Written by R. J. Kelly
The familiar I.L. Richer Co. trucks hauling feed to dairy farmers throughout the region could soon display a new name, if a deal by New Hampshire-based Blue Seal Feeds to buy all three of Richer’s upstate assets is completed within the next 30 days.
News of the pending sale was filtering down to local officials this week, Schoharie County Empire Zone coordinator Julie Pacatte Rohan said Wednesday.
The I.L. Richer plant in Central Bridge is located in one of the county’s six Empire Zone areas, making the company potentially eligible to apply for various tax and utility incentives if they are linked to job creation.
Corporate officials could not be reached Wednesday for comment on what effect the change might have on the Central Bridge plant.
“I don’t know a whole lot about this right now,” said local Operations Manager Jim Schultz on Wednesday. “But they are buying the entire I.L. Richer company … and it’s going to be good.”
A total of 15 people, including three part-timers, work at the Central Bridge site, Schultz said. That includes seven employees in the processing operation, plus truck drivers and sales and service staff.
“Blue Seal is excited to add Richer Feeds to our organization,” said company President Randy Schwalke in a bulletin posted on the I.L. Richer Web site. “The combination of the two company’s strengths will continue to ensure that the Northeast dairy industry will have a supplier who provides the high-quality products and services that they have relied upon for 140 years.”
In the sale announcement, I.L. Richer owner John Mitchell, great grandson of founder Irving L. Richer, stated: “My family has taken great pride in serving the New York agriculture community for over a century. It is very important to us to find the type of organization that shares our core beliefs of dedication to our employees, customers, and communities. Blue Seal has that same commitment and the strength to continue to develop and grow for many years to come.”
The plant at 151 S. Main St. is a landmark at the entrance to the Central Bridge hamlet, with its distinctive feed silos and processing facilities.
The plant manufactures and delivers bulk dairy feeds. Some of the corn and other ingredients come by rail via nearby Canadian Pacific Railway tracks.
From Central Bridge, trucks deliver processed feed “about 100 miles north, south and east … and west about 30 miles,” Schultz said.
Two other upstate I.L. Richer plants in Adams Center and Sangerfield handle other parts of the state. The firm is headquartered at Sangerfield, in Oneida County.
The company began in 1870 as a flour mill in the Chenango County area of New Berlin, according to a company history. Irving L. Richer, son of a Chenango County farmer and cheesemaker, acquired the mill in 1881.
The company acquired the Central Bridge feed plant from the Beacon Milling Co. in 1984.
Blue Seal Feeds Inc. is based in Londonderry, N.H. The company is a subsidiary of family-owned Muscatine Foods Corp. of Muscatine, Iowa.
No sale price for the Richer Co. acquisition was announced.