Legacy Farmers Cooperative
There have been big changes at Legacy Farmers Cooperative (LFC) over the last six months. As the result of two newly united, longstanding companies, LFC is now a strong, medium-sized player in the northern Ohio agricultural landscape. “You don’t have to be a member to be a customer, but we are now serving 2,500 member-stockholders as a $400 million a year cooperative,” reveals Mark Sunderman, CEO of LFC.
Plans for the merger that shaped LFC initiated in July 2013. “Once we ratified the vote, we turned the light switch on and things really started moving forward,” recalls Sunderman. “There are only three or four other cooperatives in this area that are larger than us.”
LFC officially formed in March 1, 2014, when Blanchard Valley Farmers Cooperative (Blanchard) and Deshler Farmers Elevator Company (Deshler) joined forces. “Deshler was established in 1916 and was operating as an $80 million grain and supply cooperative,” says Sunderman, who worked for Deshler as CEO for eight years prior to the merger. “Blanchard was formed in 1988 and was a $330 million grain and supply cooperative.”
Sunderman says while change can be a nerve-wracking idea, in this case, the change was a great one. “Overall, the merger process has gone really well,” he observes. “We now have 165 employees and they’ve all gelled together really well. Our customers have also accepted the change.”
A perfect circle
Before coming together, Deshler covered the Northwest part of the area that makes up the greater Findlay, Ohio, outline, while Blanchard spanned the area from the south to the east. “It wasn’t a typical merger in the sense that we didn’t gain a hundred more miles in ground, in fact, we were closely situated before, but there wasn’t a lot of overlap,” explains Sunderman. “Now, we cover about a 45-mile circle of Findlay and the surrounding counties of Hancock, Henry, Putnam, Seneca and Wood. The merger made a nice circle and the two geographical footprints complement each other well.”
LFC’s circle is strong with 19 various locations, including 11 grain facilities, five agronomy plants, two petroleum locations with liquid fuel and lubricant delivery, as well as Legacy Lawn and Pet, the cooperative’s retail store and Legacy Turf and Ornamental.
“We handle and market corn, soybeans and soft red winter wheat,” shares Sunderman. “We’ve remarketed and rebranded and now we have a new logo, and aside from the products we sell, we’re getting more focused on ag-service and technology support.”
Ramping up service and technology
Over the next couple of months, the cooperative will be rolling out Legacy RX, a prescription for higher yields using expertise and leading technology to improve producers’ bottom lines. “Legacy RX will be within our agronomy division,” details Sunderman. “It will incorporate intensive crop scouting, precision-ag, variable rate technology, tissue sampling, precision planting – basically anything that has to do with the service side.”
“These are all items we’ve had, but it’s a matter of putting them all under one umbrella and rebranding under Legacy RX,” adds Sunderman. “It’s a specialty thing we can do that’s different.”
Throughout the merger and rebranding process, Sunderman says service has been something LFC has focused on even more heavily. “Service, expertise and commitment to our members –those are our values as we’ve gone through this process and better understanding our mission,” shares Sunderman. “It’s fresh on everyone’s minds since bringing the two companies together. We looked back and thought about what we did well and what we could do better and decided that’s where our focus is: in service, expertise and commitment to our customers.”
Sunderman says the reflection process is important to not only recall where LFC has been, but to know where it stands moving forward. “I get great satisfaction out of tackling challenges and getting things accomplished,” he says. “I like to look back and remember what it was five years ago and I see lots of positive change, which lets me know we’re on the right track.”
While it’s always a challenge to rise to meet ever-expanding member demand, Sunderman says LFC is keeping up the pace. “As a farmer-owned cooperative, you have limited capital, so it’s often difficult to keep up with the speed of the growth our customers have experienced,” he explains. “We’re working hard to do it, though, and we do as good a job as anyone in this area can to serve our members.”
It all comes back to a cooperative employee team. “I want our company to be a place where our people are smiling and they enjoy coming into work, and I think that’s true for LFC,” shares Sunderman. “Everyone feels good about the company and the direction we’re heading and most importantly, they’re always happy to help one another out.”
Newly united and stronger than ever before, Legacy Farmers Cooperative continues to exceed customer expectations by delivering the best value for member-owners in northern Ohio.