This spring, Bruce Balvanz will plant the same corn and bean fields his family has planted for generations. In his 25 years at Landus Cooperative, the farm kid-turned-agronomist-turned-location manager has experienced four cooperative mergers as he’s risen through the ranks.
When he was in school at Central College, Balvanz thought his career path might lead him to be a veterinarian; he instead has made a living counseling farmers about another living thing on their farms: their crops.
Back then, he never would have imagined the speed at which agriculture moves today. “It’s surprising to people the volume of work we can do in a day,” Balvanz said. “Our pile in Greene is 1.3 million bushels, nearly 2/3 the weight of the historic Titanic. We can fill that pile in less than two weeks!”
Balvanz started his career in operations at Farmers Elevator Cooperative in Plainfield in the early 1990s. After several years of hard work, he was promoted to agronomy applicator. He got to know the products and services and again transitioned to an agronomist, making recommendations. When Landus Cooperative was established, Balvanz had worked at several locations in the area and was again promoted to Location Manager. Today, he oversees operations and staff at Greene and the seasonal locations of Plainfield, Bristow and Aredale.
Now that Balvanz oversees more employees, the competitive advantage of Landus Cooperative’s employee benefits programs is crystal clear. “When people are considering a new job, they don’t often look at the short term disability benefit. Our benefit is a huge opportunity that people don’t realize how that works. I had an employee that had to be gone 12 weeks for serious surgery. Anywhere else, that employee wouldn’t have gotten a paycheck for all those months. Here, his short-term disability paid him while he was out. It’s also available for your spouse if your significant other has an issue. At other places, you have to use your sick time and vacation. Our short-term policy is a huge benefit for our employees.”
Balvanz admits that retirement pops in this mind from time-to-time but he’s enjoying his work and his team for the time being. He’s focusing on ensuring he leaves a strong team when it is finally time for him to retire and return to his family’s farm.
“I’d tell a recruit that in my 25 years, I’ve been able to advance. I’ve worked my way up the ranks from entry-level to sales to management. And, I’ve gotten support along the way. I’ve been able to be successful,” he explained. Balvanz advises that the road to that kind of success is paved with hard work. “Doing your job every day and being a well-rounded employee can get you to where you want to be. I understand both sales AND operations. I can understand customer’s needs in a way I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise because I’ve been on every side of the equation, including being a farmer myself.”