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Atkins has overseen nutritional growth at co-op
By CARYL VELISEK
FREDERICK, Md. (Dec. 2, 2014) — When Arlene Atkins, the equine nutrition specialist at Farmers Cooperative Assoc., Inc., started with the co-op 18 years ago, the firm was selling two horse feeds, one with, and one without, corn.
Today, as the industry has grown, they now have 25 regular and custom mixed feeds for horses marketing to more than 30 other dealers in Maryland, Virginia,West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
“Because we make it, we also retail and wholesale it,” Atkins said of their horse feeds. “We don’t use many preservatives in our mixes and we use a lot of vitamin E.”
They also use the same brown paper bag for all their mixes instead of different bags for each mix, and, Atkins said, that saves people about $1.00 a bag, which adds up.
“And being a small company with only 35 employees, if we come across some new research that can improve our product, we can change it in a matter of days.”
Atkins did not start out as an equine feed specialist. She grew up in town in Prince George’s County, Md., and with her parents, moved to Fauquier County, Va., and a 10-acre farm on a gravel road in the country when she was 15 years old.
“I couldn’t ride my bike on that gravel road but some people down the road had horses and the lady that owned them hired me to clean stalls and help out, and taught me how to ride the horses.”
Atkins’ education has been diverse, all of which has helped in what she does now.
She went to school to learn nursing, which gave her knowledge of nutrition, and she has worked in marketing and advertising and for a radio station.
“But one day I realized, although I was working at very well paying jobs, I seldom had time to spend with my daughter, Ashley.”
So Atkins started a boarding farm for 45 horses which she ran for 10 years, so she could be home with her daughter.
Atkins and her husband, Darrell, whom she said is “very supportive and a really good horse person,” own a 40 acre farm near Myersville, Md., where they keep four horses of their own, mostly Appaloosa mares, and board six more on the farm.
Her daughter, Ashley, started riding when she was four years old, Adkins said, and over the years she has shown horses in Western classes, dressage, barrel racing and other events. She also has done trail rides and fox hunting.
“For 30-plus weekends a year while Ashley was growing up, we showed horses and participating in the activities related to the horses and we had a lot of fun,” she said.
Ashley and her husband, Justin Palmer, also live on the farm near Myersville. She has her own office at her home and does some work out of Farmers Coop in Frederick.
“I do all the advertising for our feed and I do the marketing of our products, which I have done before, but it’s not really ‘selling,’ it’s more like consulting. I just let people know what we have and see how I can help them.”
And as to the horses, Atkins smiled and said, “I care about them.”