Award sponsored by Fertilizer Canada: Trish Meyers (left) accepts the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Agri-Retailer award from Cassandra Cotton of Fertilizer Canada.

Co-operative Retailing System

Trish Meyers, knowledge and innovation manager at Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL), believes that 4R Nutrient Stewardship allows agri-retailers to steer the conversation about sustainability in agriculture in a way that is good for their farmer customers.

“Farmers have been using 4R practices for a long time, we just haven’t had a name for it,” says Meyers. “The 4R program gives us a way to quantify what farmers are doing and lets us be in the driver’s seat to tell our good news story.”

Meyers says that is why the Co-operative Retailing System (CRS), comprised of FCL and Co-op retail locations across Western Canada, undertook a company-wide effort to take their commitment to 4R Nutrient Stewardship to the next level.

In late 2016, CRS achieved their initial 4R designation with four agronomists in the company completing the training course. One year later, the number of 4R designated agronomists at CRS had risen to over 25.

“Going from four to over 25 designated agronomists within a year didn’t just happen magically,” says Meyers. “It took hard work, commitment and buy-in from our entire team. Across the board, it was truly a team effort.”

That high level of effort and dedication throughout the company earned CRS the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Agri-Retailer award.

“It feels tremendous to be recognized for everything we’ve done – it’s truly an honour,” Meyers continues. “Looking back and seeing how far we’ve come makes me so proud of the teamwork we witnessed across the board.”

Looking back and seeing how far we’ve come makes me so proud of the teamwork we witnessed across the board.Trish Meyers

CRS spent significant time and resources ensuring all agronomists and internal stakeholders understood the principles behind 4R Nutrient Stewardship, and that they saw the economic, environmental and social value of the program.

Meyers says 4R was featured in numerous internal training and marketing initiatives including agronomic webinars, videos and newsletter articles. CRS also featured 4R at their Xtreme Innovation Field Trial event, which attracted over 350 visitors to the site including CRS agronomists, manufacturing partners, growers and 60 elementary school students. “

In the continuum of developing 4R within CRS, the first stopping point is our internal community. We all need to feel comfortable and proficient in 4R practices,” she says. “Now that we have achieved that, our next step is to expand grower outreach.”

Steve DeVries is an agronomist with CRS at the Neerlandia Co-op in central Alberta who took the 4R training before the formal push came from the company. Throughout 2017, he promoted nutrient stewardship among his coworkers.

“I’m not just a salesman. My job is to help growers be good stewards of their land, so I decided to do the 4R training on my own a couple of years ago,” he says. “This past year, I encouraged other agronomists I know across the company to take the training, but it’s not like I was twisting anybody’s arm. Everybody viewed it the same way.”

According to DeVries, the shared view among CRS’s agronomy team is that 4R Nutrient Stewardship will help the team have better conversations with their growers to help them make the best nutrient management decisions possible. “We want to help our customers leave the soil in good health for future generations,” says DeVries.

Now that the groundwork has been put in place, the CRS is beginning to promote nutrient stewardship among growers through grower meetings and other initiatives, and DeVries and his fellow agronomists will begin helping their customers count acres through the program and ensure they’re following 4R practices throughout the season.

When she accepted the award on behalf of CRS at the CAAR’s Choice Awards Banquet, Meyers kept her speech short and sweet.

“Thank you CAAR and thank you Fertilizer Canada. I don’t want to be cliché, but it really was a team effort,” she says. “We take 4R Nutrient Stewardship very seriously, because as the late John Harapiak often said, ‘If it’s good for the farmer, it’s good for us.’”

In lieu of their cash prize, a donation has been made on behalf of CRS to Agriculture in the Classroom Saskatchewan and Farm and Food Care Saskatchewan.

Do you know a CAAR member who deserves to be recognized? Click here to download application forms for the 2018 CAAR’s Choice Awards.

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