By Keith Gushard
An Ohio agribusiness firm is set to expand operations into Crawford County, according to Mark Turner, executive director of the Economic Progress Alliance of Crawford County.
Deerfield Farms Services Inc. of Deerfield, Ohio, plans to purchase a 10-acre site at the Keystone Regional Industrial Park in Greenwood Township to construct a grain elevator, Turner said. The Economic Progress Alliance, the county’s designated lead economic development agency, owns the Keystone Regional Industrial Park.
The two sides have reached a sales agreement for a 10-acre site with rail access off Painted Road, Turner said Monday. The sale amount is as yet undisclosed since the property formally hasn’t changed hands, Turner said.
Deerfield is expected to employ 10 people initially at the Keystone Regional Industrial Park site, but it may be the forerunner to an additional, larger associated project in the future, according to Turner.
“The construction date is to be determined,” Turner said of the grain elevator. “There still are some permits to secure. The plan is (to build) this construction season.”
A grain elevator is a tower containing a bucket elevator or a conveyor which scoops up grain from a lower level and deposits it into a silo or other storage facility.
According to its website, Deerfield Farms offers a number of agricultural services — a grain elevator; a fertilizer, seed and crop protection products retailer; and as a grain drying, storage, handling and feeding equipment supplier.
The company was founded in 1959 as a 93-acre corn and hog operation by Boyd Wallbrown Jr. and his wife, Joan, at the company’s present site in Deerfield. It expanded into other agribusiness operations and locations over the years.
“Deerfield Farms is most anxious to begin construction at the Keystone Regional (Industrial) Park after an exhaustive search for the best site to support our operations and growth,” John Wallbrown, vice president of Deerfield Farms Services Inc., said in a prepared statement. “We very much appreciate the efforts of the Economic Progress Alliance in working closely with us on a process which took well over a year to complete.”
The proposed Greenwood Township site would be Deerfield’s second in Pennsylvania.
Deerfield has a location south of Crawford County in the Lawrence County community of Volant. Deerfield has Ohio location in Deerfield, Louisville and Kinsman, according to its website.
As Deerfield Farms prepares the proposed Greenwood Township site, gets its necessary permits and develops construction plans, the Economic Progress Alliance will complete water, sewer, electric and gas line extensions to the site, Turner said.
“We’ll reinvest money we get from the (land) sale into the park itself,” Turner said.
The grain elevator project may be the first of two planned between Deerfield and the Economic Progress Alliance, Turner said.
The two are working on an agreement for additional 80-acre site for Deerfield, according to Turner. It would be for a large rail loop — about a mile in circumference — for train loads of grain, he said.
“It would be to bring in a unit train with about 70 to 80 cars (of grain) for processing,” Turner said. “It will be very expensive — several million dollars — and challenging.”
The biggest challenge, Turner said, comes from the rail loop traversing through wetland areas at the industrial park. Permits will be needed from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, he said.
The Economic Progress Alliance is seeking state aid for the potential rail project, which would be roughly funded 70 percent through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and 30 percent by the company, Turner said.
The Deerfield project is the first announced at the industrial park since the former Hon Industries property was purchased by Crawford Renewable Energy to support the development of a proposed tires-to-energy facility at the industrial park, Turner said.