A Lifetime of Service: Crop Vitality Agronomist Honored with Ned van Buren Award
Tom Fairweather’s passion for chemistry began as a child -- and it has led him to dedicate his life to helping things grow.
“I grew up in a farm in the Midwest in the middle of nowhere and had a cousin the same age as I was, and we were into fireworks – and we figured out how to make our own fireworks,” said Fairweather, an agronomist at Crop Vitality, Tessenderlo Kerley.
Fairweather’s lifelong commitment to innovation and making life easier for growers through quality crop nutrition earned him the Ned van Buren Lifetime Service Award, an annual honor established by the Fluid Fertilizer Foundation. Fairweather accepted the award during a ceremony in Scottsdale, Arizona in February.
“Tom is a lifelong learner,” said Crop Vitality, Tessenderlo Kerley Manager of Agronomy Zack Ogles, who nominated Fairweather for the award. “He loves agronomy. He loves innovating new products. He is always thinking about something new – some new development, some new product, some idea. That’s Tom.”
Ogles said Fairweather, an Oregon resident, has never been one to look for recognition – but his contributions to the fertilizer industry needed to be recognized. The Fluid Fertilizer Foundation agreed and voted unanimously to give Fairweather the award.
“Tom is a modest guy, but he’s had a huge influence on the fluid fertilizer industry,” Ogles said. “I just think it was a very fitting award for Tom and his stage in his career.”
In the 1980s, Fairweather helped California transition from solid to liquid fertilizer, as only the latter would pass through a drip irrigation system.
“Going to California was like being a kid in a candy store. There was just a lot of stuff going on, growers were installing drip irrigation on any crop they thought would save them water,” Fairweather said. “That changed the whole way about how you apply fertilizer.”
More recently, Fairweather was instrumental in creating KTS®, as well as the development of K-Row 23®, both of which have become crucial crop nutrition products for farmers across the U.S.
“When we started thinking about KTS®, there was a lot of potassium deficiency out there. Well, you can’t shove a dry product through a drip irrigation system very well, so it takes liquid product. TKI had the technology and the engineering ability to make KTS®,” Fairweather said.
Fairweather’s two favorite aspects of the job? The chemistry and the customers.
“The customers are what I call the face of the market. They kind of tell you what’s going on and what the needs are out there,” he said. “We’ve got a good company with a good sales team and agronomy staff, and good products. It makes everything more enjoyable.”
Fairweather isn’t out of ideas – not by a long shot. And while he was honored to receive the award, he said the greatest honor is being able to help create new products that allow growers to feed the world.
“Somebody asked me what my hobby was. I said, ‘This is my hobby,’” Fairweather said.