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U. S. McMillan Agricultural Article


Successful Texas Dealer and Ginner Sells Fertilizer Over Kitchen Table

PALACIOS, TEX.--"Get on Highway 35 in Houston and go Southwest, cross the Brazos and Colorado Rivers then turn left at the McMillan Cotton Gin."

In Houston, that's how they'll tell you to get to Palacios, Texas, a sleepy little town in the heart of a part of the South's prime cotton and rice-growing areas.

Palacios itself has a "guaranteed" population of "just about 3,000 give to take a few," says U. S. "Chuck" McMillan, owner and operator of the cotton gin and fertilizer business bearing his name.

Mr. McMillan started in the fertilizer business about 10 years ago and added the Armour line three years later. He explains how he got started this way:

"The fire chief of Collegeport came by the gin one day and wanted me to get him a load of fertilizer. So, I contracted to get it for him and deliver it to his place.

"I sold only the one load that year. After that, so many people began to call on us for fertilizer, I went into the business."

Mr. McMillan now sells about 1000 tons of fertilizer per year in the Matagorda County area. This volume splits roughly half and half between rice and cotton growers, with a slight edge to rice, the area's principal crop.

His rice and cotton-growing customers go for Armour's modern, high-analysis fertilizers and report consistently good results with both Commercial Vertagreen and POWR PRILS.

He sells bagged goods only and his average inventory is about 30 tons, which he stores in 1500 square feet of easily-accessible warehouse space. Inside the warehouse, the materials are stacked on pallets, 10 bags high (50 lb bags).

"Four stacks make a ton and we have this regular hand truck converted to a fork lift. You roll the hand truck up to the stack, and fit the forks under the pallet. The truck locks when you bring it upright. Then you roll the stack, pallet and all onto the farmer's vehicle. When you get the fertilizer in place, you kick this catch with your foot and the forks will break loose, leaving the stack in place."

"We never move a bag of fertilizer by hand once we get it in the warehouse," he added.

In his fertilizer operation, Mr. McMillan services five aerial applicators in the area with fertilizers and herbicides. Another special customer is an outfit utilizing helicopters for spraying services. Also, he has for rent two Calhoun speed spreads available on a cost-per-ton basis.

To handle deliveries, he had a tandem bob-tailed truck, two seven-ton four-wheel trailers and a 3/4 ton pick-up truck.

"And we have even dragged it down there with cars," he said, eyeing the family car in the garage which showed evidences of rough hauling through the South Texas rich black loam soil.

In addition to fertilizers, Mr. McMillan also offers farmers certified planting seed for such dry-land crops as maize, cotton and corn.

This amiable Texan, called "Mac" by his friends and business associates, and "Chuck" by his wife Flora, is very specific about the reasons behind his success as a fertilizer dealer.

"First of all," he said, "the price squeeze on farm products has prompted wide use of fertilizers in South Texas. There was only a small amount of fertilizer used on row crops in this section of the country nine years ago.

"Today, the farmer's tonnage is higher. Also, he's buying fertilizers with higher analyses so he can get the most for his money.

"We base most of our sales on soil tests, and follow up these tests with a personal call on the farmer. We try to sit down and discuss with a grower the needs of his crop, according to his soil test.

"Then we offer him the fertilizer he will need on a cost-per-acre basis, and include in our deal the cost of aerial application of the materials.

Mr. McMillan is just as specific about keeping ahead of his competitors.

"You can't sell anything if it's not a good product, and you can't sell a good product if you don't give good service," he said.

"You've heard people say 'I'm going to get organized tomorrow?' Well, here we reorganize two or three times a day. We service our customers 24 hours a day and have always given prompt delivery of our products.

"There is something going on all year 'round to sell fertilizers and we try to be there first with the best and more of it," he added.

Like so many successful fertilizer dealers, Mr. McMillan combines his fertilizer sales with another farm-oriented operation--a cotton gin and public scale.

He has been in the ginning business since 1945, first in nearby El Campo. He bought out his present location near Palacios in 1950.

Nowadays, his yearly ginning volume is in the neighborhood of 4,000 bales and the bulk of this is handled during a five-week summer season.

This part of the business he has turned over primarily to energetic Mrs. McMillan, who also serves as office manager for the entire operation. (The "office" is, in reality, the McMillan kitchen and the bulk of the business is contracted over a cup of coffee there. The McMillans' attractive home is within calling distance of the gin and scale houses and the fertilizer warehouses.)

During the ginning season, Mr. McMillan hires eight men on each of two shifts. Two men are hired to work full time.

Busy as they are with ginning and fertilizer sales, the McMillans give generously of their time to civic undertakings.

"We're located right at the end of the world down here," Mr. McMillan said, "so we've been working with the volunteer fire department to buy a fire truck for the Collegeport area."

"We're raising money, too, to pay for a recreation center for the young folks. Why, our Sweetheart Valentine Dance this year raised $3,400 and the parade had 17 floats and 28 entries from one civic group or another."

Sweetheart Dance? Parades? Floats?

What's all this got to do with selling fertilizers?

"A heck of a lot," said U. S. "Chuck" McMillan.

"Have another cup of coffee and I'll tell you about it!"

Armour Ag-Chem News, March-April, 1965, Armour Agricultural Chemical Company


Copyright 2006 - Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
All rights reserved

Jun. 28, 2006
Feb. 22, 2008