The feed mill located in the heart of Tavistock will have a fresh look once a major facelift is completed next year. W-S Feed and Supplies has announced a major renovation that will see the facility modernized and expanded.
Wendell Schumm left an 11-year stint at Wallenstein Feed and Supply a year ago to become Chief Executive Officer and partner at W-S where he joins Paul Wideman. “Paul is the President of W-S, and it is his family business. We work well together and balance each other out. I could see there was a lot of potential for growth as soon as I started here. Between us we have almost 60 years experience in the feed business,” says Wendell.
The expansion was something Paul had on his radar but together the pair were able to team up and put a plan together. “It is a big investment and we really had two choices. We could build a new mill out of town, but we looked at what we have here, and it makes sense to revitalize the current location.” Wendell adds that the opportunity to get involved with a smaller company with strong family values that would allow him to have a more involved role was very appealing.
“There is a fair bit of infrastructure here that’s really good. The site was built as a flour mill in the 1960’s and it was built solidly. The amount of concrete in the basement and the pillars, there is more space and building here than in many other older mills. That is what makes the investment worthwhile.”
The renovations will mean an upgraded hydro service that is safer and more efficient. State-of-the-art computer automated batching and mixing, a robotic bag palletizer and a new bulk loadout facility will increase the mill’s capacity and efficiency. Wendell says W-S has two goals in mind, improved traceability and making employees lives easier. “We will be able to better track ingredients and be able to verify that the mix is 100 per cent correct in real time. The technology and automation we are adding means our staff won’t have to work as hard physically. We also expect to add some new jobs once the renovation is completed.”
Another plus is that there will be less truck traffic around the mill. “We see it as good for the town in a number of ways. We are staying in town and keeping the jobs here while adding more employees. We will be reducing the dust, noise, and truck traffic circling around the mill. Less time the trucks are sitting and waiting means less time trucks are parked on the road, and we won’t be loading them as late at night.”
The company also has an organic facility in Mount Forest and the two operations have a combined 50 employees. Wendell says like many other Oxford County businesses W-S finds it difficult to have a fully staffed operation, but he believes the expansion will help. “When we are trying to attract people, we are competing with jobs where people don’t get as dirty, and the work is less physically demanding. Bagging is a tough job when someone is at the end of a conveyor and stacks bags on skids. We have lots of work that can be done that is less demanding.” He adds there will be more checks and balances in place to help employees do the job correctly without relying on them to be perfect all the time.
The planning process with East Zorra-Township has started and the mill is working on getting the necessary permits in place for the actual construction in the spring. “Through the winter, equipment and bins will be manufactured off site and then once we put a shovel in the ground a lot will happen pretty quickly.”
Wendell says any substantial development requires the support of customers, and Parion Animal Nutrition is the largest client for W-S. “They have a strong presence in the local community. They need us to do this expansion because they want a local manufacturer who can be there for them in the future. Without Parion, we wouldn’t be able to do this project.”
Wendell grew up five minutes outside Tavistock and now lives in New Hamburg with his family. “It feels great. I had lost touch with the local community and Tavistock was a place I just drove through. Now that I am back, I appreciate the ways Tavistock has changed and the ways it has stayed the same, and I like that a lot.” He also believes the community will support the new W-S facility in the heart of the town. “For a company like ours which is agriculturally based, I like to think that Tavistock will embrace what we are doing because of the farm roots here. We are going to do everything we can to be a good community partner and have people appreciate us in the middle of town.”
For more information on W-S Feed and Supplies go to https://www.wsfeeds.ca/.