Reopening of Caledonia grain facility restores ‘critical’ piece of local ag industry

Livingston County News
June 21, 2017
Sally Santora

Nearly three years after a devastating fire completely destroyed the Purina Animal Nutrition dairy feed processing facility located on the Commodity Resource Corporation site at 2773 Caledonia-LeRoy Road in Caledonia, the company cut the ribbon on its newly rebuilt plant.

Land O Lakes, Purina’s parent company, joined by CRC representatives, Caledonia and Livingston County officials, marked the plant’s reopening at an open house Tuesday at the CRC site.

Purina Animal Nutrition LLC manufactures bulk dairy feed for the western New York market. In addition, it is a commodity transload facility, which means agricultural feed ingredients are delivered to the plant by rail car. Some of the incoming commodities are used in the facility’s bulk feed manufacturing process and some are loaded into trucks for distribution throughout western New York.

The completion of the state of the art Purina Animal Nutrition dairy feed and commodity transload facility provides the retention of more than 30 local jobs and supports employment in many other affiliated businesses. The grand reopening and ribbon cutting was celebrated with prize give-a-ways, tours and a catered luncheon at the facility that included freshly made ice cream as well as cheeses from a locally owned dairy farm.

The plant was rebuilt in cooperation with the property owner Commodity Resource Corporation (CRC) after a fire destroyed the facility on Oct. 31, 2014.

“It’s come a long way since the fire started October 31, 2014. That night and the days that followed were a tough time for my father and I (CRC President Les Cole), to see everything that we originally put into this facility disappear overnight,” CRC Vice President Matt Cole said as he spoke to guests attending the open house.

He continued by acknowledging the support of the Town of Caledonia and Livingston County in getting the facility rebuilt and open for operation.

“This plant came together because we had some outstanding people in organizations stand beside us. The Town of Caledonia and Livingston County were both here with us from day one. The leadership in the town and county and every department within those organizations were here to help us move forward. So often you hear that government stands in the way of business. That just didn’t happen here. There are just so many people that helped us through this,” Cole commented.

The commitment and support of Land O Lakes/Purina to rebuild at the Caledonia CRC facility was acknowledged by Cole and Livingston County representatives who were in attendance: Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Eric Gott and Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Laura Lane. Cole said the facility is a critical piece of agriculture and getting product to the farms in this area.

Caledonia Supervisor Daniel Pangrazio said the town is really pleased that CRC stayed in Caledonia and rebuilt the plant. He called them good partners and said he looked forward to continuing their partnership into the future.

“We congratulate CRC and Land O Lakes Purina for their commitment to stay in Caledonia. You are wanted here and I hope that one day you can expand here,” Pangrazio said.

Purina’s Senior Vice President of Operations Susan Rankin and Regional Director Dan Finnerty both offered their appreciation to everyone who worked together to keep the local dairy farm customers suppled with feed during the time the plant was not operational and to everyone who supported and assisted the rebuilding of the facility.

A devastating fire

The fire, which broke out at around 10 p.m. on a Saturday night, brought fire and EMS rescue crews from Caledonia, Mumford, LeRoy and Avon onsite. Fire personnel from a total of 32 fire companies from surrounding towns provided services during the fire and in the days immediately after it. Firefighters worked through the night to get the raging fire under control. Several nearby fire departments also assisted at the fire and/or provided standby coverage to Caledonia and other fire departments. By the early morning hours, the fire was brought under control but it was several more days of firefighters being on scene to monitor the smoldering ruins. Caledonia Ambulance crews were on site as well.

Meanwhile, help was coming in from many different businesses and organizations, including regional feed mills and trucking companies that offered their assistance to the Caledonia Purina plant, said Fred Martsolf, area sales manager for Purina Animal Nutrition. His office is located at the Caledonia CRC facility. Chris Green, owner of Cozy Kitchen in Caledonia, delivered meals to the Purina employees who were working round the clock to make alternate arrangements to deliver dairy feed to its customers by other means. Pizza Land owner Terry Mancuso and her son Tim Mancuso were in their shop making pizzas to deliver to the fire hall to feed hungry and tired firefighters rotating through shifts.

The office and administrative employees of Purina rallied together to assist their customers. Dairy farming doesn’t stop because of a devastating fire and the cows still have to bed. They worked tirelessly making contacts with other Purina facilities that agreed to take on the additional farm customers served by the Caledonia plant.

“Our staff came in and coordinated things and arranged alternate trucking, which was dispatched on Sunday to ensure our customers would be served. By noon on Monday, not one of our customers was without feed for their cows,” Martsolf said proudly.

To express their gratitude to the countless firefighters, EMS workers, trucking workers, Purina employees, county and town officials, the company hosted over 90 people on June 17 at the Caledonia plant for a steak dinner and tour of the new facility. Several appreciation awards were presented as well. Martsolf called the extraordinary efforts of those involved in responding to the fire and the support to rebuild the plant from local and county officials phenomenal. See complete list of recognition awards.

Cole said plans to rebuild the dairy feed production facility began within a short time of the fire. The original facility was designed around 2000, constructed and opened in 2003. Land O Lakes leased the facility from CRC and began operating in 2006. The original facility included a fertilizer production operation but that was not included in the recent rebuilding project.

“The facility is built on the same footprint but the configuration is different. It features all of the latest technology integrated for manufacturing and employee safety. We wanted to be sure the employees are located in a safe and comfortable work environment. The facility is technologically advanced for custom dairy feed manufacturing,” Cole said.

Mill Technologies is the contractor that rebuilt the facility. Cole said the company worked well with CRC’s request to have as much of the work as possible be performed by local and regional companies.

“Over 90 percent of the contractors involved in this project were local. That was very, very important to us. The contractors that built this facility are our neighbors,” he added.

Martsolf said it is the adjacent railroad that borders the CRC facility that made this the ideal location for its dairy feed manufacturing plant. The rebuilt Caledonia plant has the capacity to manufacture 400,000 tons of bulk dairy feed per year. Purina customers span from the western and southern borders of New York State to as far east as Ithaca and Watertown.