Thursday, April 30, 2015

Behind the Scenes with Shirley Simons

Behind the Scenes at Valley® is a series showcasing the people behind the pivots. 

“I came to Valmont® through a friend who had an opening on the credit team, where I helped for six weeks,” says Shirley Simons, Valley Irrigation Purchasing Manager and Procedure Specialist. “After some organizational changes, I was recruited to purchasing. I was encouraged to get my degree and CPM certification (Certified Purchasing Manager), and I did it all in one year!” 

That was 30 years ago, and Shirley is still with Valley, although she has held multiple positions since then. 

In her current job, she manages eight buyers and ensures all the parts needed to make an irrigation machine are available. She negotiates pricing continually, builds contracts, deals with national accounts across the world and constantly manages inventory levels.

“I have a great team under me, but purchasing is challenging,” she says. “There is a lot to juggle and you have to have a tough skin and think of the customer first – both internal and external.”

Shirley is thankful for all that Valley has done for her – for all the training and opportunities the company has provided her through the years. 

“I’m proud to be part of Valley," she says. "I give 110 percent all the time. The support from upper management is essential to the purchasing department, and we employees and the vendors appreciate it.”

Outside work, Shirley spends time with her five grandchildren. She and her husband also “do antiques” – weathering, waxing, and selling them.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Reach Out to the Next Generation | by Matt Ondrejko

On March 30, I had the pleasure of speaking to an International Marketing class at the University of Nebraska Omaha. I was invited to share my global marketing experiences and career path with a class of about 50 students.

It was exciting for me to provide some insight to these juniors and seniors as they are getting close to starting a career and putting their knowledge to work in the real world. I thought back to my own experiences in college and remembered how important it was to have access to and interaction with people who had real jobs, while learning about the paths they followed.

Matt Ondrejko speaking at the University of Nebraska Omaha.

I told the students about my personal journey and pursuit from a young age to find a job that would allow me to travel the world and experience different cultures and people. I explained that I was one of only a few people that I knew who walked into college knowing what degree I wanted and actually stuck with my plan through the whole course of my education.

Once I graduated though, I knew what I wanted to do and had a piece of paper that said I had skills, but I didn’t know what path to start down to get me there. This is where many of the students I met are today.

I feel it is very important to present options and clarity to students about what is out there in the real world. What does it mean to be in marketing, finance, sales or engineering?

The amazing thing about our diverse world is that we likely wear all these hats at some point in our positions or careers (regardless of the piece of paper you received from a university). By exposing these students to what international marketing means to me and to the different positions within the Valley marketing department, I am helping them understand how one company – our company – operates and drives business.

I encourage you all to connect with students you may know, or volunteer to help them understand the different paths that exist and open their eyes to different possibilities.

Matt Ondrejko

VP Global Marketing

The one word that can sum up Matt is "enthusiasm!" He likes to be on-the-go and have fun along the way. Matt loves music and the 1980s era. He is a child of the MTV generation and has a deep appreciation of all music genres (specifically, he is a huge Dave Matthews Band groupie). Matt has traveled to more than 70 countries around the world and enjoys learning about different cultures and people. He spent three years living with his family in Leuven, Belgium, trying to enjoy as many of the 700+ beers they brew there.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Right Sprinklers Help Farms Grow

When a savvy, successful farming operation requests a specific sprinkler, people tend to take notice. So when Jeremy Walther of Walther Farms called Guess Irrigation and requested Nelson Orbitors, the dealer listened.

The Walther family has been farming for three generations and irrigating since the 1970s, working land in areas from Michigan to Florida. Walther Farms primarily grows potatoes and employs more than 150 people in 14 communities.

Jeremy Walther – along with three brothers and five cousins – is one of the owners of Walther Farms. He is the field manager and operations manager for Indiana, Georgia, Florida, and the Wiley Fork farm outside of Aiken, SC.

Irrigation management is crucial to growing a good potato crop, and Walther says his family has found that Orbitors work well under just about any condition.

Walther says they use Orbitor nozzles on pivots all over the country.

“Even on land we lease, we change out the nozzles to Orbitors, so installing them on the Wiley Fork farm in South Carolina was a given,” he says.

R55 End of Pivot Sprinklers | © Nelson Irrigation
The irrigation design at the Wiley Fork farm was a combined effort of Walther Farms and Guess Irrigation.

Nelson Irrigation Eastern Regional Manager Scott Harn says, “The Walthers installed low pressure O3000 Orbitors with Uni-flow regulators that provide high uniformity and a clean water pattern as a result of its revolutionary bracketless design. It was an outstanding choice for them.”

Shay Hane of Guess Irrigation agrees, “They’re some of the most knowledgeable customers I’ve ever encountered, and we had a couple of ‘firsts’ with this project because of that. Orbitors are not common in South Carolina. These were the first ones we’ve installed, and they’re a very good sprinkler.

“We also installed R55 End of Pivot Sprinklers for the first time. They’ve worked well for adding irrigated acres.”

According to Harn, Nelson Irrigation tested the R55 End of Pivot Sprinklers, which use proven Rotator technology, for several years before putting them on the market at the end of 2013.

“It’s a low pressure, secondary sprinkler to the SR100,” Harn explains. “It’s used to help fill in under the end gun and/or pick up additional acreage after the end gun is shut off. The 800 series valve is used to precisely turn the SR100 and R55 on or off in order to maximize irrigated acres. It depends on the application.”

Walther says it’s working well in his situation, and he’s impressed with the advances in irrigation technology in the 16 years he’s been farming.

“We need to do everything possible to conserve water and focus on sustainability, while we provide our potato crops with the proper irrigation,” he says. “These sprinklers help us do all of that effectively.”

Reprinted from Valley PivotPoint magazine, Winter 2014

Monday, April 20, 2015

Five Years Equals a Lifetime in Remote Farm Management | by Steve Sveum

Recently, we at AgSense® were very excited to release our Field Commander® Ultimate remote precision irrigation package. The package combines various AgSense technologies into one kit that allows for total control and monitoring of an entire irrigation system from the Web or a smartphone.

This is our latest (and certainly not our last) in a series of new product introductions. As I approach my five year anniversary with AgSense, it is interesting for me to reflect on how far our technology, both hardware and software, has come during that time. Five years represents about 10 percent of my lifetime (give or take), but several generations in the life of our remote irrigation technology and software.

In 2010, we had just started selling our Field Commander product for pivot monitor and control. That replaced our Pivot Point product, which simply monitored and allowed for remote stop of a pivot, similar to what our Field Commander Lite does today. Field Commander added single end gun, remote speed programming and remote start capabilities for most pivots and panels. It now includes two end guns or pump control, wire theft monitoring, and the ability to read and report precipitation.

Also since 2010, we expanded our hardware and software capabilities to include SDI (drip irrigation), soil moisture monitoring, the Precision Link digital interface into the T-L Precision Point III Panel, and a whole host of weather and agronomic condition sensors, putting all that critical data and control literally at growers’ fingertips via our smartphone apps and Web interface.

Speaking of the WagNet® app, it was released in 2013. It has been wildly popular, and our statistics show that today 70 percent of the commands sent to and through AgSense devices are sent from growers’ smartphones or tablets.

We are proud to be one of the pioneers in remote precision irrigation programming and control. WagNet software is compatible with several major suppliers of irrigation prescription and scheduling software, allowing for very quick and easy uploading of prescriptions into pivots. Again, most of this capability has been developed since 2010 and is available for any electric pivot, regardless of brand, age or panel type.

As the technology has grown and evolved, so has the business itself. Our biggest month of shipping in 2015 will be represent more units than we shipped all year my first year. My office near Minneapolis was the first AgSense location outside of the home office in South Dakota. We now have four remote offices around the country (Minnesota, Kentucky, Nebraska and Idaho) where our regional managers work from.

Our international business has also grown significantly, thanks in large part to our OEM agreements with pivot manufacturers such as Valley, which purchased part of AgSense in 2014. We currently have active devices in more than 20 countries around the world.

The way things are going, it looks like the next five years may be even more exciting than the last! Stay tuned and THANK YOU to all the growers, dealers and industry partners that have helped us get here! Many of you have been with us since nearly the beginning.

Steve Sveum
Vice President – Sales and Marketing
AgSense, LLC

Steve has been involved in agriculture most of his life. He was raised near Omaha in eastern Nebraska, and spent most of his summers working for farmers in that area, as well as in northeast South Dakota near his family’s homestead farm. Steve developed a passion for agriculture during those years and went on to receive an agricultural business degree from South Dakota State University. His 25-year career in the ag industry has been spent in leadership roles, primarily in the application and precision ag segments. Steve particularly enjoys projects developing new businesses and markets. He now makes his home in Centerville, Minn., with his wife and two children.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

New Beginnings With Spring | by Patrick Scates

Did anyone else think this past winter would never end? The winter season always seems to overstay its welcome and it definitely did this year.

Each year around the dealership, we all talk about how we are ready for spring to arrive. It might be as simple as being tired of working in the cold, wet conditions or maybe it’s the mundane shop and office work that has everyone looking forward to the spring months.

When spring arrives, gone are the days of scraping the frost off your window each morning. Gone are the days of drilling a water well and getting sprayed with a leaking hose when its 20 degrees out. BRRRRRR!!! Gone are the days of layering up so much you feel like the little brother in the movie “A Christmas Story.” Gone are the early sunsets that have you leaving the office in the dark.

Even though the New Year starts in January, I feel the New Year actually begins with spring. Spring is a time of new beginning for everything. A time when things spring to life. The growers are out checking their fields to see when and where they might be able to turn that first soil of year and put that first seed in the ground. As a farm kid, the smell of freshly turned soil was one of my favorites and it still is to this day.

It is much easier to get things moving on spring mornings than it was just a couple of months ago. Everyone is eager to get out of the yard and out to the job site because – let’s be honest – working outside beats any job in the office or shop. Those first really warm, sunny days are the beginning of that unavoidable “farmer’s tan,” which makes you appear to be wearing a white T-shirt at the pool.

It doesn’t matter if you are drilling a well, building a pivot, trenching wire or installing a pump, it only matters that you are beginning to make progress in getting the pivots up and running for the growers.

For me, spring is always a reminder of why we do what we do in the agriculture community! The joy of beginning a new business relationship with a grower who needs your help is one of my favorite things. Teaching a grower how to operate his new pivot or working with him on how to properly irrigate a crop. After some time passes, that new business relationship usually turns into the beginning of a new friendship, which is what being a part of the agriculture community is all about. You know that business relationship has turned to a friendship when the grower is texting you pictures of his pivot up and running and updates on the crop under the pivot.

As spring gets into full swing, it is fun to drive around and see all the old and new Valley® pivots up and running, watering the freshly sprouted corn and soybeans. It’s so great to know we have been part of changing the agriculture landscape and that we helped so many area growers make their farms more profitable.

The only drawback to spring is that once you get into the latter part of spring you realize it is coming to an end and summer is beginning. The summer heat and humidity is only a few weeks away and that shirt will no longer be wet from a spring shower, but more likely from sweating while working on a pivot in standing corn while its 95 degrees (I know you know what that feels like). And that will have you wishing for fall and winter to roll around, which starts the cycle all over again.

Patrick Scates
General Manager
Scates Valley Inc. in Carmi, IL

Patrick enjoys anything to do with agriculture and politics. When he isn't at work he loves spending time with his four children, Zoey, Maggie, and twin boys, Thomas and Henry. Any free time is enjoyed playing golf or spending time with the family at a cabin on a small lake in southern Illinois.

Monday, April 13, 2015

California Water in the News, Again. What's the Real Story? | by Ray Batten

Over the last few years, the California water issue has been on the front page almost every day. Drought, endangered fish and big ag have been named the perpetrators of the gloom and doom. The real story may be not only more interesting, but even more serious.

The gems of California agriculture are the San Joaquin Valley and the Imperial Valley. Both are deserts with water. The San Joaquin Valley includes approximately 8.5 million irrigated acres and is almost completely irrigated with water from the Sierra snowpack, while the Imperial Valley draws water from the Colorado River for its 500,000 acres.

The San Joaquin Valley 

In the early 1900s, visionary folks drew up a plan to make the Golden State a reality. Taking snow pack and turning it into water, storing it in mountain reservoirs behind a network of dams, and building a very advanced system of ditches to deliver the precious water to the dry – yet fertile – farm ground and the city folks below. City and rural water districts were organized, land was cleared, fields were leveled and drain ditches built.

The design and subsequent finished product was built around the premise that someday there would be 15 million people in the cities to drink, play and use the water, plus maybe 4 million acres of farm ground to nourish.

California flourished and grew. People came from all over to experience the dream. Jobs abounded, fortunes were made and California became the place where dreams come true. Remember Walt Disney?

Enter a typical drought cycle in the early 2000s with 35 million citizens and nearly 9 million acres now feasting on the California water system. Add to that the endangered spices acts, powerful environmental groups and outdoors fans now all vying for a piece of the pie. Thousands of acre feet are used to flush the non-indigenous Delta Smelt into the San Francisco Bay, and the building of additional storage becomes a matter of litigation and not construction, so nothing gets done.

This amazing state still produces a high percentage of all vegetables, nuts, milk and protein for the American people and the world.

The story continues to shed light on the California farmer who has adopted every available technology and methodology to become efficient and sustain the viability of the industry.

They are great "Stewards of the Land" and have tirelessly worked to do more and more with less and less.

In many ways, the current focus on California water has frozen a large number of water users in the agriculture sector who could improve their water to crop delivery systems because they fear possible state and federal regulation actions that might negatively impact their land value.

In more direct words, the water may be worth as much or more than the land, so if they reduce the amount they use the old term of "use it or lose it" looms heavy.

Ray Batten
Large Grower Relations

Ray received a degree in civil engineering in Washington State and has more than 30 years of experience in the agricultural irrigation industry as a service tech, designer, salesman, contractor and dealership owner. Ray has spent the last 15 years at Valmont® Industries in territory management and as the large grower relations manager for North America. He has been active in the Idaho Irrigation Equipment Association, the California Agricultural Irrigation Association and the Irrigation Association. Ray lives south of Dallas on Cedar Creek Lake with his wife and best friend, Cindy, and enjoys his children, grandchildren and lake living.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Valley U Bringing Passion and Education to Valley Dealers | by Kelly Schultze

Continuous improvement is one of the Valmont® cornerstone values, and it is something we at Valley® University strive for every day. Valley University is Valley Irrigation’s go-to resource for dealership training and development.

We are constantly looking for ways to improve our courses and make them more engaging. Each team member has a passion for learning and teaching new things, and it is our goal to bring that passion to each person who uses our Valley University site. 

These days it seems like every week brings a new gadget or feature that affects our daily lives, regardless of what industry we work in or where we live. In an environment that is constantly changing, it is important to stay up-to-date not only for our personal development, but also our professional development.

Technology is making it easier than ever to improve business through more efficient operation. From our end, being able to share information with every Valley dealership employee at the same time is incredible.

We have some really great developments coming soon that will benefit our dealerships. One of these developments is the creation of more service courses. From programming panels to proper wiring techniques, we will be improving our support for the service technicians at each dealership.

Recently we’ve been adding gamification to our courses. We’ve created quiz games such as Don’t Break the Pivot, Pivot Racing and Bird’s Eye View. We have more coming soon, as well. 

If you’ve taken our courses and enjoyed the games, or if you have ideas for courses or games you’d like to see, we would love to hear about it! You can contact us at or (402) 359-6500.

Kelly Schultze
E-Learning Instructional Designer

Kelly joined Valley Irrigation in early 2014 as an E-Learning Instructional Designer. When she isn’t at work, she is typically creating replica costumes and props from films, comics, and television shows. Kelly also enjoys learning languages and is conversational in French and Korean. She loves to travel, and has lived abroad while studying in South Africa and South Korea.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Small Potatoes from Field to Fork | by Shannon Peterson

I recently traveled to California for the grand opening of the new Tasteful Selections facility in Arvin, Calif. You know Tasteful Selections – the little potatoes that come in different sizes and colors, taste great and are easy to prepare?

This new 200,000-square-foot facility is completely dedicated to baby potatoes grown in Washington, Arizona, Nevada and California. The potatoes are sorted by size and color – 41 different combinations that include seven sizes, four colors (red, yellow, purple and white) and a variety of fingerlings. These fragile baby potatoes are handled gently and treated with care as they are sorted, cooled, washed and stored. The state-of-the-art facility was carefully designed to allow for expansion, which appears to be inevitable.

At a time when U.S. potato consumption has been decreasing – annual consumption of potatoes fell by nearly 25 percent since peaking in 1996 – yet the baby potato market grew from 3 percent of the market in 2010 to 10 percent today. Consumers love the unique flavor and the quick, convenient cooking methods, according to Nathan Bender, plant manager for Tasteful Selections.

I could go on and on with facts and figures – the energy efficiency of the plant, the intense level of quality control, the number of retail stores offering Tasteful Selections – but what makes this plant particularly special to the Valley® family was our integral partnership on all levels of the project.

Cascade Earth Sciences, a Valmont
® company, served as an umbrella coordinator for the project, including coordination of water and environmental permitting for the plant.

Valley Water Management designed the water supply plan that redistributes used water into the washing process or onto in nearby farmland, and installed the pumps, Variable Frequency Drives and related equipment in multiple fields. The team also provided soil science and field mapping for the potato fields.

Rick Grimes at Southwest Irrigation, of Casa Grande, Ariz., designed the new irrigation delivery method for 1,500 acres of land that will eventually include seven Valley Linears. The land and linears will be used by Tasteful Selections for potato products and another company for crop rotation.

Valley is proud of playing an integral role in bringing Tasteful Selections potatoes from the field to your fork. Enjoy!

Shannon Peterson
Marketing Content Editor

Shannon joined Valley Irrigation in 2013. She writes and edits materials about irrigation equipment. Shannon enjoys traveling with her family, particularly to national parks, and she occasionally writes about her travels for tourism magazines. She also likes trying new restaurants, seeing movies, and watching Husker football and Creighton basketball. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

That Yellow Stuff Works | by Julie Bushell

I can’t believe well over a year has passed since I first wrote about Proof Positive® span cable on Growing the Conversation! My blog post introduced a new theft-deterrent, bright yellow span cable with TraceID codes to dealers and growers. Bringing a new product to market always has its challenges, but with the support of Valley® Irrigation, we have kicked copper theft’s butt!

The first question I get when initially discussing Proof Positive span cable with a customer is always “well, does it work?”

To be honest, I always feel pressured to answer this question with “Yes! We arrested 100 thieves yesterday!” or provide a cops-and-robbers, Wild West story that ultimately leads to a prosecution.

The truth is I can’t provide these exciting stories because we haven’t had a report of attempted theft of Proof Positive since its inception!

Just this month, I received a call reporting span cable theft on several pivots. As the dealer spoke, I held my breath in excitement as I knew Proof Positive was on several pivots in the area.

“Three pivots were hit last night, I’m going to need some span cable,” he said.

“Was it standard, black cable?” I ask.

“Yes! All three pivots hit had standard span cable on it and the one pivot with Proof Positive was untouched! We are replacing everything with Proof Positive cable. That yellow stuff works!”

That yellow stuff does work! I realize now that there is no better testimonial for Proof Positive than this. The yellow jacket is a great deterrent, the End Copper Theft™ campaign has made its mark and the marketing has paid off. Thieves know not to touch “the yellow stuff.”

This would not have been possible without the commitment of Southwire Company® - the manufacturer of Proof Positive, metal recyclers and law enforcement. I would also like to give a special thanks to Valley Irrigation and Valley dealers Stoltenberg Irrigation, Full Circle Irrigation and Central Valley Irrigation. The success of the product has been driven by dealers who were unwavering in their quest to find an answer to end copper theft and protect their customers.

I would also like to thank the American Farmer TV series on RFD-TV for doing its part to end copper theft and selecting Paige Electric and Valmont Irrigation to showcase on its program.

If you missed our recent television debut, don’t worry! You can catch us again on April 14 at 8:30 a.m. EST on RFD-TV.

Filming American Farmer at the Paige warehouse in Columbus.
From left, Ron Bass from the film crew for American Farmer, Matt Ondrejko from Valley Irrigation,
Julie Bushell from Paige Electric and Nick Kielhold from the film crew for American Farmer.

Julie Bushell
Paige Electric Company

Julie is a guest writer for the Growing the Conversation blog by Valley. She has been working for Paige Electric Company for 10 years. Her love of agriculture keeps her inspired and always turns customers into friends. She hopes that someday one of them will gift her with a huge, profitable ranch. In the meantime, she enjoys hiking with her two giant dogs, Lennox and Kira, and testing new recipes in her kitchen.