Fifty years ago, Ward Schwindt and his wife Ruth purchased a small grain chopping mill in the hamlet of Floradale owned and operated by Ismael Bowman. They renamed the business Floradale Feed Mill, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Half a century later and still going strong, Floradale Feed Mill Limited invites employees, suppliers, friends and all their families to the facility located at 2131 Floradale Rd. for an open house and appreciation day.
“He would be proud,” said company president Craig Schwindt, who took over the business from his father in 1995 after he passed away suddenly.
“I think he’d be amazed not only how the company has changed, but how agriculture in general has changed.”Schwindt said that his father was humbled by the growth of the mill in the decades that passed after he bought it. The original mill dates back to more than a century before Schwindt bought it.
- Advertisement -
The first mill was built in 1860 by Thomas Quickfall and served the community as a flour mill. After changing hands several times over the decades, it was purchased by Bowman in 1938 to operate as a custom grain chopping mill to supply local farmers with feed for their livestock.
Schwindt’s father was raised near Floradale, and around 1953 he got a job with Eli Martin at Martin Feed Mill, which sold product to the grist mill in Floradale. It was through that relationship that Schwindt got to know Bowman, and when Bowman decided to sell the mill a few years later, Schwindt was given the opportunity to run his own business.
In 1974, just 12 years later, the plant had outgrown its location in the village and moved from the original wooden structure to its current location, away from the core of the village; it’s undergone several expansions since.
“We grew really quickly,” said Schwindt. “I know the decision was made that if we were going to stay in the business and continue to grow, we needed a new modern facility and we had to have land to expand.”
The company continued to grow in the years that followed. In 1998 they built an additional 240 tons of storage, and two years later a 10,000-square-foot warehouse and 2,000sq.-ft. office was added. In 2011 a new corn storage silo was built with the capacity to hold 210,000 bushels of corn – the equivalent of nearly 27 million apples.
Employing only about six or seven staff in 1962, the company has since grown to about 95 full-time employees, processing some 180,000 metric tonnes of grain per year while making feed from scratch for farmers across southwestern Ontario.
Using computers and following strict industry standards, they combine ingredients such as corn, soybean meal, and various vitamins and minerals to not only formulate standard feed blends for dairy cattle, pigs, and poultry, but they also take pride in their ability to manufacture a range of custom blends based on the specific requirements of each customer.
When Schwindt’s father first bought the property in 1962 there was no delivery service available, but by 1968 the fleet of delivery vehicles had grown to five single-axle trucks, and in 2012 the fleet now sits at 96, delivering grain as far south as Windsor and Sarnia, and forming the backbone of the company.
Schwindt said that one of the biggest changes the company has seen over the decades is the technological advancements made in agriculture. The first computer in their office was installed in 1978, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg, said Schwindt, adding his father would be astounded by the use of technology in the industry.
“The computerization of everything from the office, to production, to Blackberrys – the world has changed.”
With new technology comes new industry standards, and Floradale Feed Mill Ltd. prides itself in being an industry leader in that regard. Since 2001 they have been Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) certified, meaning they have taken the steps to ensure that wherever problems such as feed contamination can arise, they have mitigated those risk factors.
“We view it as a ticket to play in this league, if you want to call it that,” said Schwindt.
While change has occurred in almost every facet of their business, from processing and trucking to their widespread use of technology, the company still strives to keep moving forward and ensure that their products are of the highest quality, the same as when they first opened their doors 50 years ago.
The 50th anniversary of Floradale Feed Mill is on June 2 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at their plant just south of Floradale, 2131 Floradale Rd. Visitors can enjoy family activities, historical displays, door prizes and a barbecue lunch that starts at 11 a.m.
For more information visit www.ffmltd.com.