In this two-part series, Ray Redfern, president of Redfern Farm Services, reflected with Redferns.ca on the earlier days and to look ahead at what’s to come for the business.
Part 1: A look back
Let’s rewind the clock back to the early 70s.
Ray Redfern had returned to Manitoba after a brief stint in Alberta with Imperial Oil, where he had spent time developing and providing crop inputs and was the marketing manager. He opted to return to start a business as an Imperial franchisee in Rivers, which included the amalgamation of a few single-location farm supply businesses in and around the area.
“Living for a short period in Red Deer, I became intrigued with the opportunity that I thought existed to begin a crop input business in Manitoba,” said Redfern, who grew up on a family farm near Kenton and is the eldest of seven siblings.
Redfern, who had received his Bachelor of Science in Agriculture with majors in Soil Science and Economics at the University of Manitoba (including additional work towards an MBA), then laid out a business plan with a bank that elected to support his venture.
“We (Redfern Farm Services) became known for being able to provide services at that time that others didn’t yet provide, and the use of crop inputs become much more a part of regular farm practices,” he said.
It took a few years for Redfern Farm Services to get their ‘feet wet’ so-to-speak, he says. He remembers driving a fuel truck by himself on late night call-outs by CN Rail until 6 a.m. the next morning to help keep the business afloat.
“You do all those things you need to do when you’re trying to sustain and expand the business and have limited assets at the time,” he added.
His business plan initially included a trip south to Oregon for fertilizer equipment. That trip, he recalls, allowed him to be a pioneer of sorts as he helped introduce anhydrous ammonia to the southwest region of Manitoba.
“It (anhydrous ammonia) was already starting to come into other regions of Manitoba but certainly wasn’t regularly available here yet.”
Over the years, Redfern Farm Services continued to evolve – this included more investment in plant, equipment and quality personnel.
“It’s about the ongoing effort to become a valued retailer to our crop production partners and suppliers in an effort to remain viable. It’s about having a breadth of business operations that invoke interest in Redferns and by having high quality potential employees; the kind that we all need and must have on our teams. Those were and still are the two driving forces – along with a passion for agriculture and always using the science of agronomy in an ongoing effort to get it right.”
Early expansion activities included the locations of Kenton, Hamiota and then Minnedosa and Brandon. Today, Redfern Farm Services consists of 11 locations across southwestern Manitoba, along with operations of Redsper Enterprises, a major processor and retailer of seed products and services in the region, and a grain and seed production operation, which includes 15 irrigation pivots.
Part 2 of the series, which focuses on the present day and a look into the future of Redfern Farm Services, will be published in the not-too-distant future.
Redferns provides the widest industry selection of seed, fertilizers and crop protection products to customers from our locations, as well as a diverse selection of other goods and services. Custom application services, into field product deliveries, fertilizer application services and equipment rentals, along with comprehensive soil testing programs, agronomy support and product recommendations are all provided by our professionals.