Laughery Valley AG Coop Inc.
In Osgood, Indiana, Laughery Valley AG Coop Inc. (LVA) has been serving area farmers and the general public for more than 87 years. The agricultural cooperative is the culmination of six regional counties, mainly Ripley and Dearborn County, and is owned by 1,375 equal stockholders.
“The Indiana cooperative system started in the early ‘20s with Indiana Farm Bureau Co-op [IFBC] as the regional body and each individual county had its own operation,” recounts Keith Everhart, president and general manager of LVA. “Over the years, between mergers and acquisitions, LVA came together as one and we now cover six counties in southeastern Indiana. IFBC is the legacy company of what are now CountryMark and Land O Lakes.”
LVA was started and is still owned by stockholders, all of which have an equal share. “Each person only has one stock so no one can monopolize and everyone has the same say,” says Everhart. “You don’t have to be a stockholder to do business with us; we also deal with the general public.”
Everhart is no stranger to the cooperative structure or the basics of a running a successful farming operation. “My father was a farmer and I grew up farming all throughout high school until about 1985 when land prices went sky high,” he recalls. “I decided to get out of farming and I got into the agribusiness side, starting working for a fertilizer company. I went from applicator to shop manager, operations manager to agronomy manager and up to general manager.”
One-stop-shop for farmers and the public
This experience allows Everhart to help LVA’s farmers every day. “We’re a one-stop-shop for feed, seed, fertilizer, grain storage, hardware, lawn and garden products, farm gates and fencing, and even hunting and pool supplies,” he says. “We also sell petroleum and propane products and have a very strong agronomy division supplying, crop zoning, and grid sampling and field mapping.”
As far as petroleum and bulk fuel, LVA is vertically integrated. The company has its own Country Mark brand of fuel, which is pumped directly from the operation’s Indiana-based refinery in Mt. Vernon, Indiana. “All of our oil comes out of the Illinois Basin, from Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois,” says Everhart. “We run our own pipeline which delivers 100 percent American-made fuel; this is some of the best quality fuel on the market and we’re very proud to say our fuel comes from U.S. soil.”
Technology drives higher yield
While LVA offers a range of services and products, Everhart says the co-op has recently ramped up the agronomy and “decision, not precision ag,” side of the business. “We prefer the term ‘decision ag,’” explains Everhart. “When it first started out, the industry term was ‘precision ag’ but anything we’re doing – whether it’s taking images with our UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] or collecting soil samples – we’re making an informed decision for the farmer and their crop. So that’s really where the term ‘decision ag’ comes from.”
LVA offers a range of cutting-edge solutions to help producers drive higher yields and field success. LVA performs soil sampling, testing for nutrients and health. Once the results return from the lab, LVA’s professional crop specialists analyze the data to make soil recommendations.
Above ground, LVA is pioneering crop scouting technologies, implementing the use of UAVs. “We currently have three UAVs,” says Everhart. “The largest UAV has infrared imaging capability. We take images of the acreage and the infrared allows us to detect disease, fertilizer application and nitrogen loss, helping to pinpoint whatever is making the crop unhealthy. This is a much more efficient way than actually walking a 100-acre field; doing that, you’re bound to miss something.”
LVA is even equipped to view the images and build a field prescription map from the convenience of the team’s trucks. “We recently installed a new computer system in all of our trucks, allowing us to view the information right after the survey,” says Everhart. “This information all goes up on cloud-based storage so farmers can log in and view the same data.”
Along with field mapping and soil sampling, LVA offers tissue sampling to provide farmers greater insight to their crops’ performance. “We’re using an application called NutriSphere,” says Everhart. “This unique technology bridges the gap between soil and tissue analysis. NutriSphere is placed in soil to mimic root nutrient uptake, revealing how much of each nutrient is truly available to the crop.”
Good for the farmer, the land and the environment
In the end, all of this technology means greater yield and less waste in applications, something Everhart says LVA is a major proponent of. “Sometimes I think farmers get a bad rap when it comes to environmental conservation,” he explains. “There’s sure to be more Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] regulations coming down the line and we’re going to be ahead of the game.”
“LVA works with local soil and water conservation groups to promote good agricultural practices,” adds Everhart. “We know we can’t make new ground; you have to take care of what you have so we’re very particular about our applications and promoting the right kind and amount of fertilizer. Waste isn’t good for the land or the farmers’ wallet –that’s why we’re working toward better methods and precise applications.”
After 87 years in business, Laughery Valley AG Coop Inc. is delivering what matters most to farmers today, leveraging industry-leading technology for higher yields and targeted applications.