The only time a woman really succeeds in
changing a man is when he's a baby.
- Natalie Wood
What To Do About Legal
Business at St. Albert was growing. We also had a solid core group of customers from the Legal area. They were long-time friends of the Henry family, who originally farmed in the Legal area. We were hauling NH3 from St. Albert up to the Legal area. This was not efficient, so we purchased 15 acres and put in an NH3 storage tank, but this only solved half the problem. When dry fertilizer was needed, Legal customers had to come all the way down to St. Albert, wait in line, pick up three or four tonnes, then head home only to come back again the next day. So, in 1985-86, we built a bulk and bag plant, and added equipment, office management and staff. The first manager was Bob Black. Bob had good customer skills and was very community-minded, and he also worked several years with Sherritt Fertilizer Research. He planted and harvested many research plots. As business grew, we needed more management help. We hired Darrell Flatla as assistant manager. Darrell married Michelle Borduzak and I was asked to emcee their wedding. I recall teasing Darrell that the objective of going to agriculture school in Olds was to find the daughter of a large farmer and marry her. That he did.
After a few years, Bob moved on and Darrell became manager, making an opening for a new assistant manager. In 1996, we hired Eric Cyr, who was fresh out of the University of Alberta with an agricultural degree. About two years later, Darrell and Michelle bought out Poloway Fertilizers at Clyde, and Flatlanders was born. Eric then took over as manager. He is still the manager to this day and I hope for many years to come.
Business grew quickly, but I needed to think of something for them to do in the winter. At a Sherritt dealer convention, I talked to a B.C. dealer who was getting the Pool in Calgary to make him mini-bulk bags of fertilizer. I thought Legal could do that. I suggested that if he committed to 500 one-tonne mini-bulks, we would set up to have it done at Legal. He agreed, and we did over a thousand tonnes the first year.
SVF Legal is one of a few plants licensed to handle ammonium nitrate. We ship nitrate in bags or mini-bulk north to diamond mines to be used as an explosive. We did have one contract to ship 12,000 one-tonne mini-bulk bags of nitrate to Australia. We presently don't do
the high volumes we used to as farmers are all using bulk, but there are still opportunities for
bagging special products. Mini-bulk is still popular in parts of B.C. Louis Cyr negotiated a large contract to bag ice melt in the winter. We were running two shifts, seven days a week, to meet the demand.
Doris Clack is a key member of the custom packaging team. She handles all the paperwork and keeps everybody's ducks in a row. Doris does collections and is tenacious. Due to the competent management of Eric Cyr and his great staff, the Legal plant has grown and is still growing. I am pleased and proud of what they have accomplished there.
Andre Montpetit manages the St. Albert SVF. And the first time I met Eric was at Andre's wedding. Eric was going to the University of Alberta to get his agriculture degree. He told me then, "When I'm done, I want to work with SVF." And he has since 1996.
My next thought was about bagging. The need for bags was on the decline as customers were going to bulk. All three companies, Sherritt, Esso and the Pool, had massive facilities for bagging that were expensive to operate and maintain. I started with Sherritt to convince them to shut down their bagging operation. We would buy two of their baggers and set them up at Legal. It's a long story, but in the end, we were successful. Next was Esso. They were fussy, picky and almost insulted at the thought that we could do it. We were already up and running with Sherritt's bags and had built a large storage shed to store pre-bagged and palletized product waiting for shipment. In the spring, the deal was finally made, and Esso shut down a large, sophisticated system.
Next was to tackle the Pool in Calgary, which had a huge bagging facility. I was almost embarrassed to suggest that we could handle their account, but when they saw we were doing Sherritt's and Esso's, we made an agreement. We then built another large storage building and extended the loading area so we could load two B-trains inside, out of the wind, rain or snow. The truckers loved it. They could tarp their loads inside. This also led to doing custom bulk blends for other small Sherritt dealers that didn't have blending facilities.
We were also doing custom bulk blends for Western Co-op and UFA. This made the addition of the tower at St. Albert necessary. At that time, we could load-out bulk much faster at St. Albert than Legal. So mini-bulk and bags went out of Legal, and custom bulk blending went out of St. Albert. We haven't done custom bulk blending for several years now. There are more bulk blending facilities available throughout Western Canada. In about 2005, we put a volumetric bulk system in Legal. It has two 50-tonne overhead holding bins, so bulk load-out is now very fast.