Indiana is blessed with several strong co-ops spread around the state. Some thought the farm co-operative model was no longer viable several decades ago when Indiana Farm Bureau Co-op fell on lean times. It eventually merged with CountryMark, known today for its dynamic fuel business. Some services originally associated with Indiana Farm Bureau Co-op were later folded into Land O’Lakes, a large, multi-state co-op.
Meanwhile, many county Farm Bureau co-ops merged with one another, forming stronger business units. A few strong single-county co-ops still operate today. The idea then and now is that the customers own the co-op.
Any doubt that the system was still viable should have disappeared when two large, Indiana-based co-ops merged on Feb. 2. Combined, they have a solid reach into four states, with strong core businesses.
Harvest Land Co-op, formerly based in Richmond, and Co-Alliance Cooperative, based in Avon, are now Co-Alliance Cooperative, Avon.
Harvest Land Co-op had a strong presence in east-central Indiana and southwest Ohio. Co-Alliance Cooperative had numerous outlets in central and northern Indiana, Michigan, eastern Illinois and Ohio.
PROVIDING LEADERSHIP: Kevin Still will head up the new Co-Alliance Cooperative.
“We’re coming together at a time when we both have strong balance sheets, and we think it will be good for our customers and our employees,” says Kevin Still, current president and CEO of Co-Alliance Cooperative. He will become the first president and CEO of the merged cooperative. Scott Logue from Harvest Land will be executive vice president.
Both leaders emphasize that this merger joins two strong co-ops that were both at the top of their game. Still is hoping one plus one equals three, and the new entity will grow even stronger, providing strong patronage dividends, good jobs and continued support for local communities.
He notes that a decade ago, the co-ops began talking to each other about eventually merging. Both he and Logue believe the timing was right now.
“Our heritage goes back to the 1920s, when farmers who were growing potatoes formed a co-op to buy seed potatoes,” Logue says. “We no longer are in the potato business, but we offer our customers the products that they need for today and do it efficiently. This merger should make us even more efficient.”
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE: Scott Logue, former head of Harvest Land Co-op, believes the future is bright for the newly merged co-op. He will serve as executive vice president.
The new company has four main product areas, Still notes. They include agronomy, energy, grain and swine & animal nutrition. Co-Alliance Cooperative operates multiple feed mills and raises hogs on contract through farmers who provide facilities and care for the animals.
“This could open the opportunity for some of Harvest Land’s patrons to enter into that side of the business,” Still says. “We weathered the pandemic in 2020 without having to euthanize animals, and that is now once again a stable part of our business.”
The merged co-op will have 1,000 employees and $1.3 billion in annual sales, Still says. Both new leaders pledged to continue a joint commitment to their employees and customers, who are their owners. Both also emphasize that safety will continue to be a key component in everything they do.
Neither Still nor Logue wear rose-colored glasses. They realize modern agriculture is a competitive business. Both are expecting synergy from their combined forces to help them serve their farmer customers and communities for decades to come.