CAAR and the PCCA board are equipping agronomists with the skills retailers want.

When news reached the Prairie Certified Crop Adviser (PCCA) board that Mitch Rezansoff had joined CAAR as executive director, board chair Curtis Cavers invited him to become PCCA’s retail industry representative. Rezansoff accepted, and joined the board for his first meeting in March.

“We approached Mitch fairly quickly to get together to discuss his new role and to discuss what synergies we have,” says Cavers. “Beyond just filling a vacancy on the board, we were really interested in re-establishing the relationship between our two groups to meet the needs of both of our memberships by working together.”

CAAR has traditionally had a representative on the PCCA board, “since its inception,” says Cavers, adding that the position had been vacant over the past year, making this the perfect time for the two groups to re-establish ties. Rezansoff says it’s common sense for the two groups to collaborate with each other, since the majority of CAAR’s members have agronomists on staff.

“Through CAAR, the PCCA group will have a better understanding of what retailers are looking for in agronomists, and what they will be looking for in the future as customer needs change,” says Rezansoff. “It’s mutually beneficial that we understand each other’s perspectives and anticipate what farm customers’ future demands will be, so we can craft the right skillsets to meet those demands.”

Merging Agronomy with Technology

One mutual priority CAAR and the PCCA board have identified is the need for retailers and agronomists to better understand how agronomy and technology work together.

“In order to be a valued farm consultant, you need to understand the tools the farmer is employing within the operation,” says Rezansoff. “A lot of times, agronomists are developing electronic prescriptions for farms. You can go awry if you don’t understand the capability and parameters of the equipment technology being utilized.”

Rezansoff says insufficient understanding of technology can lead to unsatisfactory farm customer experiences, unmet expectations of the agronomist and, by extension, the retailer. This is one undesirable scenario the PCCA board and CAAR are proactively working to avoid as they collaborate to ensure agronomists have the capability to meet grower expectations today and in the future.

“Whether it’s variable rate application of fertilizer or pesticides, their desire is to manage the farm at a much smaller level than field by field. The goal is to manage the farm on an acre or zone basis or smaller,” he says. “Farmers are saying to their agronomists, ‘Help me better understand and manage my land,’ and support the advantage of their equipment’s capabilities to achieve improved return on investment of all inputs.”

Adding Value Through Skills

One of the ways Cavers says the two groups will build the capacity for agronomists to meet evolving grower needs is by expanding continuing education opportunities for CCAs.

“We’re looking at how we can share learning opportunities between our groups to give CCAs more chances to develop their skills and earn CEUs,” says Cavers. “PCCA is also working on specialty designations for CCAs to demonstrate their capabilities in key areas employers and their customers are looking for.”

Cavers says PCCA has a 4R Nutrient Stewardship specialty designation currently in development, and there is potential for training and specialty designation in many other areas based on evolving grower needs, including precision agriculture and integrated pest management.

Along with providing development opportunities for established CCAs, Rezansoff says a priority for the two groups is to ensure new agronomists entering the workforce are equipped with both the right hard and soft skills to succeed in a retail setting.

“We’re looking at putting together a one to three year development plan,” says Rezansoff. “You don’t just pass the CCA exam and that’s the end of it. There is a fair bit of mentoring that goes on. So, we’re considering the best mediums for that to take place through.”

Growing in the Future

Through his position on the PCCA board, Rezansoff will continue to bring the voice of ag retailers to the table and represent their interests as the board makes decisions about the CCA program. He believes that as the relationship grows, the benefit to CAAR and PCCA members will be substantial, and the feeling is mutual.

“It will take a bit of time to get things re-established, but things are falling into place,” says Cavers. “We’re very optimistic to have a renewed working relationship with CAAR. This will lead to tangible benefits to all CCAs, their employers and their customers.”

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