MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The St. Paul Saints played their first game in their new stadium Thursday: CHS Field.

The Inver Grove Heights-based Fortune 500 company bought the naming rights to the ballpark last fall, and acknowledged not many people knew who they are.

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So, what does CHS, Inc. do?

“I actually had to look it up because I live in the neighborhood,” Lowertown resident Miguel Lindgren said. “I had an idea it has something to do with agriculture.”

CHS, Inc. is the nation’s largest agricultural co-op. It’s the fifth largest company in Minnesota and ranks 62nd on the Fortune 500 list.

It’s owned by 625,000 farmers across the country, both directly and through co-ops. It’s mostly those farmers they serve.

“A co-op means the people who are doing business with the company are the ones who own it and share in its success,” CHS corporate communications director Lani Jordan said. “When we’re financially successful, we are sending a portion of that back to our farmers and co-op owners.”

Their primary businesses are supplying inputs — like fuels and fertilizers — to farmers, and moving the grain those farmers make to the marketplace all over the world.

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The company does not consider its name as an acronym; instead, the name was created after the 1998 merger of Cenex and Harvest States.

CHS also has a hand in the energy business by making gasoline, diesel, propane, lubricant and renewable energy. They sell gas under the Cenex brand.

“We are also the nation’s leading distributor of fertilizer products that go out to our farmers,” Jordan said.

As for products consumers might know, CHS, Inc. packages and roasts sunflowers seeds for several different brands, including those sold at Trader Joe’s. They will sell CHS-branded seeds at CHS Field.

The company has also sponsored the Miracle of Birth exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair for the past decade.

Jordan says the opportunity to acquire the stadium’s naming rights was one they couldn’t pass up.

“As you know, we aren’t all that well-known within the Twin Cities, so in order to serve our farmers and co-ops and be successful for them, it means we need to have great employees,” Jordan said. “We thought that was a great opportunity to build some visibility in the Twin Cities, make our employees proud and, most of all, to help attract and retain the employees that will attract and retain those co-ops and farmers tomorrow.”

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The company dates back to 1931, and the meeting to create the very first co-op happened four blocks from where CHS Field.

Heather Brown