Archive | November 2010

Territory Tour Day 6

November 12, 2010

Good morning, everyone! And by good morning, I mean VERY good morning! I’m putting this together slightly before 4 a.m. on Friday so I can hit the road and be back in HQ by this afternoon. Haven’t seen my wife and stepson since Sunday, so I’m eager to spend some family time with them. This has been one amazing trip. I’ve covered close to 2,000 miles since I left Dodge City Sunday evening, and I’ve met dozens of people that have helped expand my knowledge of what we do as a company, and put a human face on those that depend on our knowledge and expertise.

What I think is interesting is when I asked the territory managers the hardest part about giving up the daily field work, each one had the same answer: growers who had become friends rather than simply clients.

The hospitality shown by everyone was equally impressive. Honest, hard working people who were more than happy to sit down and talk a bit, but weren’t afraid to call it like they saw it. Very refreshing as a person who formerly had to cover crime and government for newspapers…

So, while I hit the road for a 10.5 hour drive back home, please enjoy the round up of the photos and videos over this past week!

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and the videos

Territory Tour Day 5

November 11, 2010

Before we get into today’s post, everyone here at Servi-Tech would like to offer up their sincere, heart-felt thanks to everyone who has ever served — and is still serving — in our armed forces. It’s through your bravery that we are all able to live in the best country in the world. God bless you, and thank you for all of your sacrifices.

After leaving the freezing drizzle and dreary skies behind in northeast Nebraska, I cut across the center of Iowa yesterday evening into the heart of Iowa. Over the past week I’d been having issues with receiving calls on my cell phone. For whatever reason calls weren’t coming in, but all calls were going out. After talking on the phone with customer support for over an hour (and a sincere thanks to AT&T Wireless customer support who were very helpful), we finally figured out it was a hardware issue. Unfortunately, the closest corporate store was in Des Moines. An hour out of my way. So, I took an extra little side trip into Des Moines late evening last night to make sure work could actually get a hold of me! Great costumer service all around though, so thank you to everyone at Apple and AT&T.

A place I didn't expect to end up on this trip: a mall

So, I got into Iowa Falls a little later than I originally planned. Determined to stay on schedule with the guys I was visiting, I was up bright and early, greeted by a surprisingly warm Iowa fall morning. Bright sunshine not a gust of wind and not a cloud in the sky. I had a 15 minute drive out to Ackley, where our Iowa territory manager, Norb Boyle, lives. I really can’t describe how nice the weather was today.

And bright. Very bright.

Weather has been perfect for harvest up in this area of the country, so that almost everyone was at least a month ahead of schedule. Normally, our guys would be in a whirlwind of grid sampling right after growers were pulling the crops out of the fields, not only were fields harvested; grid sampling was almost all done and growers had already begun working the fields for the next growing season. Because our guys up Iowa are awesome, though, within a few minutes of me showing up some of our agronomists manager to sign up about 500 more acres for grid sampling before the ground gets too cold. To give me an even more hands on experience, Norb (our territory manager) set me up on a four-wheeler with the GPS technology and sent me on a test run of an already-sampled field. That way, a goofy media guy like me couldn’t mess anything else.

With an extra helper!

I got to use the mapping software, create a small (one acre) perimeter and pull some samples. Now granted, these samples were then dropped back into the field and the map I made discarded, but it was unbelievably cool to be able to sit down at the throttle of the ATV and do at least SOME of the work that our agronomists do. These guys are hardcore. The more time I spend out in the field, the more and more respect I get for the work they do for their growers. Let no one say an agronomist is a cushy job. At least, not if you’re doing it right!

And yeah, I'm biased, but our guys do it right.

We had the chance to jaw with a couple of the area’s producers, which I always enjoy. As a former newspaper guy, one of the things I love most about my job is getting to visit with the more-than-200 employees working for Servi-Tech. But then, when I get to head out in to the field with the guys or hang out at the labs, I get to meet the people who actually allow us to do the jobs that we do. That’s just killer. Never before have I met such great people, that really know how to have a great conversation. And if you ever want to meet someone whose livelihood is more than a career but a lifestyle, growers are the people to meet.

From there we took a look at some other fields while Norb filled me on the major differences in farming up in Iowa (me being a southwest Kansas boy, born and bred). Similar to the conversations I got to have with Rick and Pete earlier this week, I got to pick Norb’s brain a bit on the daily life of a territory manager and how things have changed from being a fieldman. One major difference I got to experience right up close: The juggling of equipment. One of our agronomists needed to drop off an ATV that needed repaired, so we met him about halfway and made the trade-off.

A chilly in the evening, however.

As the sun was setting on my final day visiting three of our five territory managers, manager to snap a couple of photos through the windshield of Norb’s truck.

A very special thanks to Norb Boyle and Corey Fairley for letting me get in their way today! Everyone has been amazingly hospitable.

Territory Tour Day 4

November 10, 2010

Spent the day out with some of our guys in the Oakland, Nebraska area pulling some soil samples for a grid plot we’re working on. From there, we’ll analyze the results, put it to a satellite map of the grower’s field and show them the variable information across each area he farms. It’s pretty unbelievable how high-tech we’re getting in agriculture in this day and age. By using this technology, more producers can be judicious about how they apply their water, fertilizer and seeds.

Sounds like those of us in ag are making the planet more productive aren’t we?

It’s a pretty fascinating process, actually. The agronomist gets onto a four-wheeler that is fully equipped with the GPS equipment necessary to do the mapping. After going through a couple set-up screens on their handheld (what you notice Doug is poking at in the above photo), the agronomist takes a tour around the perimeter of the field to map the edges of where he’ll be pulling samples. Once the field is mapped, the agronomist goes through a couple more menus. During this time they’ll tell their computer how often he or she would like the points placed. Standard is points every  2.5 or 4 acres, at seven-inch soil depth.

Once the points are mapped (they pop up on the screen with handy little dots where the agronomist should pull your samples), they then head from dot to dot on their four-wheeler, pulling several soil cores at each spot. Each spot goes into one bag, which is then documented and placed into whatever storage container they’re using. Depending on how large the field is, it can take 20 minutes to a couple of hours. For extra large jobs, we’ll send in reinforcements to help the project leader be more efficient while maintaining high-quality samples and solid data results. Rushing isn’t ideal here.

When all the samples are pulled, they get sent to our lab (either in Dodge City, Hastings, or Amarillo) where a gamut of tests are run. Those results are then sent to one of our go-to-guys on the GPS team here within Servi-Tech. They’ll take the data and use a special program to map out the varying information into several maps, then overlay it on the original satellite image of field. Pretty high-tech, no?

In areas with varying soil types and fertility ratios, grid sampling, field mapping, variable rate irrigation, variable rate application, etc. are becoming a must-have for many producers. And while initial costs can be daunting (purchasing of the equipment that can do variable rate applications), over the long haul you can see a dramatic increase in productivity, reduction in waste and higher yields. In fact, it’s one of the fastest growing markets within crop production, at least within the Midwest area that we tend to cover.


Territory Tour Day 3

November 9, 2010

Went around and visited some ag retailers this morning and talked to some agrnomists. Spent a good chunk of time on the road. Not much to update today!

Just a couple of videos!

Territory Tour Day 2

November 8, 2010

Spent a nice afternoon shadowing our Territory 31 manager, Rick Runyan. While we got some of the “behind the scenes” management work done, what I really enjoyed was having the hours of a captive audience. Or rather, a captive interviewee, as I was able to pick Rick’s brain about agronomy, why he came to work for Servi-Tech and a day in the life of a territory manager.

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Territory Tour Day 1

Monday, November 7, 2010

I pulled into Ainsworth, NE late last night tonight so I could pay a visit to Rick Runyan, our territory manager for the western half of the state. My goal this week is to pay a visit to three of our five territories and spend a day out in the field with them. I’ve had the pleasure of spending some time with our agronomists, but this will be my first time to get a close-up look at the responsibilities of our territory managers.

As I crossed the state line from Kansas into Nebraska, I noticed how the landscape completely changes now that everything has been harvested and the ground is preparing to go to sleep.

There was some gorgeous scenery north of the Interstate, heading north to Ainsworth. Had the advantage of some time to set aside to catch some photos of some splashes of green wheat amongst the browns and grays surrounding the hills. I’ve become convinced there’s nothing so achingly beautiful than a sunset in rural Nebraska.

Check back in tomorrow for interviews with our territory manager and more!

— Mark