Growth, Education, Environment and Stewardship: Hanford Celebrates a Decade of Service

Rob Hibbs loves teaching as much as he loves learning. At Tessenderlo Kerley, he’s been able to do both. 

Hibbs began his career at Tessenderlo Kerley as an operator nearly a decade ago. He took advantage of opportunities to learn and grow within the company, and was named the manager of Tessenderlo Kerley’s plant in Hanford, California in 2022. 

“I came in kind of green, wasn’t very knowledgeable on what it is we’re producing and how it impacts our customers. To be able to come in and learn what I have, and to be able to share that with others, I think that’s a full-circle moment,” Hibbs said.

As the Hanford plant celebrates its 10-year anniversary, Hibbs said his favorite part of the job is educating customers on what his plant does, and educating his team members so they can take the same steps forward within the company that he has. 

“I think that’s probably the greatest thing, is the ability to share that knowledge with others,” he said. 

The Hanford plant serves growers in the Central Valley by producing crucial crop nutrition products KTS® and K-Row 23® for Crop Vitality, and storing Thio-Sul® from Crop Vitality. It also stores crop protection product Sectagon-K54® from NovaSource.  

“What stands out to me the most is the volumes of crops that are grown out of California that feed the world. So, for us to have a direct impact on their ability to increase their yields, I think that’s pretty impactful and special,” Hibbs said. “To say that we play a role in that is something that I know I’m proud of, and our guys on our team would say the same thing.” 

Tessenderlo Kerley Executive Vice President Russell Sides and other members of the management team visited Hanford in October to celebrate a decade of excellence with the team, including a BBQ lunch and round table discussions about the future of the company, and ideas for how and what can be done within the next 10 years. 

“Rob has taken advantage of opportunities to move up within our company, and he’s spent his time in Hanford ensuring others have those same opportunities,” Sides said. “The Hanford team’s operational excellence, stewardship and community involvement are all shining examples of what Tessenderlo Kerley is all about.” 

The Hanford plant checks all those boxes. From partnering with charities on water drives during the hot Central Valley summer months, to sponsoring and providing uniforms for a youth baseball team, the plant has embraced its community in a meaningful way. 

“The fact that we’re able to give back to the kids in some way, shape or form, and to be part of a company that allows us to do that, is pretty special,” Hibbs said.  

The Hanford plant’s commitment to the environment goes beyond its production of upcycled crop protection products. In early 2023, it completed the installation of a seven-acre solar panel project designed to dramatically reduce its energy consumption. It’s also one of several Tessenderlo Kerley plants to recycle and use stormwater in its products. 

“We’re trying to be good neighbors, and that means caring for our environment and being stewards in our area,” Hibbs said. 

One of Hibbs’ favorite parts of his job is educating customers on plant visits. That includes regular tours of the clean, well-maintained facility that his team prides itself on, and discussing how products are manufactured and distributed to customers and growers. 

“How neat is it that, 10 years ago, I had no idea what Tessenderlo Kerley did and the products it produced, and today, I can have people tour our site and actually be the one teaching them about what it is we do?” Hibbs said. 

“When it comes to quality and commitment, when our sales team arranges a plant tour at Hanford, the most common customer response is, ‘Wow,’” said Crop Vitality Regional Sales Director Scott Gosse. “Quality is a big selling point to our customers, and they know they can trust the Hanford team.” 

Hibbs also loves helping his team members reach their full potential, just as he has. One prominent example is Rafael Tijero, who began his time in Hanford as a loader and is currently the plant’s lead operator.  

“There are growth opportunities with every company, but with some companies, you can only get so far,” Tijero said. “I just pushed myself to always stay busy, work hard, stay on top of things, and it’s turned out the way I wanted it to.” 

Hibbs has also helped team members move on outside of the Hanford plant, including at Tessenderlo Kerley’s newest plant in Defiance, Ohio. 

“I’m absolutely going to miss those guys, their contributions to the team and the friendships we’ve developed. But I’m a teacher at heart, so to help people in some way, shape or form, and believe that I’ve left a positive impact on them and see their careers grow, that’s what I’m here for,” he said.  

As the Hanford plant enters its second decade of service, Hibbs and his team are dedicated to continuing to provide growers with the products they need, while caring for the environment and community. And he’ll continue to ensure that his team members have the same opportunities that he has. 

“I think to be a good leader, you have to develop the people under you,” he said. “The more people we have blossoming around me, I think that’s special, and that’s what I aim for.”