Pharos-Tribune

September 26, 2013

BIZ BUZZ: Work to start soon on Sagamore fertilizer hub

Farmer-investors hope to finish work by December.

by Sarah Einselen Pharos-Tribune
Pharos-Tribune

---- — Following a concept reminiscent of a farm co-op, a group of farmers have banded together to buy and sell fertilizer on the wholesale market.

Sagamore Warehouse investors and Logansport city leaders gathered for a ceremonial groundbreaking Tuesday at the Sagamore site on Logansport’s south side, where the warehouse is expected to be up by December. Equipment is due to arrive at the site Nov. 1.

Sagamore Warehouse will be a 30,000-square-foot storage facility for wholesale fertilizer. What’s unique about the project, said president Jim Hedrick of Galveston, is that the 15 investors in the project are all farmers themselves, hailing from various towns across northern Indiana.

“We’ve got some investors that couldn’t make it today,” he said. “They’re out in the field” — taking care of corn and bean crops.

The project, announced early this year, is expected to employ up to 17 people, with a minimum of four full-time and four part-time jobs to start out.

Warehouse workers will mix fertilizer ingredients imported from various locations, according to Hedrick. Potash — a fertilizer form of the element potassium — will probably come from Canada. Phosphates will likely be shipped in from Florida, and liquid nitrogen from Kansas or Oklahoma. Dry nitrogen will probably be imported mostly from Middle-Eastern countries and China.

He emphasized that the ingredients to be housed at the Sagamore facility are different from ones likely involved in a Texas fertilizer plant explosion early this summer.

Farmer-investor Scott Kimbrough, who runs a farm of about 1,700 acres near Windfall, said the Sagamore Warehouse concept allowed the farmers investing in it to stop buying fertilizer retail.

“It’s basically a pure co-op” Kimbrough said. “Any space we don’t use, we can lease to a wholesaler.”

Founders of Sagamore Ag Source, the closed-membership agricultural buying group that’s developing and managing the warehouse, floated the idea among buying group members starting about two years ago. When Kimbrough was introduced to the concept, he thought it was a “no-brainer.”

“We could probably save 20 to 30 percent on our dry fertilizer” through the Sagamore facility, he said — a significant sum, considering the vast majority of the fertilizer he uses is dry.

Investors on Tuesday said while they’d originally planned to build space only for the dry fertilizer at first and add tanks for liquid fertilizer later, they’re now planning to install a holding tank for liquid fertilizer at the same time the storage facility is built.

Phase one of the project is expected to cost $2.5 to $3 million, above what was originally announced because of the liquid fertilizer tank addition. A second phase is expected to expand the facility’s storage for both dry and liquid fertilizer.

Jason Wykoff, a New Carlisle farmer who buys fertilizer mainly from retail sources, said he hoped participating in the wholesale effort would change the logistics of applying potash to crops at his family’s farm.

The Wykoff Brothers farm is in the process of mixing its own fertilizer, he said, and is looking at having no fertilizer storage on the farm — instead, the brothers would drive to Logansport to pick up the fertilizer as needed.

Development on the Hoosier Heartland highway — where Sagamore is to be located between the highway and a short railroad spur — is likely to smooth out the trip, he added.

Sarah Einselen is news editor at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at sarah.einselen@pharostribune.com or 574-732-5151. Follow her on Twitter@PharosSME.