By GAIL PARSONS
When Dale Koop opened the Crop Service Center in Holland, he expected a healthy seasonal business that would employ him and his wife. Now 30 years later, he is president and co-owner of three full-time operations with about 12 employees at each one.
He started with the first store about 15 miles south of Abilene in 1983 because of a void in the market. In time, he and partner Mike Kliber found the natural progression was to expand their Holland location and they didn’t hesitate when the opportunity was presented to purchase two existing businesses.
The Crop Service Centers in Holland, Salina and Beverly provide agriculture producers with their crop fertility and crop protection needs.
“Back in those days, it was a seasonal business,” he said. But then Round-up and no-till farming entered the ag world. “It spread the workload out over the entire growing season.”
He is in the process of expanding the employee base to include two agronomists at each location. This will allow them to more easily assist farmers in soil analysis to customize the fertilizer and herbicide needs of each field.
But keeping a business healthy in an industry that is constantly changing can be a challenge and requires keeping a close eye on trends, technology, and politics and regulations.
“There just seems to be a lot of environmental concerns that crop up,” he said. “I see more regulation coming.”
He is also seeing a positive resurgence of need in the agricultural field. When he started the business, the common mantra of farm families was to encourage the next generation to leave the farm, go to college and find a future that did not involve agriculture.
Today, however, he sees an increasing need for educated agronomists and farm managers, while the hands-on, in-the-field employment needs are reduced because of increased technology.
“In an overall national economy that has experienced high unemployment, “the ag economy has been a bright spot,” he said.
He hopes to take part, with others in the industry, to encourage young people to get their education and return to the farm. With an ever-increasing world population, agriculture is one industry that will never disappear.
“When it gets down to it, we need to use the existing producing land to produce more to feed that many more people,” Koop said.
Crops Services is hosting an appreciation dinner for its customers at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Sterl Hall. Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food.