Farmers Cooperative Society: Helping Members Grow for Over a Century

A small group of Iowa farmers came together in 1906 to build a cooperative that would help boost sales and marketing capabilities, offering financial benefits to members. Now, over 100 years later, Farmers Cooperative Society (FCS) continues helping farmers manage crops and finances. The Sioux City-based cooperative has grown from its northwest Iowa beginnings, partnering with producers for mutual success in its home state, as well as Minnesota, South Dakota and Nebraska.

FCS is overseen by a board of directors, led by Marvin Mynia, president of the coop, and run on a day-to-day basis by Ken Ehrp, general manager; Stan Feekes, assistant manager and agronomy division manager; and John Hansen, grain division manager. Numerous operations, resources and production specialists aid them. Together, the executive staff at FCS holds deep experience and extensive capabilities.

Feekes, for one, has been in the business for decades. He started working with the cooperative in school, sweeping floors. He stayed on after graduating and worked his way up the ranks. His familiarity with the industry and the coop’s members has been integral to his success in leadership. He touts the ability to build relationships as the single largest factor in the continued longevity of FCS.

A Full-service, Constantly Evolving Operation

FCS offers many of the same services as other cooperatives dealing with grain and feed growers, with the added benefit of longevity and the connections that come with it. The FCS team of over 150 takes a full-service approach, helping farmers throughout every stage and process on the farm. The team is focused on helping farmers set and achieve goals while increasing profitability. A case-by-case, site-specific program is standard, because FCS recognizes every farm and every piece of land is unique.

The agronomy division offers flexible services to fit changing growers’ needs. Members look to FCS for a range of growing supplies. The team offers a range of bulk seed, custom seed treatments and value-added seed programs, as well as seed supplies from companies representing diverse genetics; this opens up farmers’ crop options to include all natural as well as genetically modified stock, the latter of which, Feekes notes, has gotten a bad rap over the last few decades by a series of green urban myths. Custom variable-rate application equipment, nutrient plans based around grid sampling and crop-protection/chemical products are all available through the cooperative. Members can also take advantage of planning assistance and consulting services through the agronomy department’s experienced team.

The team also offers beneficial storage and building supply services to members. FCS’s How-To Building Center in Sioux City offers all the same materials and services as the big-box hardware stores, without the hassle of travel or ordering online. By keeping common supplies in stock, FCS is able to provide a one-stop shop for farmers. If members need something that is not in stock, the team can put in an order. With competitive pricing from bulk buying power and easy access to a range of products, FCS offers big benefits for growing farms.

Once corn and soybean crops have been harvested, FCS’s grain department strives continually to provide customers competitive markets, along with simple, easy to understand marketing tools and contracts with no hidden surprises. Finally, FCS maintains a feed division that runs five HAACP-certified mills, supplying products and services tailored to the nutritional needs of livestock, swine or cattle, because the team understands the importance of feedstuff sampling, ration balancing, and feedlot performance analysis.

A Step Above the Rest

FCS sets itself apart from other coops with its longevity and long-term loyalty with members. “The lasting and standing relationships between our cooperative and our farmers is critical,” says Feekes. “The main difference between FCS and other cooperatives is that we are on board with new technology. We work with our farmers to adapt to these processes.” These advancements, like GPS planning and advanced equipment and machinery, have been integral to streamlining farm operations, boosting efficiency and profitability for the coop’s members. “The technology is what has changed,” reinforces Feekes. “With new technology come new adaptations. The constant is our relationships, and the way farming is handled here will always remain the same.”

FCS celebrated 100 years of service in 2007, and Feekes says the team continues to grow after all this time. The business fared well throughout the recession with no layoffs and record-setting profits over the last few years. The biggest challenge has been drought, and many communities in the Dakotas and surrounding states are struggling with grains. The team is looking to expand grain import into these regions to make up for a recent shortage.

The cooperative is invested in farmers and communities, and the team takes local involvement seriously. FCS has been involved in several charitable organizations and events over the years. One of the largest to date is the annual shoe harvest. Partnered with Soles for Souls, FCS runs a shoe drive to send footwear to disadvantaged people all over the world. In 2010 the team collected over 13,000 pairs, which were in turn processed and distributed to people in need.

With expanding resources and solid community ties, FCS is poised to face another century of success in the Midwest. The team remains financially stable, offering leading products and services to members and taking advantage of buying and selling power to promote regional success in agriculture. Farmers Cooperative Society has built longstanding relationships that will continue to benefit members and buyers for decades to come.