Aaron Miller, 37: Miller Spraying & Miller Turf

 

In the past decade, Aaron Miller has grown a one-man commercial spraying operation into a pair of agribusinesses that employ between 10 and 16 people, depending on the season.

The owner of Miller Spraying and Miller Turf is quick to credit others for his business successes.

“I focus on doing what I do well and surrounding myself with others who do what they do well,” he said. “Know your limitations and allow others to use their skills, and everybody shines.”

Mr. Miller added that watching employees rise to challenges placed before them is the most exciting part of his job.

“Really, the secret to my business is great people,” he said.

However, his employees have no problem giving credit to the man in charge.

“Aaron provides a valuable service to the agriculture industry in Lewis, Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Oneida counties,” staff members wrote in a nomination letter for this honor. “He is recognized as honest and knowledgeable. As he expands his business, he not only adds employees but keeps a number of other local businesses busy with new buildings and construction. He takes his responsibility as an employer seriously and considers himself not only responsible to his employees but also to their families. He is very supportive of family and community involvement, encouraging his employees to participate in activities outside of work, even rearranging the work schedule to allow them to do so.”

Despite having no formal business education and only a couple of years of experience as a pesticide applicator, Mr. Miller in 2003 financed his first sprayer. He now has a fleet of five such machines, spraying around 40,000 acres of crops each year and selling more than $1 million worth of corn and forage seeds.
In 2007, he expanded into the turf business, now providing weed control and fertilization services to more than 200 commercial and residential lawn accounts throughout the north country.

Also, as a board member of Son Light Missions Lacolline, which operates a Christian mission compound in Haiti, he helped get several truckloads of supplies to that island country following a devastating earthquake there in 2010 and visited Haiti four times in the past year.

“I couldn’t do that without a great support system at my business,” Mr. Miller said.

There are also few secrets among Mr. Miller and employees at the business, located on Route 26 north of Lowville, since they pool their money and share lunch on a daily basis.

“We eat lunch together, so everybody knows everybody really well,” he said.

Mr. Miller said the north country is not only a great place to live but also to find quality employees.

“It’s an excellent place to do business, where we all live, work and play together,” he said.

However, one area in which he would like to see improvement is the building and zoning permit processes, which he said could be streamlined.

“It discourages everybody but the very, very determined people,” said Mr. Miller, who in recent years has added a couple of buildings to expand his operation and services.

In order to retain young business leaders, local leaders must find ways to encourage growth and expansion, he said.

Mr. Miller said he has had many mentors over the years, so singling out one or two would be difficult.

“I try to watch a lot of people who I deem successful,” he said.

However, Mr. Miller said he tends to get the best advice from his father, Daniel, owner of Miller’s Meat Market in Watson, and credits his upbringing with preparing him for the world of business.

“To me, business is about service,” he said. “Growing up at a meat market and catering really showed you how to serve people.”

— by Steve Virkler

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The Aaron Miller File

Hometown: Lowville

Professional position: Owner, Miller Spraying and Miller Turf

Family: Wife, Monica; children, Saige, Skyla, Summer, Sydnee, Stoan and Slate

Education: River Valley Mennonite School

Community involvement: Minister of music, Naumburg Mennonite Church; board member, Son Light Missions Lacolline; member, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Lewis County agricultural advisory committee

Last book read: “Son of Hamas” by Mosab Hassan Yousef, and the Bible