an accident demonstration and mock helicopter rescue. Following the demonstration, participants were able to look at the helicopter up close, which was the highlight of the camp for many.

Campers do not have to be children who live on a farm to benefit from the educational sessions, said James.

The seven, hands-on safety sessions included lessons on harvest, pesticides, electrical, PTOs and hydraulics, ATV and utility vehicles, fire, emergency and lawn equipment.

“Promoting safe practices for all ages on the farm is important to us,” states Kerry Watson, director of communications for MKC. “The McPherson County Day Camp is just one example of the programs we support. Most recently we teamed up with Nationwide Agribusiness and the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety to provide a grain bin safety program for producers, employees, and first responders.”

 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Renewing Our Infrastructure

By Nichole Gouldie, Communications Specialist

Recognizing the need for new locations and making upgrades to current facilities allows MKC to keep pace with the growing needs of the producer. As MKC has continued to focus on renewing infrastructure this past year, the cooperative has invested more than $16 million dollars across its trade territory.

Jon Brown, director of facility management for MKC, has overseen each of the projects. “Meeting our customers’ needs and improving the customer experience has been the driver behind these projects,” Brown says. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Participants Sought for New Leader Forum

By Kerry Watson, Director of Communications

MKC is entering its tenth year of sponsoring participants to attend the New Leader Forum, held in conjunction with the CHS Annual Meeting. This year’s event will be held December 3-5 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Over the course of the forum, participants examine in-depth issues and challenges facing cooperatives, agricultural and rural America, as well as learn ways to build their leadership skills to benefit their cooperatives and communities. Sessions feature top-notch professional speakers and agribusiness experts. The conference is geared towards individuals and/or couples, ages 25 to 45 years.

Since 2004, MKC has sponsored 89 participants. Ben and Tina Schrag of Canton attended the event in 2013. "For me it was a great educational experience," said Ben. "I learned how MKC fits in with larger cooperatives’ grain distribution, not only in the United States, but internationally as well." Schrag also commented on the value of networking with other MKC customers who attended the event. "I didn’t know them before attending the Forum and still keep in touch with them today."

If you are interested in being considered for participation in the 2014 New Leader Forum, please contact a field marketer or Nichole Gouldie at 620-345-4119.

2009 Participants
(Left to right): Matt & Daisy Friesen, Josh & Emily Regier and
Mike and Angie Maloney.

2011 Participants
Back row: Kent Nichols, Devin Sheriling, Jon Brown
Front row: Amber Brown, Katie and Derek Sawyer, Doug Graber and Aaron Vogts.
 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Legislative Staff Members Spend Day at MKC

By Kerry Watson, Director of Communications

In its inaugural Legislative Staff Day on August 15, MKC hosted five staff members from Kansas House and Senate offices providing a firsthand look at the breadth of services provided by MKC. The full-day event included discussions with MKC employees and a tour of facilities at Groveland and Canton.

"We know it’s critically important to host congressional staff so they can see up close the facilities and services we provide to our members and their constituents," said Dave Spears, vice president of marketing. "Staff members are often the first point of contact for the constituents of their members of Congress. This visit was a great opportunity for the staff to gain a better understanding of MKC and the cooperative system."

Mel Thompson, state agriculture representative for Senator Pat Roberts, noted having contacts in the industry is invaluable. "MKC is a class act. You’ve succeeded in the peaks and valleys," said Thompson. "Thanks for being a partner to serve your members and our constituents and representing agriculture."

 
Staff members attending the event included John Sachse and Judd Gardner with Senator Jerry Moran, Steven Howe with Congressman Tim Huelskamp, Rachel DeGarmo with Congressman Mike Pompeo and Mel Thompson with Senator Pat Roberts.

During the site tours, congressional staff gained a better understanding of how technology is used in the grain and agronomy industry.


Backrow (left to right): Ted Schultz with TMA, Devin Schierling with TMA, John Sachse with Senator Moran, Judd Gardner with Senator Moran, Steven Howe with Congressman Huelskamp and Dave Spears with MKC.  Frontrow (left to right): Kerry Watson with MKC, Rachel DeGarmo with Congressman Pompeo, Mel Thompson with Senator Roberts and Danny Posch with MKC.