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Helena Chemical: First Week on the Job

Me calling a customer to figure out where to meet.

Last week I started my summer internship working for the Hatfield, Massachusetts branch of the Helena Chemical Company.  Helena started as a small distributor of agricultural chemicals in the town of Helena, Arkansas in 1957.  It has since expanded and does business in all 48 continental states.  Helena believes that the company’s success “revolves around People…Products…Knowledge…” “Our People provide the correct combination of Products based on our Knowledge of our customers’ business and our interest in helping extend and sustain their success.”  The Hatfield branch is the farthest north of all the branches and has accounts in all New England states as well as many in Eastern New York.  The Hatfield branch sells seed to farmers all over the Northeast, does custom spraying applications for growers, and delivers bulk tanks and individual cases of herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides to clients.

During my internship I am doing a wide variety of things to better help me learn about both the agricultural business in the Northeast and the business that Helena conducts.  At some point, I plan on riding along with a salesman to different customers.  Later in the summer, I will be conducting tissue and soil samples for clients to help them better manage their crops and achieve desired yields.  Currently, I am driving around the Northeast delivering orders of chemicals to growers.  In the one week I have been on the job so far, I have driven through every state in New England except Maine.  I have been on busy throughways, toured county roads, and have found myself lost on old dirt roads barely fit to be a horse path.  Most importantly, though, I have learned that the Northeast is a very prosperous and diverse agricultural region.

Unloading product at Cohen Farms in Connecticut

Many of the places I have made deliveries to are not what I would classify as “traditional” operations.  When I think of agriculture, I think of dairy farming and cornfields.  While I have driven by many dairy farms, I have not delivered to any.  Instead, I have discovered a diverse agricultural industry that I did not think existed in New England.  I have stopped at many apple orchards of various sizes all over Vermont and New Hampshire.  I always knew there were orchards in New England, but I did not imagine them to exist at the level I witnessed.  In Central and Eastern Massachusetts I stopped at few greenhouse operations.  While most were small roadside operations that had a greenhouse or two, I stopped at one so big a security guard had to check all outgoing vehicles to make sure no one was stealing products!  I had a hard time just getting into the place.  There were workers zooming around in golf carts and little Kubota tractors scooted about everywhere towing racks of potted plants from one greenhouse to another.  Sadly, I forgot my camera that day.  In Rhode Island, I stopped at one vegetable farm where I was given a warm loaf of bread by a couple of older men who were very hospitable and would not let me leave.  Thirty minutes later, I was given a cold stare down by a turf farmer that had an office that looked like it should have been Donald Trump’s.  Not only are the operations of New England diverse, but I guess the people are too.

Some equipment from the turf farm.

Besides agricultural clients, Helena offers a wide variety of products for both landscaping and ornamental plants.  I had stops at many lawn and garden centers as well as a handful of tree service operations.  The highlight of these stops, though, was taking an order of about ten cases to the grounds crew of Mohegan Sun.  I ended up sitting in the bus lot for an hour waiting with a guy who is connected to the Farm Aid concerts while I was able to sit and eat lunch.  Good thing I am not 21 or I probably would have lost the keys to the delivery truck at the Roulette Wheel.

Mohegan Sun.

I’m still trying to learn the ins and outs of the job.  For now I am preoccupied with battling traffic jams and uncooperative GPS systems.  As time goes on, I plan on chatting more with growers to learn about their operations and on learning more about the different applications of all the cases of chemicals I’m hauling all around New England.  For now, though, I am just going to take in all the different types of agriculture that New England has to offer while praying that my GPS does not send me down any more horse paths.


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