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Opening opportunities

There’s no mistaking what industry dominates the tiny railroad town of Orrick, Mo. At any given time of day, the traffic here typically includes at least one tractor-trailer hauling corn and soybeans to the local elevator and often a spreader truck or sprayer heading to a nearby field.

Speaking of fields, there are plenty of them. Orrick is situated in Ray County, where nearly 75 percent of the land is in farms, according to the 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture.

This row-crop-rich location is what made MFA take notice when the town’s ag retailer and grain facility, Orrick Farm Service, went up for sale in 2017. MFA purchased the family-owned operation and reopened it Aug. 22 as Orrick MFA Agri Services. The location is now part of the River Valley Group, which also includes Agri Services in Higginsville, Levasy, Lexington, Norborne and Odessa.

“It’s a good fit for MFA,” said Ryan Brooks, River Valley’s general manager. “Adding the Orrick location expands our geographic footprint and opens up new opportunities in this area, both for farmers and for MFA.”

Orrick MFA is a full-service location with 1.6 million bushels of grain storage and dry, liquid and anhydrous fertilizer facilities. Its structures are positioned along the railroad tracks in downtown Orrick and include a seed warehouse, office and showroom, grain scale and elevator and additional storage buildings. Bulk and packaged seed, chemicals and anhydrous ammonia are available on site as well as feed and farm supply products. The main elevator and fertilizer building are located a couple of miles outside town.

The nearly 50-year-old business had a well-established presence in the market, but the transition to MFA control has been fairly smooth, said Seth Swindler, Orrick MFA Agri Services’ location manager. He said MFA’s extensive network of resources, assets and personnel offer benefits that Orrick customers didn’t have before.

“On the grain side of the business, we’re able to give growers more options in marketing,” Swindler said. “We have access to more products, such as the MorCorn and MorSoy seed lines and feeds with Shield Technology. And adoption of MFA precision programs continues to grow, especially our Crop-Trak and Nutri-Track services. There’s a lot of interest in it.”

Local farmer Jeff Nail, who raises 5,500 acres of corn and soybeans with his father, David, has some 1,500 acres enrolled in MFA’s Crop-Trak scouting program and is working with MFA’s agronomy personnel to host a replicated soybean trial in some “gumbo” ground on their farm this year. Nail said the most noticeable changes at Orrick under MFA management have been upgrades in facilities and equipment and faster turnover in grain-handling capacity.

“They put in an automatic probe at the grain scale, which really speeds up the process,” Nail said. “And when we got into harvest this fall, they were constantly moving grain to make room for what we had left in the field. Our experience has been great so far, and I’m hearing the same thing from other farmers.”

Employees such as Scooter Taber agree that the transition has gone well, pointing out that having access to MFA educational resources has been one of the most positive changes.

“We’ve had a lot of training since MFA took over, and that’s really helpful to me in my job,” said Taber, who interned at Orrick Farm Service before joining the staff full time six years ago. “And it’s good to know we have the support of MFA’s home office and field staff. If we don’t know the answer to a customer’s question, we can call on someone who will.”

Taber is among Orrick MFA’s 11 employees—most of whom transferred from the previous entity.

“We acquired a group of good, capable employees,” Swindler said. “Having their knowledge of the farms and people in the area has been invaluable.”

Orrick was also the first MFA facility with grain operations to implement the new Merchant Ag software, which is a robust platform for computerized point-of-sale and accounting operations. The remainder of the River Valley Group went online with the software in December, and the platform is now being deployed across MFA’s entire system.

Future plans at Orrick are to upgrade anhydrous facilities, install bulk bins for MFA complete feeds, overhaul buildings and continue upgrading the fleet of trucks and application equipment, Brooks said. Such enhancements will not only create efficiencies for the business but also its customers.

“We had some growing pains, and there are challenges ahead of us, but we want our customers to know just how much MFA has to offer,” he said. “We can bring the whole package to their farm. Change can be hard, but we’re committed to making this a change for the better.”

Click to view the story as printed in the March TF flipbook :


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