Rio Creek Feed Mill
Since 1958, the Barta family has been providing high-quality grain, feed and agronomy services to producers in Wisconsin’s Kewaunee County. The business provides grain storage, agronomy services, chemicals, fertilizers, feed mixing and distribution services. An ongoing expansion project promises to increase the company’s capacity and more efficiently serve the agricultural commodities market.
Rio Creek Feed Mill operates from two locations, approximately 9 miles apart at the base of the Door Peninsula. The Luxemburg location, opened in 2008, offers grain services, agronomy, fertilizers and chemicals with 1.4 million bushels of grain storage. The Rio Creek location is home to 90 percent of the company’s staff. The original location offers feed, grain storage, a shop for maintenance, seed and custom application for fertilizer and chemicals.
Corn, soybean, wheat and oats are the major grains Rio Creek Feed Mill deals in as well as a small amount of barley. The company offers 2 million bushels of storage as well as marketing and distribution expertise between the two facilities. This distinct region is a hotbed for grain production and Kewaunee County ranks second in dairy production east of the Rocky Mountains. While the business serves dozens of dairy farmers with both storage and feed capabilities, the Barta family got its start in agriculture with a small herd of dairy cows.
“My grandparents Don and Jeanette Barta were farming next door to another family and each had between 15 and 20 cows,” recounts Andy Barta, assistant general manager of Rio Creek Feed Mill. “They were at the point where neither really had enough cows to support their families and always joked that one should buy the other out. When the property where we have Rio Creek Feed Mill came up for sale – back then it was the Kodan Feed Store – the neighbor asked my grandfather how serious he was about buying it. He ended up buying our family’s cows and my grandfather ended up buying the feed mill – the rest is history.”
In 1989, Don and Jeanette sold the business to their sons, Jerry and Dave Barta. In 1996, Dave pursued other options and ownership transferred to Jerry and his wife Tammy. Now their four sons – Andy, Adam, Jacob and Sam – are involved in the day to day operations.
Integrated agricultural services
Over the years, the family has cultivated a successful operation that caters to the needs of its customers. With customers and suppliers in grain production, dairy and other industries, few agricultural companies offer this distinct range of services.
The company has offered grain storage and handling since it opened its doors. Grain is now the largest portion of the business and ties in well with the feed side of the operation. "In 1992, we built our first grain bin at 33,000 bushels, which we thought was a lot,” Andy explains. “We have 2 million bushels today between both locations – 600,000 at Rio Creek and 1,400,000 at Luxemburg. I think some of the issues with our competition were that they had decided they were going to build gas stations and convenience centers while we were investing in grain bins.”
Andy explains that decades ago – in the ‘70s and ‘80s, most growers stored grain on the farm and brought it to the feed mill to be ground up and mixed. “It’s a lot more convenient for the farmer to call up the feed mill and say, ‘I want my 10-ton batch of feed with my corn and oats from storage.’ It’s a simple phone call – we take it from the farm and store it until they need it and they can focus on their livestock instead of spending the time to bring the grain in, have it ground and mixed and bringing it home.”
Rio Creek Feed Mill also sells fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides and performs custom spraying of chemicals, and custom spreading of fertilizer. “We deliver bulk fertilizer direct to the farm so they can fill their planters - liquid and dry, but we’re doing more and more custom work,” says Andy. “Most of that growth is the convenience factor of calling in and telling us field one is ready. Typically they’ve already met with us in January and made that decision and set it up so that we just come out with the spreader and do it. They can keep managing the farm or go to the next field to work. When field two is done, they call us and ask us to come spread field two.”
Rio Creek Feed Mill’s agronomy experts take soil samples to determine the nutrient levels. “We balance that and we need the information to have a baseline to go off of,” explains Andy. “We fulfill the needs of that crop. There will be some fields that are high fertility and some that need a lot of fertilizer – our goal is to get the nutrients to the right place at the right time and at the right levels.
A growing operation
Rio Creek Feed Mill is undergoing significant expansion with improvements to both locations. At the company’s newer Luxemburg location, purchased from the former Kewaunee Cooperative in 2008, the team is significantly increasing grain and transloading capacity while also adding storage at the original Rio Creek location.
The business is investing $2.5 million into the Luxemburg facility. “We’re unloading 500 to 600 cars a year not only for our customers, but also for many other feed mills in the area that buy feed through our facility,” Andy details. “We're putting in grain bins and elevator legs this fall as well.”
“The Luxemburg expansion is designed to unload our grain customers, but at the same time it gives us additional speed and capacity for loading rail cars and transloading onto trucks that come to our facility,” he continues. “This will definitely help grain customers during the harvest season, but also our feed customers. We should be able to unload a semi as fast as you can open your doors – they should be in and out the door in six minutes.”
As the company continues to grow, Rio Creek Feed Mill remains a family-oriented business. Employees work as a team, wearing several hats when colleagues need time off and working consistently to better serve customers. Over the years to come, this strong company culture will remain intact as Rio Creek Feed Mill creates increasing value for its customers and strategic partners.