Caledonia Farmers Elevator Expands

April 28, 2008
| By Pete Daly |
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Caledonia Farmers Elevator marks its 90th anniversary this year, but they aren't baking a cake — they're putting up two new warehouses.

CFE, a farmers' co-operative, occupies parts of three city blocks in the center of Caledonia, where it was first established in 1918. This year CFE is planning to construct two 6,700-square-foot structures, one on each side of the agronomy plant built in 2005 to replace one that burned the year before.

CEO Dwayne Ruthig said the 11,000-square-foot agronomy plant, which produces fertilizer, is the hub of the co-op operations in Caledonia, which also includes a retail store for farm and pet supplies, a feed mill and the Caledonia Lumber Co.

CFE also has a branch outlet for feed and grain in Lake Odessa, about 20 miles due east in southeast Ionia County.

One of the new warehouses in Caledonia will be for storage of feed ingredients while the other is for a range of packaged products including fertilizers and herbicides.

The new warehouses will replace a former Kent County Road Commission building that now belongs to CFE. Ruthig said construction on the new buildings may start in mid-May, one of the co-op's busiest times of the year.

CFE employs about 48 people full time, said Ruthig, but with seasonal help in the busy spring and summer months, the employee roster reaches about 60 to 65 employees.

CFE is owned by the co-op members, which number approximately 500 farmers. It was established in 1918 to serve southern Kent and northern Allegan and Barry counties with farm and home supplies, including feed, seed, plant food and hardware. Services then included grain marketing and storage, and egg grading. As the need and opportunity arose, a lumberyard and seed-processing plants were added.

While noting that the number of farmers served by the co-op "is probably declining … the size of the farms is growing continually." He added that as farms shrink in number and expand in size, the larger farms tend to be more efficient.

Seed and feed brands available at CFE have expanded to include Pioneer, Croplan, DeKalb, Michigan Certified seeds, Land O' Lakes, Buckeye, Kalmbach, Purina and also custom-blended feeds, plus liquid, dry and anhydrous ammonia plant foods. There is also a range of crop protection products, and the lumber division offers structural, finish and fence lumber and steel products and hardware.

Services now include soil and feed testing, custom plant food and crop protection application, livestock fence construction, specialized grain marketing and construction estimates. The CFE staff includes certified crop advisors, professional custom applicators and home design/construction licensees. CQX

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