Approximately 45 members and friends of the Nebraska Agribusiness Club had a great day for a tour on June 2 as we headed to Omaha to tour Rotella’s Bakery Plant, Midwest Labs, Farm Credit Services, Claas and Nebraska Brewing Company.
We started the day at Rotella’s Italian Bakery. Most of us have either seen or bought the Rotella brand of bread, so it was interesting to visualize the process behind the red, white, and green packaged loaf. One of the most striking things to me was that this business started with one man raising his own wheat, grinding it to flour, and selling the bread to local customers in 1850 in Italy. This business continues to strive today in the 5th generation. Rotella’s story reminded me of a lot of our family farm stories- started with one family’s ambitious, entrepreneurial spirit and has made it through the tests of time with sweat, persistence, and new technology.
Our next stop was Midwest Labs. This company will test anything related to agriculture, environmental, feed/pet food, human food, and fuel. It was amazing how much technology is utilized to find exact data. We even got to see the brand new lab that will be utilized by the human food department, since human food research has expanded so much that the department has outgrown its current area.
Our group was ready for lunch by the time we got to Farm Credit Services of America. We were treated to a delicious lunch by FCS as we heard a rundown of the organization. As we spoke with the employees and toured the facilities, many reasons were evident that FCS was voted Best Place to Work in both Omaha and Iowa. FCS employees work together in teams and enjoy a very horizontal structure. It is also notable that the FCS building itself was beautiful. Every piece of architecture was meant to represent a piece of agriculture. The staircases looked like augers, carpet looked like grass, and brick looked like wheat swaying in the breeze-just to name a couple of features. It was obvious that FCS is passionate about agriculture and helping rural America prosper. The atmosphere was so vibrant and full of energy that I would love to get the chance to be able to work with or for Farm Credit Services of America someday.
The German company, CLAAS Manufacturing, was our next stop. Since our agricultural machinery market is dominated by John Deere and Case IH, I was not very familiar with CLAAS. I learned that CLAAS makes the majority of combines and tractors in Europe, but expanded to North America in 1979. You probably associate CLAAS with Caterpillar since they were run cooperatively from 1999 to 2002. This is why you have seen CLAAS equipment in Caterpillar’s mustard yellow color. However, CLAAS has been independent since 2002 and will soon start producing combines in their actual lime green, red, and white colors. Omaha is the North American CLAAS headquarters, where we got to watch LEXION combines move down the assembly line. Only about 40% of the pieces for the combines are U.S. sourced; the rest of the work and assembly is done in Germany, such as the painting. However, most of it gets put together in Omaha, which takes about a week. CLAAS is expanding rapidly in the North American market, and I think that they will continue to become more and more common to see in our fields.
The Nebraska Brewing Company, a much anticipated last stop, was a refreshing end to our day. Our group was walked through the process of beer making. We learned that the color of the beer did not indicate the alcohol concentration- it was actually the hops added to the process. The members of our group enjoyed being treated to a free sample of the specialty beers. The Nebraska Brewing Company is increasing capacity and business quickly, and it was exciting to see their progress.
Overall, this was a day well spent. I think it is important for individuals to get out in the world and experience things that they are not used to. If this does not happen, it is all too easy to become narrow–minded instead of considering how actions will affect the whole industry. The Nebraska Agribusiness Club is a group of warm, welcoming individuals who have a lot of interesting stories to share. This is an outstanding professional organization to get involved in if you like meeting new people and learning about agriculture.
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A big thanks to Club Vice President, Doug Carr, for setting up the tour!!