Life on the road is just a fact of life for Sean Phillips. Although Olds is his home base, the farm manager for Barr-Ag looks after approximately 14,000 acres of crops in a triangle that spans from Olds to Oyen to Barons and back. The grain operation is part of a larger operation that handles 30,000 total acres, the other half of which is hay that is directly sold to Asian nations such as Taiwan, South Korea, China and Japan. The forage export market, which has been well-established in Alberta since the mid-90s, is a mainstay in the province because of excellent climatic conditions, making Barr-Ag’s operation a cornerstone of Alberta agriculture.
Phillips and his crews work hard, and they need people they can depend on. It’s one of the reasons he enjoys UFA’s commitment to keeping him fueled up and inputs at the ready when he needs them.
UFA routinely delivers right to his field, which Phillips declares “makes life a lot easier, that’s for sure.”
“When they do fuel deliveries, they do it in a timely fashion,” he says. “Also, my crop inputs and all chemicals are delivered when I need it delivered.”
His two main UFA contacts, Bruce Kemmere and Allen Crawford, make it easy to work with the Co-operative. He was friends with Kemmere before he worked at UFA and Crawford used to be his agrologist.
“I’ve had personal relationships with these guys for 25 and 15 years,” says Phillips. “When UFA started selling crop inputs in Olds, the relationships were already in place. They’re definitely competitive and they help our business.”
Each year, Phillips says Barr-Ag does a “little bit more” with UFA on the inputs because the Alberta cooperative continues to try and stay competitive with industry and the farm manager appreciates the efforts made to accommodate him.
With UFA making sure he has gas in the tank and inputs to farm, it leaves him free to worry about other things, like managing farmland, which has a perimeter that takes about eight hours to drive around.
Barr Ag’s focus remains export-driven with hay while the grain side of canola, wheat and peas is typically sold to domestic line companies. The latter is becoming easier, he says, thanks to the resurgence of grain elevators across the Prairies. “We have more options and delivery points.”
Another favourable development for Phillips is UFA’s dramatic shift back into its core agricultural roots, and he is just as excited as the Co-operative about the future.
“They’ve definitely gone in a better direction with the sell-off of Wholesale Sports,” he says. “They’re getting back more into the ag roots. It’s a co-op and it’s definitely better that way.”