Apache Farmers’ Cooperative
In Apache, Oklahoma, Apache Farmers’ Cooperative (AFC) has been a fixture in the community, supporting local farmers, large and small, and area families for more than 96 years. Serving central and western Oklahoma the cooperative’s core business lines are wheat storage, crop spraying and feed sales and AFC has steadily expanded its services since incorporating in 1920.
AFC formed like most cooperatives do, in an effort to leverage greater purchasing power and allow area farmers to pool resources. Since inception, AFC’s mission has been based on contributing to its members’ bottom line by providing pertinent industry information and guidance that allow producers to manage the many risks incurred in the farming and ranching industry.
Key division management
Today the 1,200-member cooperative has four locations — Apache, Chickasha, Elgin, Fort Cobb — each specializing in different facets, including grain storage, fertilizer and feed — both bag and bulk, minerals, animal health supplies and medicine, pet supplies, hardware supplies, propane service and supplies, water well pumps, pressure tanks and more. AFC also deploys a large chemical and liquid fertilizer application operation.
AFC currently has 46 full-time employees. Key management team members ensure each division runs smoothly. Alvin Beene is the location manager at Fort Cobb. Alvin has been with AFC for 18 years and oversees two fertilizer trucks and overall day to day business.
Shane Taliaferro is the Elgin location manager. Having for worked for AFC for three years, he oversees the operation of two Case spray floater trucks. Chickasha manager Doug Krey started in February 2016. He and his team oversees two JD row crop sprayers and a fertilizer rig. Dustin Hooper, who has been at the AFC agronomy center for a number of years as a row crop operator, has just recently transferred to the Chickasha location to lead the agronomy division.
Sherman Austin is AFC’s grain manager in Apache. He oversees companywide grain handling and has 21 years of experience with AFC. Also in Apache is Kevin McCray. Kevin is a long time leader in the coop organization with 24 years of dedicated service. He serves as the Apache location manager and oversees all fertilizer purchases and day to day operation at the apache location.
AFC’s agronomy center is located in Apache at the main location. Denise Crow, who has 10 years of service under her belt, manages the agronomy center. This division operates two JD row crop sprayers, three case floater sprayers and one spinner fertilizer truck. AFC also serves the community with service that include fuel, Napa store and the AFC tire shop which are all located in Apache.
Familiar to the farm
Greg McClure, the newly appointed CEO of AFC, says the cooperative’s mission is to serve farmers and help them manage all the different elements that can be thrown their direction. “If you are the farming business you know things can change in an instant,” he says. “For the most part these are things that the farmer has no control over. We, at AFC, want to be here for our loyal customers through all the ups and downs that may come their way.”
McClure adds: “If you’re in the farming industry now it’s tough; it doesn’t matter what sector you’re in.”
Despite recent challenges, the wheat harvest yield was been good. “We took in 1.15 million bushels this year and we have capacity to store 2.6 million bushels,” he says. “We our optimistically hopeful for positive movement in wheat sales late January through March and some of the fall crops are looking descent. A timely rain could make a big difference for the fall crop season.”
When margins are low, AFC is there to support farmers and help them make the most out of their operations. “I was raised on a small cattle farm and my family was also in the hay business, so I’ve seen the struggles that farmers go through,” says McClure.
After 20 years in the farm equipment business, McClure decided to uproot, broaden his horizons and learn a new aspect of the farming industry. “It’s a bit of a learning curve because this is my first time working with a cooperative,” he says.
McClure might be new to the cooperative model, but his 20 years in the equipment business helped him learn how to manage multiple locations, work with employees and understand what it’s like to be in their shoes. “We must educate and share information with our managers and their employees about how their stores are preforming so that changes can be made in areas and they can better manage their business and have the same common goal companywide,” he says. “The breakdown in relationships, whether it is with employees or customers, is usually a lack of truthful communication.”
Enhanced risk-management services
After 96 years, AFC continues to find ways to better serve its customers. “We offer fertilizer and chemical spray, doing custom applications and we have a fuel station and delivery service, as well as bagged and bulk feed. We’re into a little bit of everything,” says McClure. “We keep a good supply of inventory in stock at each location so farmers don’t have to go far to get what they need.”
“Overall, customer service is what makes a business,” adds McClure. “Our excellent service allows farmers to get the job done in a timely fashion and increase their profit.”
In 2013 AFC expanded, creating AgRM&I Agency LLC as a wholly owned subsidiary of AFC to meet the growing demand for risk management and insurance. Davey Jones was the first licensed agent and now AgRM&I Agency has 11 agents conducting business in four states. “Benefits paid out to customers in the form of claims over the past 12 months are in excess of $9 million,” says McClure.
In addition to risk management services and insurance, one of the largest components of AFC’s business is a fertilizer and chemical spraying operation. “We do custom field applications,” says McClure.
These services help farmers maximize yields and compete in a tough marketplace. “Right now the farming economy and the economy overall is not the best,” say McClure. “Our goal is to continue to help farmers get through hard times and work with them to lessen the gap.”
Not only does AFC have a strong sense of duty to serve member-farmers, it also supports employees and their families. “We’re responsible for feeding a lot of families,” says McClure. “We want to offer a quality place to work with health care, benefits and retirement. You must create a positive and heathy working environment for your employees so that they will feel appreciated and want to go the extra mile for the business and the customers.” AFC also makes a point to give back to the farm community as a strong supporter of area 4-H, National FFA Organization chapters and local schools.
With such market turbulence lately, McClure has a cautiously optimistic view for the next few years. “It all depends on the economy and grain prices, but we will ride the downturn and come out on the other side,” he says. “As a cooperative, we can do a better job in marketing our feed sales and overall services to pull through.”
No matter the marketplace, continuing to meet the needs of customers will always be top priority for AFC. “As we move ahead we look forward to expanding our operation, adding to our salesforce through careful selection of the right personnel with excellent training and continuing our passion for helping people manage the risk they face in their individual operations,” says McClure.
As Apache Farmers’ Cooperative builds on 96 years in business, the organization upholds its commitment to excellent service and support for local agriculture and communities in Oklahoma.