North Valley Ag Services is a grower-owner cooperative dedicated to the success of our customers. Built upon a rich history spanning nearly 7 decades, NVAS offers innovative products and services selected to best serve our member’s needs. We serve all ag producers, members or otherwise, and are committed to maintaining our status as a leader in grower services. We invite you to experience the North Valley Ag difference.
From Frustration to Action
North Valley Ag Services has a rich history dating back to 1957 when it was originally started as a bean processing cooperative known as Chico Bean Growers. Growers had become frustrated with having to haul their crop long distances only to have to wait in long lines at warehouses for their beans to be cleaned and marketed. The system left much to be desired as buyer’s dictated prices and the local market prices seemed to be consistently lower than other producing regions.
From the original group of growers, five were elected (Harry E Nichols, Jr., George M. Stutz, Westley Gilbert, Vernon Reigel and J.C. (Jim) Brook) to create the inaugural board of directors. They pledged their own assets to the bank in order to finance the original purchase of the land, buildings, a scale, storage boxes and cleaning equipment. Twenty seven growers agreed to form their own processing cooperative and signed on as members in the first year. Patrick Kincade was hired as the founding manager and Chico Bean Growers was officially established.
The First Year
The first season incurred unfortunate events. The bean crop was inundated with over nine inches of rain before harvest was complete. It was a disaster. Through the sheer determination of the board of directors, and the financial commitment of the members, Chico Bean Growers survived and moved forward.
The Value of Membership
Members quickly understood the value of the co-op and how by being personally invested, they had placed their destiny in their own hands. Members were expected to do all of their business with the cooperative. This “pro-cooperative” mindset was typical of many first generation cooperative members.
While cooperative’s main purpose was to clean, store and market the members bean deliveries, it wasn’t long before the idea of offering fertilizers materialized into a new division of the association. Strategically located at a rail spur, with a scale, fourteen acres and a solid workforce the leaders seized the opportunity before them.
The Power of Numbers
Management, recognizing that they and their fellow members were at the mercy of local suppliers, negotiated a purchasing agreement in 1959 with a major fertilizer supplier for all members who purchased collectively through Chico Bean Growers. The co-op grew and even became the first supply company in Northern California to use a pneumatic delivery system with overhead storage tanks.
While the bean processing division was still leading the way, over time alliances were formed with additional chemical and fertilizer suppliers and this new service provided to the membership was considered successful.
A Field of Change
By the early nineties, the co-op was facing downward revenues due to a continued decline in dry bean acreage. Just as field crops has evolved from livestock pasture and dry grain land, field crops had given way to orchards. And it wasn’t just happening locally. Statewide, 260,000 acres of bean varieties planted in the early 1970’s declined to 130,000 by the early 1990’s.
In 1993, the co-ops then manager, Michael Brown, along with the board of directors established a long-term strategic planning process with the Rural Business Cooperative Service for USDA Rural Development. The strategic planning process was not easy, took three years to complete and involved multiple changes at the board level. As an alternative course of action was evaluated and discussed, a vision emerged for how the co-op could increase their grower services division and become a true leader in a competitive industry. To provide top-level service, the management and board realized the need to be in a better buying position to handle the large volumes of plant food needed for competitive pricing.
Charging forward with the mindset of their predecessors, the board of directors decided to build on its strengths by expanding facilities and offering more member services. In November of 1995, ground breaking occurred for the area’s newest major fertilizer retail distribution facility complete with rail and truck capability.
The advantage of rail and the supply warehouse lifted Chico Bean Growers to a new level. Recognizing the success and shift in focus, vital bylaws were changed altering the definition of a member from being a bean producer to simply an ag producer. This opened up opportunity for new members and a wider base from which to continue to grow. A new dba of North Valley Ag Services was added to reflect the variety of services offered and to offset the impression that Chico Bean Growers gave the farm community that being a bean grower was a requirement for doing business.
Today and Beyond
60 years since it’s founding, many additional services and equipment have been added including crop protection and licensed pest control advisors. A great deal has changed from the original purpose of processing and marketing dry beans but much has stayed the same. The current management and board of directors maintains the same diligence to continually assess our performance and look to the future for new opportunities.
We hope you’ll join us and experience the NVA way.
I’ve been a member of NVA for 30 years. It’s an easy place to do business. They truly focus on what their customer needs no matter the size of ranch or farm. - Steven Bickley | Grower