Breaking ground

Rusk County Farm Supply is building a new fertilizer plant in Ladysmith.

Rusk County Farm Supply is building a new fertilizer plant in Ladysmith to provide service to the farming community and increase production to meet the needs of the local market.

The company is building the 12,000 square foot plant next to their current propane facility along the south side of Doughty Road, east of Gustafson Road. Construction began this month. Full-service operation is anticipated by spring of 2022.

The plant will have the capacity to house 2,000 tons of fertilizer with eight bays. It will be used to store, blend and loadout bulk fertilizer. 

The plant also will allow for an increased bagging capacity of six to ten thousand bags to be sold at retail. 

Farm Supply could not have started this project without the support and effort from the city of Ladysmith and the city council, company officials said.

“We are proud to serve the local community and local farmers with our high-quality products and services,” officials added.

Serving northwestern Wisconsin since 1987, Rusk County Farm Supply is a family owned business that provides LP gas and farm supplies. It is headquartered at 200 Worden Ave., Ladysmith.

The new fertilizer plant will be a single T-shaped building. Different types of fertilizer will be trucked in and blended for customer needs at the site. The main part of the building housing fertilizer will measure 64x120 feet. The loadout portion of the building will be 48x60 feet.

It will replace Farm Supply’s existing facility on W. Fifth Street north of Lake Avenue. That site is in a residential neighborhood and developed truck route issues after turn restrictions were added at the Lake Avenue intersection, according to Fertilizer Division Manager Marty Sieg.

“Our current fertilizer plant is getting beyond repair,” Sieg said.

The company is expanding from one blender at the current site to two at the new facility.

“We will be better able to service our customers,” Sieg said.

Sieg also noted the traffic concerns of the current location, now unable to make left turns going out or left turns coming in.

“It will be helpful to get out of the residential area with our big trucks,” Sieg said. “We can’t come in from the north because it is a no truck street. It will be a good move for us and for the neighborhood.”

Sieg projects the company may add a few more employees with the expansion.

“We will be able to output more fertilizer, and it is going to require more drivers and more spreaders,” Sieg said. “This will help us better service all the farmers in the area.”

The added space will allow for better buying opportunities for customers.

“We will be able to hold twice as much fertilizer in this building,” Sieg said.

Company officials may keep using the Fifth Street site into next year as the new facility may not be completed in time to fill up with fertilizer for blending. After that, the former plant could be razed.

Concrete work at the new site should be completed this year. Remaining construction could take place next year, contingent on lumber prices.

Sieg compared the new plant to an existing facility in Gilman.

“It will look similar but a lot bigger. The look of it will be very similar to the one in Gilman,” he said.

Farm Supply will continue to operate at its Worden Avenue headquarters. It is also expanding offices into the adjacent building across the street to the north, which was formerly the A&P grocery store.

Ladysmith City Administrator Alan Christianson called it “great” to see a local business expanding in the city.

“The city appreciates the investment that Rusk County Farm Supply is making here in the community,” Christianson said.

In closed session last August, the Ladysmith Common Council approved giving Rusk County Farm Supply the industrial park land under the condition its old fertilizer plant building be removed from the property and the property cleaned up.

Farm Supply officials contacted the city about 10 months ago to discuss their interest in building a new bulk fertilizer plant in the Ladysmith Industrial Park on a city-owned parcel.  Some initial discussions were held between staff at Rusk County Farm Supply and the city to discuss site needs and considerations. Once the basic details were ironed out the proposed property transaction was discussed and approved by the city council with the property transfer occurring in March. From there, building plans for the facility were submitted to the state for review and approval.

The expansion is beneficial to the city and the area businesses and farmers in the surrounding area in a number of ways, according to Christianson.

“First and foremost, it retains jobs here in Ladysmith while allowing a longstanding business to expand and modernize their facilities to continue to meet the needs of their customer base from a new and convenient location. Second, this investment adds to the tax base in the industrial park which will help contribute to much needed road and infrastructure repairs in that area with a new planned Tax Incremental Financing District, paving the way for further industrial expansion,” Christianson said.

Ladysmith Mayor Kalvin Vacho added it is “wonderful” to see a local business expanding and improving the local economy.  

“Seeing the expansion of a local business in town is a wonderful opportunity for our citizens and the local economy,” Vacho said. “The city of Ladysmith is happy to help with any business that is looking to expand or move in.”

Vacho added it is a welcome change to see businesses investing in the community, not only Farm Supply, but the many others that have moved in the last year that haven’t been as public. 

“Land such as this has historically been held by the city and built on using city funds. We are at a position now that the city would rather see these parcels of land fall into private businesses so they can call it their own and invest in their business rather than lease from the city,” Vacho said.

“I would like to thank Rusk County Farm supply for investing in the community and hope others will follow their path so we can build a better tomorrow for our small community,” Vacho said.

The city plan commission will hold a public hearing at 5:15 p.m., Thursday, July 1, to hear comments on a proposed conditional use permit for construction of a new fertilizer plant on industrially zoned land on Doughty Road.

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