Don Owings, owner of SO-IL Service Inc., based in Carthage, Ill., shows how technology has helped businesses such as his and farmers direct the appropriate nutrients and treatments where they will have the most benefit. Owings was at the Western Illinois University Ag Mech Club Farm Expo.
Don Owings, owner of SO-IL Service Inc., based in Carthage, Ill., shows how technology has helped businesses such as his and farmers direct the appropriate nutrients and treatments where they will have the most benefit. Owings was at the Western Illinois University Ag Mech Club Farm Expo.

MACOMB, Ill. — Don Owings, owner of SO-IL Service Inc., wants the public to know that he, his employees and the farmers they serve in the Midwest drink the water, too.

“We don’t want it to run off. We don’t want to mess up the water supply. We drink the same water,” he said.

Owings was representing the business, SO-IL Service, which was created in 1987, at the Western Illinois University Ag Mech Club Farm Expo at Western Hall on the WIU campus.

Owings, the CEO and owner of the business, was taking a break at a hometown farm show — this was the company’s sixth year at the Farm Expo. He then would head back out to the National Farm Machinery Show and then to shows in Kansas City, Mo.; Waterloo, Iowa; and Omaha, Neb.

“Then we come home and start getting the equipment ready,” he said.

SO-IL Service delivers fertilizer and farm chemical products to 23 states. The company has retail storage locations in Illinois at its corporate warehouse and storage area at Colusa, in Missouri at Mexico and East Lynne and in Iowa at Marengo and Wayland.

The variety of products that Owings offers is as varied as the area his company services.

“We do soil testing. We sell chelated micronutrients that go in the starter fertilizer according to the soil test,” Owings said.

SO-IL Service also sells proprietary products, including soluble calcium that increases the efficiency of nitrogen fertilizer and Landoil, a soybean oil surfactant that, when mixed with herbicides, reduces drift and allows for better rain fastness.

The company updates planters with precision planting systems. Owings said that work started when farm incomes weren’t as healthy as they are today.

“We started that about 15 years ago. Farmers weren’t making as much money, so they were keeping equipment longer, and we would upgrade their planters. We would get it so they had a picket fence stand, and that’s what you need, an even distribution of plants across the acre,” he said.

Owings said that with the dry weather in 2012, farmers have renewed focus on soil testing.

“There’s more emphasis on soil tests now than there was. Farmers are being careful with the input expense. They’re trying to figure out ways to get the biggest bang for their buck,” he said.

His company helps with that and with other fertilizer-related issues, such as preventing runoff.

“I’ve been with this fertilizer type for more than 40 years. Our type of program has always been a low-volume product, so there’s no runoff,” he said.

As visitors to the WIU Ag Mech Club Farm Expo strolled by, Owings said he wishes the public would gain a greater understanding of agriculture and farming and what it takes to successfully plant and harvest a crop.

“As far as federal crop insurance is concerned, we’d would all rather raise an average or better crop and get an average or better price for that crop. The prices we’ve had the last two or three years are very, very nice — where you have a crop,” he said.

He said while the products his company sells can help nourish and protect crops, Mother Nature still is the boss. He said at a recent meeting with farmers in northeast Nebraska, they were positive despite ongoing extreme drought conditions.

“They were extremely dry, but they had a good attitude. We had 60 farmers at the meeting. They were ready to start breaking ground and planting,” he said. “We can help their crop be more drought resistant, but you still have to have rain to raise a crop.”