MARYVILLE, Mo. — Consumers Oil Co., a Maryville-based customer-owned agriculture cooperative, has been serving customers in Nodaway and surrounding northwest Missouri counties since 1928.
And on Wednesday, Oct. 17, the ag services business celebrated its 90th year of operation with a Greater Maryville Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting and hamburger barbecue.
“I think it’s because we’re locally owned by farmers,” said Consumers General Manager Harold Spire when asked why the co-op has continued to thrive across nine decades. “This business was founded by the great-grandfathers of some of the people here today.”
Production agriculture has changed a lot since 1928, and Consumers has evolved with the times, growing over the years into a full-service operation that handles everything from contract spraying and fertilizer application to elevator services and fuel, feed and seed sales.
But their most important product may be a deep knowledge of farming accumulated over nearly a century.
“We like to think we give good advice,” said Spire, who added that Consumers advises its customers about almost every aspect of their operations, from planting crops, to feeding livestock to input about market conditions and when to sell in order to maximize profit.
“We’re good at service,” Spire said. “On the agronomy side, we can write prescriptions for planting, spraying and fertilizing, and we have a nutritionist who can help with livestock feeding. We also offer fuel contracts, so that farmers can lock in their price.”
Larry Stiens, president of the Consumers board of directors, said the co-op’s success has resulted most of all from the relationships it has built with customers, often over several generations.
“It’s the people who do business with us,” Stiens said. “They’ve been loyal to the company.”
He added that Consumers has continued to add services and products with the goal of acting as a “one-stop shop” for farmers running increasingly diverse operations.
Today, the business serves as a retail dealer for just about every kind of farm consumable and service, a line-up that embraces agronomy products (fertilizer and chemicals) as well as custom-milled feed, fuel delivery and tire repair and replacement.
In addition, town-dwellers and non-farmers rely on Consumers for such things as propane, vehicle fuels and tire sales and service.
Consumers also purchases and stores harvested row crops from area farmers for resale to grain distributors.
“We try to give good, hard-working service,” Spire said. “We’re here when our customers need us and offer our goods and services at a fair price.”
Spire continued that Consumers is very aware of its vital role as part of the local economy in a community where agriculture is king.
The business serves around 700 customer-owners and pays out nearly $1.5 million a year in dividends across a service area about 120 miles in diameter with Maryville at the center.
“It’s a very important business, and I think people like to deal with people who are local,” Spire said. “And the money stays local, too. Everything we do is invested back into the business.”
Consumers is a significant employer and provides jobs to about 30 workers, more than half of whom are full time.
In addition to fertilizer, ag chemicals and seed, the co-op is a feed supplier specializing in Purina products and providing services that include everything from high-volume sales to commercial cattle and hog producers to individual bags sold to 4-H and FFA youngsters and pet owners taking care of a long list of animals ranging from chickens and rabbits to goats and guinea pigs.
With the advent of consolidation and an aging farm population, Consumers has also branched out into direct farm services that include custom pesticide and herbicide spraying and fertilizer application.