Helena of Norfolk Cultivating Yields of Value
In the heart of eastern Nebraska lies Helena of Norfolk, a local ag retailer making a big impact. Helena of Norfolk was established in 2014, when Helena Agri-Enterprises acquired a farm and garden home center. Four years later, Helena of Norfolk moved into a new facility that included a terminal, as well as both a dry and liquid fertilizer manufacturing facility. Over the past eight years, the location strived to improve agricultural productivity for its customers in eastern Nebraska and eastern Kansas. Their efforts paid off, earning them national recognition from Helena as the 2021 Coron® Blender of the Year.
Justin Ranslem and his team at Helena of Norfolk played a substantial role in obtaining this honor. Coron is one of Helena’s highly manufactured products due to its extensive use as a nutritional in the region. It provides vital nitrogen to crops such as corn and soybeans with an advanced, controlled-release formulation. During his time as Coron production manager, Ranslem made quality assurance a priority and created a culture focused on providing value to the local ag community. He also shared his knowledge, inviting employees at Helena to learn the production process. Justin Uecker, a former applicator, took interest. As a visual learner, Uecker took everything up quickly, learning the ins and outs of Coron production. Although he was an applicator, Uecker spent a lot of time as Ranslem’s right-hand man, assisting where he was needed in the production facility. This mentorship made Uecker’s transition to his new role as a production manager easy.
As Uecker fills his new role as Coron production manager, he is grateful for his previous role as an applicator that prepared him for putting care into each product spread or made. As an applicator, Uecker ran dry machines spreading potash, MAP, and all other dry fertilizers in the fall and the spring. Once the corn emerged, he did side dress and top dress.
“I treated every field as if it were mine or as if I was spreading for my father because that’s how he taught me,” said Uecker. “I always try to do a good job for everybody and leave the field in better shape than when I got there.”
To produce Coron on-site in Norfolk, Uecker begins with a 25-ton blender that has an automated control system. The formulas are pre-programmed into the computer, so he chooses the correct one and begins mixing the raw ingredients. First, water is put into the blender, along with urea, followed by Coron technical and other necessary ingredients depending on formulation. To make Coron Metra, ENC® Formulation Technology is a key component to finish the formulation and gives the product additional mixing and nutrient uptake capabilities. This mixture blends until all ingredients become a homogeneous mixture. Finally, Uecker takes a sample to check specific gravity and pH levels. If all levels are correct, the Coron product is ready to be used and distributed. In addition to Coron, the plant produces the liquid starter fertilizers Nucleus® 0-0-15, Nucleus HP, Nucleus Ortho-Phos and Nutri-Link®.
To have the ability to offer these quality local products to Norfolk and surrounding ag communities, Helena has a 25-car railroad sidetrack with a dump pit in the dry facility, which holds about 15,000 tons of material. MAP, potash, AMS and lime are brought into the dry facility. Further down the track is a spot for liquid rail materials, which includes phosphoric acid for starter material in the production plant and more. A small amount of material is brought in by truck from Sioux City, Iowa, which includes gypsum and urea. These logistics are invaluable as they provide efficiency in receiving mass quantities of product in a short amount of time, as well as buying power through bulk purchases. For example, 1,000 tons of product can be brought in at a time on the rail versus 25 ton loads by truck. The dry terminal and liquid storage terminal serve as storage and distribution for the northeast Nebraska retail cluster.
Yields are not the only way Helena of Norfolk provides value. It ensures its people are an integral part in the community and beyond. Its role is to provide value-added, competitive products and prices, as well as unique offerings Helena’s own controlled-release nitrogen and starter fertilizers. They have 10 full-time employees and numerous temporary employees who have impacted the community by buying into the Helena mission and taking the utmost care of customers to maximize their yield and profits. Helena of Norfolk supports their local FFA Chapter, participates in sponsorships for local groups, and advertise in local promotional material.
When speaking about the Norfolk personnel, Craig Davidson, Helena Product Manager based in Nebraska, said, “They’re out there working with their customers, taking a look at their fields and growing systems and trying to fit the right Helena product to the right situation for their growers to help maximize yield, and to help maximize return…to add a little bit more profit to the bottom line.”
Norfolk’s dedicated people with a breadth of knowledge on unique and useful products and technical knowledge will continue to be the lifeblood of agronomic solutions in the heart of eastern Nebraska. Visit Helena of Norfolk at 700 E Eisenhower Ave or call (402) 379-2910 for more information.