On September 4th, 1965, business partners James Ward, Clois Dudgeon and O.J. Weiker officially incorporated OHIGRO, Inc. The following spring, OHIGRO opened for business in Waldo, Ohio with Jim Ward as the Plant Manager. At that time, OHIGRO consisted of three full-time employees and one fertilizer shed, which also housed the accounting “department” in the building’s pump room. Hoping the phone wouldn’t ring when the air compressor was making too much noise, Millie Ward (Jim’s wife) did all of the company’s “bookwork” from that dusty office during that first year. Eager to get the business started, fertilizer was delivered to the new building before it could even be sided, so it had to be surrounded with plastic once the rain started coming down. Chuck Ward, Jim’s brother, assisted in the mixing and delivering of dry fertilizer to all of OHIGRO’s customers. Looking back, Jim would often wonder how they were able to get anything done that first year, but they undoubtedly did.
Over the next few years, OHIGRO quickly expanded operations by building an office in the fall of ‘66 and modernized by purchasing its first “floater-spreader” in ‘69. In 1970, a seed house was constructed, liquid fertilizer holding tanks were purchased, and a “new and improved” fertilizer shed was built. As the Waldo plant began to flourish, OHIGRO expanded to “two locations to serve you” with a plant in Richwood in 1973. The purchase of a Richwood branch gave OHIGRO a second facility as well as a second generation of Ward management. Jim’s second son, Jerry, would serve as the Plant Manager in Richwood.
In the decade that followed, OHIGRO continued to slowly grow, establishing a solid reputation in the community. What was once a company with just a few employees, now had several dozen on the payroll and a growing list of loyal customers.
With hard work and a continued emphasis on customer service, OHIGRO continued to grow over the years. The ‘80s brought many changes to the agricultural industry and to OHIGRO, as well. With new equipment, technology, and many new faces, OHIGRO continued to serve central Ohio farmers. By its twentieth anniversary, OHIGRO had twenty full-time employees. Later that fall, after two decades of partnership, Clois Dudgeon, one of the company’s original founding partners, resigned from his board position at OHIGRO.
In the spring of 1989, OHIGRO expanded its growing business yet again by purchasing the Delaware Farmer’s Exchange and beginning the subsidiary company, OHIGRO South, Inc. This acquisition gave OHIGRO access to new customers, a new service area, and new competition in the marketplace.
After six successful years in business, OHIGRO South, Inc. would sell its feed and grain division, once again allowing the folks at OHIGRO to concentrate its efforts on fertilizer, seeds, and chemical sales and services. With Delaware County becoming one of the fastest growing counties in the United States, OHIGRO’s Delaware location began serving more than its traditional farm customer base. A rapidly growing urban population and a bustling landscape community quickly began to rely on OHIGRO’s quality lawn seeds, pond chemicals, and Bounty bagged fertilizers, expanding OHIGRO’s reach yet once again.
The thirtieth anniversary of OHIGRO brought about the consolidation of two corporate identities — OHIGRO, Inc. and OHIGRO South, Inc., — into one. With this merger also came a renewed consolidation of efforts on the part of the growing and diverse staff of OHIGRO’s three locations. The new challenge for the approaching millennium would remain much as it had been when the company first started: to continue the same high standard of service that OHIGRO had become known for, while at the same time, look for new and exciting ways to communicate and do business with growers in the Central Ohio area.
Finding ways to integrate technology into the process quickly became the hallmark of the new millennium. Late in 2000, the decision was made to centralize much of the company’s bookkeeping by Jeffrey Ward, Jim Ward’s oldest grandson. OHIGRO would also launch a website as an added resource for customers. Meanwhile, OHIGRO began to get more involved in site-specific services, utilizing satellite-equipped four-wheelers and pocket PCs to accurately grid sample an average of seventy-five acres per hour.
In the last decade, agriculture has continued to advance with the progressive technologies being developed. With the recent boom of instruments capable of collecting huge amounts of data (such as yield, soil texture, and aerial imagery), growers are now able to determine similar production areas in their fields. Soil samples can be taken from these zones instead of randomly within a 2.5 acre square. This more precise production data allows a grower to variable rate not only fertilizer, but also seeding rates and different seed hybrids or varieties.
For fifty years, OHIGRO has been a family-owned and operated agricultural retailer striving to be a “full service” company. Certainly, a lot has changed over the years. Five decades ago, six-row planters were the largest around and it was assumed that you couldn’t raise a good crop without plowing and working the ground at least twice. OHIGRO’s first sprayer was a converted semi tractor with a single nozzle that covered twenty feet in one pass. Today, we live in a world of 24 row planters, no-till farming, GPS equipment, and we spray with 120 foot booms at twice the speed.
The changes, of course, extend beyond equipment offerings. Seed genetics have helped increase yields two fold, while advancements in weather forecasting allow for programs to tell growers if last week’s rainfall totals will demand more nitrogen at side dressing. More importantly, all of this sort of information is now available on every customer’s smartphone. However, with each step and every new industry trend, OHIGRO has been and will continue to be there, keeping our fingers on the pulse of the rapid growth of tomorrow’s technology.
Offering retail and wholesale agricultural fertilizers, chemicals, and seeds, as well as a variety of custom services such as custom application, grid sampling, and seed cleaning / treating has given OHIGRO a leading edge in the Central Ohio agricultural community. As the ever-changing world of agriculture continues to make use of advancing technology, OHIGRO is interested in finding new ways to meet the growing demands of area growers. The utilization of new emerging technologies shows that OHIGRO has come a long way since it opened its doors in the mid ‘60s. Certainly, many things have changed over the years, but the company’s mission statement remains the same:
Serve the customer!