September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

One-On-One with Rhonda Phillips, feed mill manager

Rhonda Phillips has been the feed mill manager for 30 years at Allied Cooperative in Monroe County near Tomah, Wis.  <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY BOB KLIEBENSTEiIN
Rhonda Phillips has been the feed mill manager for 30 years at Allied Cooperative in Monroe County near Tomah, Wis. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY BOB KLIEBENSTEiIN

What is a typical day like for you? My day at the mill starts at 7 a.m. and comes to an end at 5 p.m. Every day is a new experience because no two days are ever the same. The task of day-to-day operation is the biggest part of my job. If you ask any of my co-workers, they will tell you all about Rhonda's List, the things to do list. No matter how small or large the task, it makes the list. I take phone orders, wait on customers and help with any of their needs. It is such a good feeling at the end of the day when you have met and accomplished the needs of your customers.

What is a duty you have that many people don't realize? My duty behind the scenes is working with suppliers such as Prince Corporation, Domain Inc., Kent Feeds and Land O'Lakes. They are great to work with. It is a great accomplishment to have vendors that work with you to achieve the best pricing possible to pass on to our customers. They are there to help with quantity buying, promotions, sales calls and anything needed to help our customers.

What is your busiest time of year? Fall is the busiest time of the year for us. Animals are coming off pasture, which mean it's time to grain them, in turn that means custom feed grinds. It is also, deer season here in Wisconsin and if we had a dime for every bag of corn that goes out our door, it would be a nice bonus. I am talking tons of bagged corn goes out the door. Cranberry and grain harvest is also a busy time in our area.

What is your favorite part about your job? The favorite part of my job is that no two days are the same, and it is always an adventure. After over 30 years of this adventure, I feel so fortunate to have had many great co-workers. Many wonderful memories of the young people who started their career at the co-op and how they have moved on to great jobs. I still have some of them stop to see me and we reminisce of the old times. Above all, the greatest treasure are my customers. I have been their feed mom for a long time. They depend on me to know what they need. I would like to thank Lisa, my co-worker. We have been through a lot together.

What is it about the feed industry that had you stay for 30 years? The feed industry is continually changing. When I started my career in this industry, it was Sorenson's Inc., which was then purchased by the Tomah Co-op, which then merged with Farmers Co-op, and then they merged with Wisconsin River Co-op, which has now become Allied Cooperative. With regards to the feed industry, mandates are always changing, which means more paperwork, more laws and more costs involved. It is a full-time job just to stay up to date with the changing product lines and choosing what will work best for the customer.

How has the feed industry changed in 30 years? The changes in the feed industry are always challenging and learning the new programs is rewarding. But most of all, I have stayed in the feed industry for all of my customers. They are not only customers, they are like family and friends to me. I am working with third and fourth generation farm families. It was never about the money. My greatest reward is the appreciation the customers show me. I feel very fortunate to have had some great mentors (bosses). The late Robert Sorenson, taught me to always remember "I sign your paycheck, but it's the customer coming through that door that pays your wages."

Describe your most memorable day on the job. The day that stands out for me was the day one of our customers had a heart attack in the parking lot. Fortunately, it was not his day to die. There was a first responder getting feed that day and she took care of him until the medical personnel arrived. I took his wife to the hospital and stayed with her until the family came. I was very proud of the way our staff handled the situation. He still stops in to see us. We saved a life. What a great day.

Tell us about your family. I grew up on our family farm. My parents went through the depression, therefore we were taught to waste nothing. I am most grateful for the work ethic they taught us throughout the years. Nothing in life is free, you need to work for everything you want in life. In 1982, I met and married my best friend, Bill, and his daughters. I have three wonderful step daughters Lisa, Lori and Mandy. They are like my own. We have two wonderful sons, Andrew and Cody. We lost our oldest son, Andrew, to a motorcycle accident seven years ago. We have eight grandchildren and three great grandchildren. We also lost a great grandson to an accident three years ago. We live on a farm just a few miles from my job, which we rent out the farm land. My husband retired five years ago and keeps the home front running while I work.

What do you do in your free time? I love working outside in the yard. We have a beautiful memorial garden for our son. I spend free time cooking and doing craft projects. My biggest joy is spending time with our granddaughter, Bailey. We travel to Florida every March to spend time with our daughter, Mandy, and her family. It's a great get away from Wisconsin in the winter.

What is one thing about yourself that most people don't know? My life is pretty much an open book. If I had to do it all over again, there is not much I would change. Most people do not know that I have been blessed with customers that are like family to me. You cannot put a price on gratitude and appreciation they have shown to me. As my favorite singer Elvis put it, "I did it my way".[[In-content Ad]]


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