Family, Community and Stewardship: Tessenderlo Kerley Celebrates 50 Years in Eufaula, Alabama
Southern hospitality is a very real thing, especially in a place like Eufaula, Alabama. The 13,000 residents of the town just west of the Georgia border have never met a stranger.
“If you go to the store, they might not know you, but they’re gonna wave at you,” said Eddie Maldonado, plant manager of Tessenderlo Kerley’s Eufaula facility. “They’re just really down-to-earth, good country folks.”
As the Eufaula plant celebrates its 50th anniversary, Maldonado said Tessenderlo Kerley and his team members at the plant have always embodied that friendly southern spirit, both at work and in the community.
“The guys here take pride. They love what they do,” said Maldonado, who has served at the Eufaula plant for 26 years. “When I go to a restaurant here, they say, ‘Hey, you work down there at Tessenderlo Kerley, right? I’ve heard some good things about y’all down there.’ Personally, it makes me feel good that the plant has been here for 50 years, and it’s provided for so many families here.”
Eufaula is Tessenderlo Kerley’s plant covering the Southeast U.S. It began as a storage terminal for crop nutrition products, but added a production facility 25 years ago.
Today, the Eufaula team produces and stores a number of Tessenderlo Kerley’s liquid fertilizers for Crop Vitality’s® crop nutrition products and NovaSource’s® crop protection products, which are vital to growers in the Southeast. Those products include Thio-Sul® and N-Sure®, which provide sulfur and slow-release nitrogen to southern crops like cotton, peanuts, corn and citrus. Sectagon®-42 from NovaSource protects many crops, including tomatoes, squash and watermelons from soil-borne pests and diseases.
“With its commitment to growers, sustainability and the community, our plant in Eufaula meets our mission to nurture and enhance life by supporting our vision to ensure farmers can provide food for the world,” said Tessenderlo Kerley Executive Vice President Russell Sides. “They reaffirm our commitment to making the most efficient use of our resources each and every day.”
All About People
Five years ago, Lamar Oliver pivoted from running a business to joining the Tessenderlo Kerley team in Eufaula as a truck driver. He said the people at the Eufaula plant made the transition an easy, welcoming one.
“The people I work with are the best thing about this company,” Oliver said. “You can work anywhere, but if you have a relationship with the people you work with, and they care about you and you care about them – in my opinion, it just makes you safer and do a better job.”
Oliver delivers Crop Vitality and NovaSource products manufactured and stored in Eufaula to customers in Alabama, Georgia and Florida. Justin Powell, NovaSource North American Sales Manager, said Oliver is a “rock star” among customers in that area. “I’ve had growers tell me Lamar is the best salesman we’ve got just because of how well he services the customers,” Powell said.
But in terms of providing crucial crop protection, Powell said the entire Eufaula team fits the “rock star” criteria.
“They just allow us and the growers to have an amazing amount of flexibility in getting products in a timely manner, and make decisions on how they’re going to treat the fields and when they’re going to treat them,” he said. “Between having the storage capacity and our local drivers there like Lamar, it really makes our lives easier and makes the growers’ lives way easier.”
Jennifer Lytch, organic products specialist for Crop Vitality, said the Eufaula team is “essential” to providing much needed crop nutrition throughout the Southeast.
“The service provided is the best in the industry and recognized often by our customers,” she said. “They go out of their way regularly to ensure our customers are happy and taken care of.”
Meeting new people and providing them with the products they need to help feed the world is Oliver’s favorite part of the job.
“Most of the customers that I encounter are farmers, and they’re good, salt-of-the-Earth people,” he said. “I have a good relationship with them, and I enjoy meeting them and delivering to them.”
Mission of Sustainability
With a focus of sustainability since its inception, Tessenderlo Kerley feeds the world by upcycling sulfur from refineries and using it in crop nutrition and protection products.
But the sustainability mission doesn’t stop there. All of Tessenderlo Kerley’s plants strive for zero waste. And many plants also recycle rainwater.
That includes the plant in Eufaula, which receives over 40 inches of rain per year. Since 1998, the Eufaula plant has collected rain in stormwater tanks, and reuses that water in its manufacturing processes.
“The Eufaula plant sits adjacent to Lake Eufaula, one of America’s premier sportfishing and recreational lakes. Tessenderlo Kerley takes our responsibility seriously to protect it by installing environmental protection systems,” said Chuck Kominski, Tessenderlo Kerley’s vice president of engineering and technology development. “Processing rainwater back into our facility instead of using fresh water from the city is another way for us to reaffirm our mission of sustainability and take care of the communities we serve.”
Family and Community
Maldonado and his family have lived in Eufaula for 35 years. He worked his way up at the Eufaula plant from loader, to operator, to assistant plant manager, to his current role, which he’s had since 2010.
The people he works with have truly become family to him, as they spend time together away from the plant, including at Lake Eufaula, home to some of the world’s best bass fishing.
“Some of these guys I go to church with. Some of their spouses are teachers and they’ve taught my kids. I’ve done a lot of coaching in baseball and softball, so a lot of these guys that have worked here, I’ve coached their kids,” he said. “It’s just a big family.”
That family extends to the Eufaula community. Tessenderlo Kerley has invited the Eufaula Fire Department to the facility to practice safety drills, and it has participated in the Eufaula Police Department’s holiday toy drives. It routinely sponsors youth activities, including learn-to-fish events and baseball leagues.
“If you drive around Eufaula, any sports complex – baseball, basketball, softball, soccer – you’ll see the Tessenderlo Kerley emblem all over,” Maldonado said. “When you go uptown and you see the Tessenderlo Kerley signs all over the place, it just makes me feel like we’re a part of the community.”
Always Looking Forward
After a half century of service, Tessenderlo Kerley has become deeply rooted in Eufaula’s culture in every meaningful way. This is evident when members of the management team visit the plant.
“Throughout my career at Tessenderlo Kerley, I have had the pleasure of working with the Eufaula plant on several projects and initiatives,” Kominski said. “The plant is one of my favorites to visit and work at, not only because of the beauty and charm of the city of Eufaula, but the kindness, hospitality and tremendous work ethic of the entire team.”
Due to the success of the Eufaula facility, Tessenderlo Kerley continues to explore ways to expand its operations there and use its existing relationships to meet the increasing needs of growers in the Southeast.
“Everyone at Tessenderlo Kerley should be proud of what the Eufaula team has accomplished in the last 50 years,” Sides said. “With the team and infrastructure we have in place there, as well as the relationships we’ve built with growers and the community, I have no doubt that our impact in the Southeast will be felt for the next 50 years and beyond.”
As his team celebrates its golden anniversary, Maldonado said he and his team are filled with gratitude for the way Tessenderlo Kerley has treated them, and their ability to extend that hospitality to the small southern community they serve, and throughout the Southeast.
“I can’t say enough good things about Tessenderlo Kerley,” Maldonado said. “We’re a small group, but upper management and engineering have given us all the tools we need. They’ve been very good to me and my family. They’ve provided a good living for me and for all the guys who work out here. It just makes me proud to be here.”