|Wolf River Valley Seeds, which has produced some of the nation’s top-rated forage products for decades, is expanding its operations to Antigo.|
The company, which was started in the early 1970s by Jerome and Marian Wahleithner in White Lake, has purchased the former Fermanich Fuel headquarters located at Third Avenue and Edison Street, and will relocate its marketing, business and distribution facilities here.
“This will be our main facility,” Mark Resch, a partner in the business, said. “We also have offices in Crandon and White Lake but Antigo will be the central area.”
Resch, who comes from a marketing and business background, became associated with Wolf River Valley Seeds after selling his previous business, Super Group.
“I was retired for about two weeks and got bored so I started farming,” he said.
He soon got to know Wahleithner and, by 2009, was growing seed for the company. That led to increased involvement and, eventually, in early 2014, formed a partnership with Wahleithner. Wahleithner began to step back from the business and the company is now owned by Resch and Jason Neilitz of Crandon, formerly the general manager.
“Since Jason and I became involved, working with Jerome, we have doubled the size of the operation,” Resch said. “Jerome is mentoring us through the growth of the company.”
Wolf River Valley Seeds offers a mix of seeds, primary for forage, including the popular Triticale, a hybrid cross of wheat and rye that can be fed either as a grain or as silage.
Wahleithner explained that while Triticale grows well in warm, southern climates, the cool northern regions, such as his White Lake fields, are ideal for producing high quality seeds.
The company also grows and sells seed corn, forage peas, oats and soybeans.
“Our primary focus is on supplying forage products to the dairy industry,” Wahleithner said.
While Wolf River Valley Seeds is an industry leader in producing Triticale, its other products are also earning accolades. Its Wisconsin Floury Leafy corn was the top performer in yield, digestibility and milk yield per acre in the Cornell University silage corn trials, which Wahleithner called “the Super Bowl of silage trials.”
“These varieties are unique because the farmer ends up planting less seeds per acre while yielding considerably more tonnage for silage,” Neilitz said. “That can provide a dramatic cost savings at planting time.”
The expansion into Antigo is also bringing many new opportunities, Resch said. Wolf River Valley Seeds has begun working with area potato growers to produce seed crops for the company as part of the regular field rotations, with 5,000 total acres now available through strategic alliances.
It is also partnering with Schumitsch Seed of Antigo, which cleans, bags and ships many of its products.
That increased acreage, product awards and positive response has greatly increased the company’s distribution, with Wolf River Seeds now selling its products directly to growers and to distributors nationwide.
There is a bit of work to be done on the new location, Resch and Wahleithner said, with some facade improvements planned in the next few weeks, but the 10,000 square foot warehouse is already full and distribution is underway.
“We’ve got a bit of work to do yet,” Resch said. “This gives us more room to spread out.”
Jerome Wahleithner, left, and Mark Resch outside Wolf River Valley Seed’s new Antigo location, the former Fermanich Fuel building.