When Jay Jones was awarded the President’s Environmental Stewardship Award at the 74th annual Alabama Farmers Cooperative, Inc., membership meeting, he didn’t hesitate to thank those who made it possible.
"It’s a great honor, but it’s something no one person can achieve," he said during an interview with AFC Cooperative Farming News. "Those who work with me deserve the credit, too."
Started several years ago to honor Co-op managers who focus their attention on environmental as well as financial matters, Jones’ efforts were lauded during the awards banquet at the Dixon Conference Center on the campus of Auburn University on Feb. 17.
AFC President Tommy Paulk said when Jones assumed the general manager’s position at the Headland Peanut Warehouse Co-op, he picked up where the previous management had left off as far as environmental concerns.
"Jay continued to execute the previously-established practices of environmental stewardship and with an eagerness of obligation and determination," said Paulk, who added Jones "began targeting additional and aggressive measures to incorporate continued environmental improvements."
Jones said his facility in Henry County built a new fertilizer warehouse four years ago "and did it to the point where we were right with environmentalists."
Calling it a "work in progress," Jones indicated, by the time the project is completed, his operation will have invested about $500,000—paid for "with our proceeds."
"Environmental work isn’t something you can take for granted," he said. "The EPA needs to be convinced and, unless you do it the right way, they won’t be."
Paulk praised Jones for his 26 years at the 14-acre Co-op, especially the four years he has spent as general manager.
In addition to the Co-op’s routinely-defined scope of operations, the location consists of a peanut buying point, Headland Trucking, a Southern Link sales dealer and as an agent for crop insurance.
Paulk said the facility has a 2,000-ton capacity crop nutrient house where spillage, shrinkage and product loss are kept at a minimum.
He said the crop protection warehouse was built to allow for more than 18,000 gallons of material containment resulting in a "well-managed structure equipped with locks and an alarm system."
"Jay actively participates with the state’s Pesticide Management recycling program of empty pesticide containers," Paulk said, adding there is no need for a pre-arranged collection date to be scheduled at the Co-op.
He said Jones arranged with the Henry County Extension Office for empty pesticide containers to be delivered to the Wiregrass Experiment Station by a Co-op worker.
Paulk said Jones’ environmental stewardship plans for this year include construction of two containment areas with 450 gallon diesel tanks occupying one of them and bulk liquid crop nutrient tanks to be in the other one.
"Headland Co-op is an outstanding example of quality environmental stewardship, proving applied determination, the assemblage of efforts and steadfast commitment does benefit the whole," said Paulk.
After the award was presented, Jones let everyone who congratulated him know it was a team effort from start to finish.
"It’s not mine, it’s theirs," he said. "We’re all-mighty pleased by this award. When everyone works together for the good of the community, everyone benefits."
Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.