By Heather Chapin
The Morning Journal
July 23, 2021

Centerra Co-op manager Mindy Rush and assistant manager John Mole pose at the Grafton farming cooperative. (Submitted)

A farming cooperative in Grafton continues to flourish as farming remains an important part of the area.

Centerra Co-op has a location in Grafton at 717 Erie St., as well as many other areas, according to manager Mindy Rush.

The agricultural cooperative is owned by the farmers who use it, Rush said.

Over the years, Centerra has seen several mergers with Landmark Agricultural Cooperative and Town and Country Cooperative, said Rush and assistant manager John Mole.

The latest merger resulted in Centerra in 2018, Rush said.

The change had its initial bumps in the road as the co-op officials struggled to agree on a name and logo, she said.

Eventually, an agreement was reached and the signs announcing the co-op’s new name were erected on each store, Rush said.

“They put a lot of thought into our logo and its meaning,” she said. “Centerra means center of the earth.”

The cooperative is headquartered in Ashland, Ohio, but has stores as far east as Pennsylvania and south to Mansfield, Rush said.

The company’s website boasts other stores in Loudonville, Smithville, Sullivan, Andover, Jefferson, Middlefield, Wayne Township and Slippery Rock, the information stated.

In addition to the retail store in Grafton, the co-op has a grain mill in town where farmers deliver their grain and it is processed, Rush said.

Centerra Co-op has a location in Grafton at 717 Erie St. (Heather Chapin For The Morning Journal)

The co-op offers a variety of feeds from small amounts to bulk for most animals including farm animals and even zoo animals, she said.

While Centerra carries several brands of feed, it also offers its own line of feed in partnership with Purina, Rush said.

Additionally, the store offers supplies for animals and farm-related work as well as live birds at times.

Providing farmers with seed to plant their fields is a large part of the operation, Rush said.

Centerra provides fertilizer and supplements for the fields as well, she said.

Rush, a LaGrange native, said she has worked for the company on and off since she was in high school.

After staying home to raise her family for a few years, Rush said she was happy to accept a managerial position with the company.

“I’ve always wanted to manage this store,” she said.

Growing up, Rush raised her own farm animals as part of a 4-H program which gave her an advantage as she began working at the store.

Rush said she enjoys visiting with customers and talking to them about their farms and animals.

Managing employees, Rush said, has been a challenge for her, but she’s getting the knack of it.

“We hire a lot of young people, but they definitely evolve with the company,” she said.

Many of the people who apply for the job at Centerra, though, already have a background in farming or raising animals which is helpful.

Others move on to obtain degrees in various agriculture-related fields, Rush said.

Regardless, even with no experience on a farm, the inexperienced employees soon learn as they work with the customers and gain knowledge about the company’s products, Rush said.

“I learn something new here every day,” she said.

Mole said he started coming to the store as a child.

“I remember coming here as a kid,” said Mole, who’s worked for the company for about three years.

Mole, who grew up on a dairy farm, recalled a time when he was running errands after church with his mother and ended up getting lost.

“I ended up in the (Centerra) store and the staff was very nice and they helped me get reunited with my mom,” he said with a laugh.

In addition to the farming services and products, Centerra offers its patrons a scholarship program, according to the company’s website.

“Centerra Co-op Inc. will award $1,500 scholarships to our patron’s dependents to work on their baccalaureate, associate or technical degree as a full-time student in an ag-related field,” the website states. “This program has been established to assist agricultural producers who support the cooperative.”

The company also employs nutritional experts who advise its customers about the best way to feed their animals, according to the website.

For more information about the co-op, visit centerracoop.com.