Luckey Farmers Inc.
Luckey Farmers Inc. has been serving farmers in Ohio since 1919, when the business was established. Over the course of 95 years as well as several mergers, consolidations and acquisitions, the cooperative currently boasts 10 locations providing grain marketing, agronomy and other agricultural services east of Toledo, Ohio. With more than 1200 members, the organization helps regional growers build business and agricultural strategies that boost yield in the field and at market.
Andy Swerlein is the cooperative’s general manager, serving Luckey in leadership for the last six years. Swerlein graduated from Ohio State University and has worked in grain merchandizing since 1991. He specializes in building relationships with growers, establishing markets and helping members analyze and manage risk. Working with 105 full-time employees, Swerlein oversees seven grain facilities, eight agronomy locations, a feed manufacturing plant, a seed processing facility, three Cardtrol petroleum stations and four fuel delivery trucks that service farms, homes and small businesses.
The Luckey team strives to provide quality farm supply products and services on a competitive and economical basis. Grain marketing makes up around 70 percent of the business, with the rest devoted to agronomy, crop protection, nutrients, seed, precision agriculture and fuel. One smaller location also serves as a retail outlet for feed and lawn and garden products.
Over the years, Luckey has proven a true asset to members and the communities in Ohio that the business serves. “Our philosophy is that we want to act as an extension of our members and their growing operations,” Swerlein explains. “Their trust is important and we want to continue to prove that we can help bring value to what they are doing. We pride ourselves on the quality of our services and the intimate relationships we build with our customers and partners.”
The cooperative’s 10 locations are strategically placed for member convenience. Swerlein and his crew want the business to be helpful and accessible. The company’s main objective is to promote products, services and practices that help farmers get ahead and see the best return on investment possible. Swerlein understands that growers take on enormous investments in order to grow crops that are vital to the American food system.
A technological advantage
Precision agriculture has become a major part of the business. Swerlein and his team also tend to promote products and processes that allow growers to utilize nutrients more efficiently. “We are located in the Lake Erie Basin,” he notes. “There is a lot of runoff with phosphates and we work to educate our members on nutrient utilization. We have been working with local government officials to devise our own process and avoid violating the restrictions placed on agriculture.”
The company is going through several changes due to technology and general changes in the market. A major transition is underway between generations of growers. May operators are undergoing succession planning as the older generation of farmers retires and the culture changes. Of course, there are cyclical challenges the industry faces as a whole, including growing seasons, commodities pricing and weather.
As the business adapts to a constantly changing environment, Swerlein and his team continue to look for new opportunities to improve services for growers. “We are constantly reinvesting in capital improvements,” he elaborates. “Right now we are building a $2.2 million liquid fertilizer warehouse that will allow us to consolidate and improve efficiency.”
Partnerships are also a major component of Luckey’s ability to serve growers. The company is a member of Land-O-Lakes, the CHS cooperative and United Suppliers, partners that support growth and help agricultural industry members build value through collective purchasing and merchandising power. In the next few years, Swerlein says the business is also seeking partnerships that will boost the operation’s marketing abilities, secure supply levels and help growers compete for crop availability.
Agriculture is a changing industry that presents a lot of challenges for growers. As a business, Luckey strives to reduce risk and provide value for cooperative members throughout the region. “We pride ourselves on service and convenience,” Swerlein adds. “Our success depends on the success of the growers and we do what we can to help them grow.” The team puts service first, working alongside members while constantly staying abreast of their changing needs. In the coming years, Luckey Farmers Inc. will continue to stand out as a cooperative by putting members first and adapting the technology and strategies that build success in the market.