Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Employee commitment - consistency in an ever-changing industry

By Melissa Woeppel, Communications Intern

As farming and technology continue to change, cooperatives must change as well in order to remain viable in the agriculture industry of today. Amid the change, however, loyalty and commitment from employees is an incomparable advantage for the co-op. MKC is fortunate to have employees who continue to help the co-op supply quality inputs and services and market our customers' products, resulting in the profitability of all.

Dianne Gilfillan, Grain Coordinator at Talmage, is just one example of such an employee. Growing up on a farm, Dianne has found memories of the local co-op where her dad would do his business with grain, feed and coal, and later on fuel and crop nutrient and protection products. For the past 32 years, Gilfillan has been working in the cooperative system. She started in May 1976 and left when her husband’s work moved the family to Oklahoma City, OK in 1978. After moving back to Abilene in 1981, she received a call asking her to come back to work. "I jumped at the chance!" admitted Gilfillan. She began work as a counter person on June 1, 1981. After the grain bookkeeper retired in 1985, she moved into grain accounting.

When asked what has kept her in the cooperative system, Gilfillan replied, "I have stayed with the cooperative because I enjoy what I do. I enjoy the producers, employees, and the benefits that come with the job." Harvest is her favorite time, as she gets to work at the scales and interact with the producers, thanking them for their business. At the scales, they work as late as the producers want and sometimes that means midnight or later.

"I remember one harvest when I was getting worn down, through the course of the day looked down at my feet and realized I had two different shoes on! I think I got that night off," she said.

In her time as an employee, Gilfillan has noticed and been part of many changes in the ag industry. When she first started working harvest, she stood at the scale for hours weighing trucks, writing tickets and calculating each one by hand. Then she would enter the tickets into big ledger books and balance them there.

"The first computer I used, called a CRT, had a green screen and everything entered was coded in a sequence of numbers and dots, no alpha. Now - Agtrax, AgWork and GP are the systems we are using today, what changes!" Gilfillan said.

Dwight Knackstedt is another employee who has been in the cooperative system
for a number of years. Like Gilfillan, he was also raised on a farm and familiar with the agricultural way of life. Choosing a career in agriculture was natural for Knackstedt. Starting at MKC in January of 1992, he has worked as a certified sprayer spreader operator for the past 21 years. He works out of the Groveland location.

In addition to enjoying his work outside, Knackstedt enjoys the people he works with. He especially appreciates the quality of character in other MKC employees. "Working with customers and having good co-workers has kept me in the cooperative system," he said.

Over the past 21 years, he has also been a part of changes in the industry. Ag equipment has advanced rapidly. "Spray rigs have gone from 60’ booms to 120’ booms or more," Knackstedt added. Another big improvement is the auto steer technology he said, noting the advancements have been necessary to keep up with farmers and producers. Knackstedt explained that while the advancements make the job easier, the sprayers also have many more acres to cover.

Both Knackstedt and Gilfillan recognize the importance of change to the industry. "When I started at the co-op, there was one in every little town. They tried to compete against one another and look at us now. I am amazed at the size that MKC is, the territory it encompasses," said Gilfillan. Knackstedt also acknowledged this and finds that customer service has a much larger emphasis now than it did in the past. "We bend over backwards for a lot of people, but I think that’s a good thing," Knackstedt added.

As Gilfillan pointed out, "It’s all about change. If you don’t change, you’re falling behind!"

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