2015 Spirit Winner

Crop Production Services Aylett — St. Stephen's Church, VA

When the 2015 Spirit of Respect Award winning facility, Crop Production Services’ (CPS) Aylett Farm Service Center of St. Stephen’s Church, VA, was constructed in 1996, it was done so in the glaring gaze of a concerned community and an engaged regulatory system. The outlet sits in the western edge of King And Queen County, with exurban Richmond families on one side and rural expanse on the other.

So the culture of safety, security and environmental respect has been engrained in the location from the very beginning — a culture that was recognized with a regional Environmental Respect Award in 2000.

Originally part of the highly respected Alliance Agronomics organization, the location endured two acquisitions — first by Royster-Clark and then by CPS. Now 15 years later, this same location is being honored for sustaining that commitment to stewardship over the long haul.

The drive to maintain and continuously raise the bar at the location has, as is most often the case, come from the very top. Eugene Longest, facility manager, has been working at the location since 1996. His early experiences there, along with a keen understanding of the unique environmental challenges of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, have driven him and his team to constant improvement.

There’s no unevenness about the appearance and maintenance at CPS Aylett, from the landscaped front entry sign to the bulk tanks in the trenches. The care taken in keeping the facility looking good and operating efficiently are apparent everywhere.

“We spend a lot of hours in slower times in summer going over buildings, painting dikes and improving the appearance of everything in the facility,” says Longest. “Our employees take a lot of pride in this place.”

Containment has been added to or updated continuously over the past 15 years, and fully contained bulk tanks installed to reduce reliance on mini-bulks. “This serves to reduce waste, limit product handling, cut back on the number of incoming shipments, and reduce our environmental footprint,” says Longest.

Containment was recently added on for the facility’s growing micro-nutritionals business, in addition to roofing to create additional protection. “This also allows us to reduce waste, as we use portable refillable containers in the process versus smaller, one-use jugs,” notes Longest.

Getting growers on board with higher-level agronomic services to improve input utilization is also a focus. “We believe in being in the field with our customers, taking soil samples, scouting fields, collecting tissue samples, calibrating rigs, or just talking farming and sustainability practices,” says Longest. “We know that when we do our jobs as far as knowing the field, knowing the crop, and knowing the desired outcome, then we will be able to use our resources to meet the customer’s needs in a responsible and sustainable way.”

The sandy soils of east-central Virginia pose a number of nutritional challenges that create opportunities for Longest’s team to help growers balance crop needs with environmental stewardship. To this end, the outlet offers a variety of unique products that Longest says work to make nutrients available to crops while reducing leaching and atmospheric loss.

“Many of our custom plans include biochemical catalysts designed to significantly increase fertilizer efficacy and overall plant health by improving nutrient availability and uptake while enhancing nutrient use efficiency,” he says.

CPS Aylett is a part of the community fabric, and management and employees are engaged in myriad ways. As a model retail facility in the state, Longest and his team have allowed the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to train their employees on the EPA’s container containment regulations. “CPS’ overall corporate standards already surpass Virginia state requirements,” notes Longest.

The company is also active with the public. Employees have performed post-hurricane clean-up of local churches, headed up food and coat collection drives for the needy, shared their positive environmental story at local schools and clubs, and hosted community open houses.

Longest says the key to CPS Aylett’s success when it comes to stewardship and improvement is, never let your guard down. “You need to keep expectation at a high level and get the entire team on board and understanding just how important safety and stewardship is,” he explains. “If you allow things to slide, it can get away from you in a hurry, and it’s very difficult to right the ship again.”