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  • Norfolk Farms

A Brant County elevator is looking to grow its business

Although Haley’s Elevator Inc. is located in Burford, about 60 to 80 per cent of the farmers the company deals with are in Norfolk County.

Michael Haley points to where the newest grain bin
Michael Haley points to where the newest grain bin will go next year. He bought an abandoned operation and has grown it into what it is today. After a fire in the dryer set him back last year, he will have a new unit in for this harvest.

Owned by Michael and Stephanie Haley, Michael started the business 15 years ago with an extensive background in agriculture. He grew up on a dairy farm in Brant County, is a third-generation farmer and attended Ridgetown College. His working career started at a local agricultural facility.

“During this time, I got to know a lot of local farmers and businesses within the Norfolk-Brant county areas,” he recounted. “I observed a gap within the local farming community with regards to storage and handling of local cash crops. At that time, the majority of area farmers used tractors and wagons to transport their crops from fields to end point facilities, such as our’s. Sometimes they were travelling an hour or more and this was time-consuming, costly and inefficient.”

Troy Tate, location manager for Snobelen Farms Brant
Troy Tate, location manager for Snobelen Farms Brantford elevator looks over the plans for the facility and at the location, seen near the top, where a new IP grain bin will be installed next year.

Seeing this as a problem for farmers and a business opportunity, Haley developed a business plan and purchased an old, abandoned grain elevator. The concept was by offering trucking services to farmers from field to elevator, he could increase their efficiency.

The first year three bins were added, as well as an office building. Two employees were hired to assist.

Today, Haley’s Elevator has nine bins with one million bushels of storage, several trucks and employs eight to 12 people, dependent on the season.

The company handles corn, soybeans, wheat and rye, with corn being the largest crop. Haley provides grain receiving, storage and shipping services and works with London Agricultural Commodities to provide and manage grain marketing to customers. The majority of the customers are from Norfolk, Brant and Oxford Counties.

“We’re farmers too so we try to do what we would want as farmers,”

“We still have farmers travelling by tractor and wagons to our facility, but over time, transport trailers have definitely become more widely utilized,” he said. “As such, we now have three full-service transport trucks and several field trailers available for on-farm pick-up to support the growing needs of area farmers. This helps to increase the rate at which area grain can be transported from field to our facility, but also increases the speed of outgoing grain shipments to the end users.”

The company stresses customer service and offers longer hours during harvest.

“We’re farmers too so we try to do what we would want as farmers,” Haley said. The company has farms in Norfolk County that are operated with share growers.

From Burford, the grains are shipped across Ontario, into the US and internationally. End users include milling companies, plants and refineries for use in all sorts of food products, alcohol and oil.

COVID-19 has presented a challenge for Haley Elevator, like a lot of businesses. The company struggled with worker retention and equipment shortages. Then, the company had its own disaster when there was a fire in the dryer. This didn’t affect shipping, receiving or storage, but there was no ability to dry incoming grain. Elevators in neighbouring counties came to the rescue, assisting with the drying.

Instead of looking at the setback as a total negative, Haley used it as an opportunity to talk to his customers to see where the facility could be improved. As a result, he is adding a new dryer 50 per cent larger, a second receiving system and another bin to bring total storage to 1.25 million bushels.

“These are major improvements that will make our facility more efficient, meaning our customers can get unloaded faster and we can meet the demands of the growing agricultural industry,” he said. “We know that equipment and technology have greatly improved over the past decade. Farmers today have bigger and faster combines, meaning we need to be bigger and faster, to provide the best customer service that they deserve.”

The Haleys also give back to the community they live in, offering customer appreciation events, sponsoring local service clubs and sporting teams and hosting training sessions for the local fire departments.

“I truly enjoy working in agriculture,” Haley said. “While it means long hours and busy harvest seasons, it has always been a part of my life and also a way of life. I am thankful to be in this industry and look forward to the year to come. Agriculture is an ever-changing industry and adapting to its demands is exciting.” 

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