Thunder Bay Co-op Farm Supplies expands capacity, product lines

Thunder Bay Co-op Farm Supplies was started in 1952 by a group of local farmers as a way of combining their buying power to reduce the costs of essential farm inputs like feed, seed, fuel, fertilizer, fencing and metal roofing.  The Co-op has since been made open to the public and has grown to support approximately 130 farmer members.  In the past two years it has made two significant expansions to its operations.

In January of 2021 the cooperative completed construction of a large storage facility for its fertilizer plant, which custom-mixes both large farm orders and pre-packaged retail quantities for home use, doubling the plant’s storage capacity.  In the fall of 2021 it broke ground on a retail expansion which was completed in May 2022.  The new space showcases a remarkable variety of products now available to both Co-op members and the general public, including a large selection of hardware products supplied through the ACE Hardware/Peavey Mart buying group as part of a new co-branding agreement.

Bernie Kamphof is a local dairy farmer and a member of the Co-op’s Board of Directors.  He says the two-part expansion supports farmers in several ways.  The increased fertilizer storage capacity will allow the Co-op to stockpile in advance in order to serve farmers much more quickly during high-demand periods, while the retail expansion offers many valuable benefits.  First, the larger variety of products lets local farmers get parts, tools and materials close to home, saving them time and fuel on trips to town and giving them the opportunity to put more of their money back into the local community.  It also helps offset the increasing costs of production; although input costs are rising steadily across the country, each member of the Co-op is a part owner, and receives yearly dividends based on profits. 

This also gives residents of the City of Thunder Bay and the surrounding municipalities a chance to indirectly support the farm community.  Shopping there means supporting a literal “grass-roots” ownership group that’s as local as can be.