The regional agricultural supplier continues to modernize production, allowing distribution far beyond the borders of Marion County

If you are out for a drive in the countryside on one of these brisk winter days, you quickly become acutely aware of the intense level of farming carried on by our farm neighbors.

Lots of two, five and small acreages are still out there, but the occupants aren't farming for a living, (they are riding horses on the weekend or helping their kids with 4-H projects).

FILE PHOTO - Russ BaglienStill, there are a lot of small "farm" landscapes to attract your attention. Wally Pohlschneider runs a small retail flower and plant nursery on the Woodburn-St. Paul Highway; there is a specialized seed-crop farm operated by Jim Siri, of Siri and Son. Both are regulars at the "coffee and rolls" sessions Bob Hockett hosts for his farmer clients at his Marion Ag Service Conference facility (regulars refer to it as the "board room").

Marion Ag is anything but small in the agriculture industry.

Annual sales for 2018 have not been finalized, yet, but they will be in the multi-millions-of-dollars category. Profitability has yet to be determined, but Hockett expects it to be good. His huge investment in a modern, state-of-the-art processing building will likely reflect the firm's ability to handle accounts, big and small, in an efficient, timely, profitable manner.

"We are almost 100-percent mechanical now," said Marion Ag general manager Tom Wimmer, who played a big role in designing the firm's product handling facility near Broadacres.

No less than two gigantic buildings set back to back, the facility dominates the skyline. Inside, the laser-operated and robot-delivered product has been programmed to be loaded onto a waiting vehicle to make its way to a waiting farmer, as close as inside a mile away or as far away as central, eastern or southern Oregon.

Yes, they also do some modest shipping around the world. Yes, folks, it's that efficient.

Why did Marion Ag decide to become ultra-modern with laser and robot operations? Hockett said it was a combination of the intense pressure on agriculture to move away from manhandling product. Machines were replacing manpower in a multitude of businesses.

Wimmer lobbied with Hockett to convince him it was the future of the industry. Why not be first? The two of them were soon off to the Midwest to meet with design engineers.

Since the scheme was new, it required significant input from Hockett and Wimmer. The two of them made multiple trips to the Midwest to come up with a design that was doable and cost effective. Wimmer, a graduate of Oregon State University School of Agriculture and Business, was up to the task.

About two years ago a plan began to take shape. The right location was settled on, negotiations with the two rail lines for spurs ensued, funding was secured and construction on two massive 800 x 250 foot buildings commenced.

Construction fueled all kinds of rumors about what was being built. Those included some doozies, such as an NBA tryout facility, multi-grower distribution center, indoor marijuana growing plant, a filbert receiving processing plant, and so on.

Well, now you know. It is just the fertilizer/insecticide distribution business, ultra-modern version, growing up out there in the metropolis (population 25 when everybody is in town) of Broadacres.

There is nothing small-town about Marion Ag. What Hockett and Wimmer have crafted across the street from the Broadacres Tavern is the future of fertilizer and insecticide. It will make it from the manufacture to farm fields, big and small. Marion Ag is a trendsetter that operates facilities in St. Paul, Broadacres, Hopmere and Aurora, serving farmers of all stripes.

The agricultural industry has already heaped praise on Hockett and Wimmer for their contributions to the industry. Rumor has it that a second facility may be in the brainstorming stage. Farmers who coffee regularly at Hockett's "board room" wouldn't be at all surprised to witness such an event.

Both men are married with grown children. One of Hockett's sons, John, and two granddaughters, are the only family member involved in the business.

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