Observing that he would need help and a lot more volume for effective marketing, he talked to Vernon Cragg who was farming near Arborfield. Cragg discussed it with some of his neighbors, Dave Bryden, Bill Meyer, Frank Kapeller and businessman Floyd Bradshaw who also owned a farm. Bryden became the outfit's first president. All were grain growers. Grain marketing was in a slump. The Canadian Wheat Board couldn't give them enough delivery quota and grain prices were way too low. Alfalfa as a cash crop possibly seemed attractive.
Mulling it over, they decided the first thing they needed to know was to find out exactly how much interest they would find on the part of other farmers. Would they grow the alfalfa and could they raise the money to get going. They decided right away that they would find out by asking and getting a one-on-one producer feed-back.
Their next step was to get a map of the Arborfield, Aylsham and Carrot River area. They divided the map into five sections and each of them took one section and went to visit with every farmer in that area. The results surprised them. They thought there would be interest but hadn't expected it to be so nearly 100%. Except for a few cattlemen who fed their hay to their own livestock, nearly all the independent operators wanted in.
On that day, a Board of Directors was nominated and the members were appointed to different committees to start looking into location, equipment, management, sales, acres of production and financing.
Some farmers couldn't afford the start-up investment but by the time the group got going, there were 65 shareholders who took 3000 shares each at a dollar a share and also agreed to loan their new limited corporation an additional $2000.00 at standard bank interest rates with the provision they'd only get 1% interest in a bad year.
Each shareholder agreed to grow a quarter (160 acres) of alfalfa for the plant. In a few cases, a pair of growers chipped in to take a share between the two of them if they couldn't each finance a whole share. The federal government chipped in with a small grant. They got organized with a nine member board of directors that borrowed an additional $160,000.00 from the Bank of Montreal. Each of the directors had to sign for security of the entire loan. Bankers don't particularly like risk.
In 1971, ADL employed 2 full time people and approximately 20 seasonal employees. With their one drum operation about 9,000 ton of pellets were produced. In 1972 a second drum was added and a third drum was added in 1990. Arborfield Dehy Ltd. has purchased a second plant at Carlea and now between the two plants, ADL employs about 15 full time employees and approximately 80 seasonal people. The have gone from 9,000 tons to as high as 70,000 metric tonne of pellets produced in one season.
Arborfield Dehy Ltd. has been a great asset to the farmers in the area. Alfalfa is a cash crop and it gives the farmer more versatility in farming his land. Arborfield Dehy Ltd. has also been a real asset to our great little community as most of the employees live in this area. A lot of ADL's money goes to paying the local farmer for his raw material and the employees wages which leaves a lot of money right here at home in our community.
Another dehydrating plant was set up at Tisdale, about 50 kilometers southwest of Arborfield. It's the third marketing partner with Arborfield and Parkland dehydrators. While separate, the three joined up for volume and marketing muscle to get the job done. They share a quality control lab and have built an export facility on the west coast at Vancouver, B.C. As it happened, one of the Arborfield members was acquainted with a Japanese-speaking Canadian who was the son of immigrant Japanese parents. He relocated to Vancouver to handle dehy sales to Japan by the shipload. Again, it was a matter of pooling management, talent and combined resources sort of like the way the Arborfield start-up farmers formed their company in 1970. An attitude of cooperation makes things possible.
Lime isn't needed but growers add about 15 pounds of sulphur per acre every season. The result is alfalfa of exceptional quality in protein, carotene and digestibility. Nobody is quite sure why the quality of their dehy pellets is so high. The sulphur is critically important for protein synthesis. The long summer days with extra hours of sunlight in the growing season could be a factor.
The cooler nights that alternate with warm days may help too. There may be less insect pressure thanks to Saskatchewan's arctic winters that wipe out some of the insects that complicate alfalfa production in Georgia. Depending on the moisture, the two or three cuttings per season produce more than four tons of alfalfa pellets per acre. Even in a dry summer, growers expect a tonne of dehy from each acre just from winter moisture.
For all that matter, quality is partly a matter of growing the right alfalfa varieties. The quality control lab provides an advantage by evaluating the quality and yield of different varieties. Seed and innoculant for those varieties are supplied so growers can sow in confidence. It's an advantage an individual grower wouldn't have available.
The Pacific Rim economic crises of 1998 almost bucked us out of the saddle. Suddenly the Japanese couldn't pay the Saskatchewan operators enough to cover their costs. The Arborfield operators knew they had to take the alfalfa anyway or the land would be plowed up for grain. If they wanted the alfalfa available for the future, they'd have to take it every year. That's the reason a 10,000 bale stack of round baled alfalfa accumulated at the Arborfield plant. Management sat tight waiting for a turn-around.
The Japanese were able to buy enough dehy south of the border to fill their needs at a lower price. Experience with the lower priced alfalfa convinced them of the higher quality of the northern grown alfalfa. That is what brought them back for the Saskatchewan alfalfa the following year.
A huge hammer mill-shredder was added to the system to swallow whole bales so they can be pelleted, too. Most of the carotene is gone after hay is in storage a few months. Otherwise the baled alfalfa is pretty good feed as well.
Arborfield Dehy Ltd. has been proudly serving our community forz years by creating employment and offering farmers an alternate cash crop. Money has been retained in our community by way of wages and hay payments allowing families the privilege of growing up in small town Saskatchewan close to families and friends . We are continually working at making our company viable so we can serve our community for many more years to come.