Wilco WinField LLC
Wilco WinField LLC (Wilco) is headquartered in rural Mount Angel, Oregon, and serves more than 3,000 owner-members and nonmember patrons in the Pacific Northwest. Wilco WinField is a joint venture with WinField Solutions, representing 35 percent of the sales of Wilco Farmers and 45 percent of the sales from the Lifestyle Farm Store business. The remaining 20 percent of Wilco’s business is comprised of gas, diesel and motor oil delivery to farmers and contractors.
Wilco’s roots date back to the late 1930s. The cooperative still has the original paper records from Santiam Farmers’ Cooperative located in Stayton, Oregon, from 1936. “Wilco is a conglomeration of 10 separate cooperatives founded by regional farmers,” says Doug Hoffman, president and CEO of Wilco. “Today, we have 3,000 farmer members who are all owners of Wilco.”
The actual formation of Wilco came nearly three decades later in 1967. “At this time there were five cooperatives and they all agreed they could operate more efficiently together than as standalone operations,” says Hoffman.
The original Santiam Cooperative voted to merge with the other four Willamette Valley locations to form Wilco: short for the “Wil” in Willamette Valley and “Co” Cooperatives. “We raise more than 200 different kinds of crops in the Willamette Valley – there’s a lot of diversity to support here,” adds Hoffman.
Commercial and consumer business
Wilco still supports this diverse farmer base in the region, but also has a strong nonmember consumer side of the business. “On the commercial side, we have about 90 percent of business coming from farmer members, generally family-run corporations and a few larger corporations coming in from outside of the area – primarily California due to the water change outs,” says Hoffman.
“On the commercial-farmer side, our customers are usually multigenerational,” he adds. “We work with three and four generations of family farms. On the consumer-farm store side, our business is made up of a lot of nonmembers and lifestyle customers – people who aren’t professional farmers but enjoy the country and raising a few crops or animals.”
Wilco’s farm stores meet the everyday needs of anyone with pets or backyard gardens. “Our five core departments include: work wear and footwear; True Value convenience hardware, including Ben Moore paint; lawn and garden supplies with a nursery-style garden center; pet food and supplies with a full service pet grooming shop; livestock and equine supplies; feed and fencing,” outlines Hoffman.
Diversity as a three-legged stool
Now with 24 locations, Wilco employs some 750 individuals, keeping its lifestyle farm stores, bulk petroleum services and agronomy services running. “We like to think of ourselves as a three-legged stool,” says Hoffman. “Over our history, all have been key components in our business and major revenue sources. Today, the farm stores are growing through new locations while agronomy grows through technology and market share, but we like to maintain all facets because there are times where each has good or bad years.”
On the bulk petroleum side, Wilco serves farmer members and a handful of regional construction companies with everything from heating oil to diesel exhaust fluid, lubricants and antifreeze to tanker loads of diesel and gasoline.
On trax in agronomy service
In 2014, a sizable chunk of Wilco’s revenue was fueled by the cooperative’s robust agronomy division, thanks to a joint venture with Wilco’s agronomy partner, WinField. WinField has the technical know-how, proprietary tools and researched-based solutions growers can trust to help them progress in the field and the marketplace. In addition, WinField has some major backing as the agronomy division of Land O’Lakes, a nationwide member-owned cooperative.
With support from WinField, Wilco’s agronomy and agribusiness side has been a cornerstone of business since 1967. Wilco’s highly trained team of professional agronomists help producers throughout western Oregon and Washington meet challenges with knowledge of the latest technology, crop protection products and custom fertilizer blending. Wilco’s agronomists regularly receive continual training, education and in-field experience to help them stay abreast of the latest challenges.
One significant change in recent years for Wilco’s agronomy team has been a shift to more line crops. “Even with so many crops in this region, as larger farms come in, there has been a shift from field variation to more permanent line crops such as hazelnuts,” says Hoffman. “Larger corporations aren’t as interested in vegetable or grass seed production. It’s a big transition and for us it means we’ve gone from a straight line product mix on the agronomy side to very specialized fertilizer blends. It’s dramatically changing what we do, but our agronomy staff excels in making these recommendations.”
Wilco’s state-of-the-art fertilizer blending and packaging facility allows for customer-branded fertilizer to meet a range of specific needs. “Also, on the application and technology side of agronomy, we’re improving producers’ bottom lines through our TRAX program,” notes Hoffman.
Wilco recently purchased Greenleaf Application Services based in St. Paul, Oregon. This incorporates Greenleaf’s application equipment, enhancing Wilco’s technology services. “The addition of Greenleaf’s business will bolster Wilco custom application capacities to treat more than 1,800 acres of both liquid and dry applications per day,” says Bill Hubbell, general manager of Wilco.
This investment in custom application further enables Wilco’s TRAX program. TRAX enables digital collaboration and documentation with growers from crop planning to application. In the past two years Wilco has added two brand new computer systems to improve these services; AgWorld and MerchantAg. This service includes a documented workflow from field scouting to recommendations to the grower and onto experts in application, who apply the recommendation while providing communication and feedback to the grower.
“The digital workflow used by the TRAX service aims to keep the grower directly connected to the process while easing their recordkeeping burden,” adds Hoffman.
Year after year, Wilco continues to evolve to meet the ever-changing demands of the agriculture industry and the challenges of rural life in the Pacific Northwest. The cooperative remains committed to doing business under their core values: Integrity, Quality, Respect, Community, Accountability and Teamwork. After nearly eight decades running, Wilco WinField LLC is the largest ag-supply cooperative in both Oregon and Washington, providing agronomy, petroleum and retail services that support and sustain regional communities.