East Zorra-Tavistock’s newest agricultural business has set up shop in Hickson and couldn’t be any happier to be there. The company sells equipment primarily to the poultry sector but also supplies the pork and dairy industries and offers a variety of storage solutions and other products for farmers.
CountyLine has expanded its operation from a location in Listowel and its President, Neil Scholten, says opening a new business in the East Zorra-Tavistock area has been on the radar for some time and when the opportunity came to lease the former Weeden Environments building, he quickly jumped on it. “It was one of the easiest decisions I have made. I think it shocked a lot of people how fast we did this. I went across the road to Terra Nova and talked to people in there including a few dairy farmers, and they thought it was great to see an aggressive company in the neighbourhood.”
He adds the new building also gives them the means to service what they sell locally. “We were losing a bit of market share up this way. Just the last few years we have been selling our products to barns in the area, but we were finding the customers we sold equipment to were going to small shoot-up companies to get parts, so we thought hey, why don’t we get a shop out this way and in doing that we made our customers in the area happy. It’s been very well received.” Neil says their main focus is on the broiler and chicken barn segment of the ag economy as well as some layer cages. “We also put equipment into hog operations which is a good chunk of our business.”
Neil believes one aspect of their business that sets them apart is having three licensed electricians on staff along with two licensed gas fitters. “None of our competitors have licensed gas fitters. We are all about safety and having the right people to do the job. We program all of the controls we install for our customers in order to provide the best service possible.”
CountyLine’s Listowel location has 48 employees and while there are just two so far in Hickson, Neil hopes that number changes soon. “On January 1 we actually have two full-time installers starting. We hope to grow quite quickly. We are slowly getting people walking in the door to talk about what we have to offer them.”
The company feels the success they have had stems from listening to farmers and supplying what they are asking for. “If you don’t listen to your customers, you aren’t getting anywhere. Oxford County is a strong market,” he adds.
The ownership of CountyLine also operates several other companies including BulkTech which manufactures agricultural and industrial bins at a number of locations, including one just north of Shakespeare that has been in operation for nearly 15 years. Neil says while it is important to have a strong business presence at their locations, it is equally as important to be a contributing member of the local community. “When we come to an area, we phone a few charities to see where we can help out. In Shakespeare we have supported the public school with some playground equipment. When we come into a community, we want to support it, not take away from it.” He adds since CountyLine has only been in Hickson for a few weeks he’s looking for opportunities to help. “Even if someone wants to use the yard for a car wash or whatever, its just hey community, we are here to work with you.”
CountyLine got its start on Scholten’s farm near Palmerston in 1998 but outgrew the operation and found a new home in Teviotdale in 2008. That location eventually became too small, so the former First Choice Bosman site was purchased in 2012 and CountyLine moved in that September where they still operate.