Top Crop Manager

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Heading back to the classroom

Crop advisors up-grade their agronomic skills.


November 19, 2007
By Top Crop Manager

A large number of retail crop advisors regularly go back into the classroom
during the winter months to up-date their agronomic skill sets. They are finding
that a diploma or degree, that may have been granted a number of years ago,
quite simply does not 'cut the mustard' with their farmer customers.

John Vandongen, an Agro Division manager with Dauphin Co-op, says "The
crop input industry is no longer like it was 10 years ago. The marketplace has
been rapidly changing. Customers want to be assured that a crop advisor's agronomic
knowledge is up-to-date." This development is forcing advisors to annually
attend agronomic training sessions to ensure their agronomic expertise is current.

  
Shannon Turnbull of JRI/Pioneer suggests that
providing top-notch agronomic information and recommendations to growers
would not be possible without the on-going CCA training that he is required
to take in order to remain certified as a professional.
Dena Hunter, who works with Agricore United, indicates
that CCA training is key to providing knowledgeable agronomic advice and
services to customers. With the growing emphasis on identity preserved
grain production, she feels that CCAs will play an important role in assisting
growers to achieve the desired grain quality in AU contracted crops.

The School of Agriculture at the University of Manitoba annually organizes
one of the most popular and successful of these training sessions, called the
Manitoba Agronomists Conference (MAC). Director, Merv Pritchard indicates that
this event has been held for six successive years and each year it is over-subscribed.
The sole purpose of this event is to introduce participants to new developments
in agronomic knowledge.

Pritchard indicates that the meeting room can only accommodate 205 attendees.
This effectively caps the number of registrants that can be accommodated. This
year, arrangements were made to have the presentations simulcast to a satellite
location in Dauphin. The 25 participants spoke highly of this initiative since
costs, travel and time away from their jobs was significantly reduced. Additional
satellite locations may be incorporated into the MAC in future years.

The feedback from the conference participants has always been very positive.
Typical survey comments include statements such as: 'Excellent program', 'Excellent
speakers', 'One of the best agronomic conferences', and more. "We approached
some crop advisors who attended this year's sessions for specific comments about
their view of the importance of participating in on-going agronomic training
such as offered by the MAC," says Pritchard.

Shannon Turnbull, crop inputs manager with JRI/Pioneer at Glossop, Manitoba,
says that, "On a daily basis, my customers are looking for me to provide
factual information on new agronomic developments. They have a justified expectation
that the agronomic information I provide is factual and can be trusted. Programs
like the MAC help me keep current in my agronomic skills and enable me to remain
accredited as a crop advisor."

Simon Marsh, an area agronomist with Mid Sask Ag Services in the Yorkton, Saskatchewan
region, who provides support to eight retails has attended four MAC meetings.
"This and other events help to keep our agronomic knowledge at a high level.
Our growers-customers deserve to have the most up-to-date and current agronomic
information that we can provide. The certification process in which, as a professional
crop advisor, I must participate, ensures that we can deliver on this commitment."

Dena Hunter, who works as a territory marketing representative out of Dauphin
with Agricore United, says "The type of training that is offered at MAC
gives me an opportunity to learn about new agronomic information as well as
any new technologies and products that could be important to AU customers. I
feel that this type of information can assist our growers to become more efficient
in their farming operations."

  
"CCA training and certification certainly
helps to ensure that we provide top-notch agronomic advice and that will
help us to achieve our goals of providing quality products and services
to help customers succeed," says John Vandongen with Dauphin Co-op.
Simon Marsh, a certified crop advisor with Mid
Sask Ag Services, indicates that CCAs employed by their local retailers
need to have an excellent base of knowledge and understanding of all parts
of farming practices to assist their grower-customers in coping with the
current difficult market conditions.

John Vandongen says, "Keeping up-to-date on new agronomic developments
and providing that information to all our staff is a must if we are to stay
in the game. Our growers rely heavily on our staff for assurance that whatever
changes they make in their operations are viable. If a grower comes in and asks
a question about a new technology, you had better be aware of it, or at least
know where to find the required information. As well, attending the MAC meetings
helps us to partially fulfill the requirements of the CCA certification program."

John Heard with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives has played
an important role in organizing the MAC programs. He indicates that a key reason
for organizing this venue is to provide a forum for transferring agronomic advice
and new technologies from the researchers into the hands of Certified Crop Advisors.
He indicates that "Crop advisors, whose agronomic knowledge and skills
have been professionally certified, are recognized as being the key conduit
for getting new knowledge and technology to the growers."

Top Crop Manager regularly carries a story featuring
certified crop advisors from various regions of western Canada. There are
more than 700 individuals who have achieved the certification and maintain
this designation through continuing education.