2018 North America Winner

Nutrien Ag Solutions - Salem - Salem, OR

Nutrien Ag Solutions-Salem, OR, staff (from left) Marvin Fulfer, Rob Maxwell, Nick Thomas, Ken Kuderer (Manager), and Jason Backer. Says Kuderer: “I love this company, and I enjoy getting up and going to work every day. I try to make it an enjoyable and safe place for the people I supervise in order to motivate their creativity and add positive input in our commitment to being the best stewards to this planet as we can.”

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

Ken Kuderer, 63, certainly contradicts that phrase as the Manager of a Salem, OR-based ag retailer that, as of July 1, is now owned by Nutrien Ag Solutions. He’s been at the helm since 1991, when the facility was operated by ConAgra Foods … and then UAP Pacific … and UAP Northwest … and UAP … and Agrium … and, until this summer, Crop Production Services.

“We’ve rolled with the changes the last 27 years,” Kuderer says. “If you don’t like change, you’re in the wrong business.”

Kuderer manages Nutrien’s Timberland Division Western operations, covering everything between the Mississippi River and Pacific Coast. His Oregon office houses a five-person staff that is bent on environmental stewardship inside the facility and out. Things have changed quite a bit since the height of responsibility was keeping the floors clean and having a first-aid kit in the bathroom.

“We go way beyond compliance. It’s almost overwhelming. We spend a good portion of our days just on safety anymore,” Kuderer says. “Growing up as a farmer, there probably wouldn’t have been so many accidents had we been forced to do all of this 50, 60 years ago.”

Products are stored inside a climate-controlled, spill-contained building.

Kuderer’s office, as part of the company’s Timberland Division, focuses on vegetation management and forestry rather than agriculture. When it comes to vegetation management, the clientele is almost all government agencies. “If they’ve got a weed problem or a vegetation problem, everything we see, we pretty much kill. We don’t try to raise or grow anything. We try to control invasive species,” he says.

On the forestry side, it’s just the opposite. “What we’re trying to do,” Kuderer says, “is open up the ground so the young trees can get above the vegetation. When you plant trees, you’ve got between three and five years of timber release, which means the trees are small, but the vegetation is growing extremely faster than a tree will. So, you have to spray that down and kill that vegetation and let the tree grow up through it. There’s our growing part of it.”

Speaking of dogs, Kuderer’s commitment to the Salem community is exemplified by his work with local police agencies and their K-9 units.

“They do their training inside our building. They hide all over the place and then send the dogs in,” Kuderer, once a Marion County Deputy Sheriff for eight years, says. “They asked if they could use our building, and I said, ‘Sure.’”