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Our Story – 75 Years of Farmers Working Together
In 1939, a group of area rice farmers from Wharton, Colorado, Jackson, Matagorda, and Calhoun counties recognized the need for warehouse space for their sacked rice. The area farmers were at the mercy of the rice mills for the fact that there was not enough storage space to get the shocked rice out of the weather. The group elected a steering committee consisting of R. E. (Richard) Meek, Chairman, Russell Raun, Secretary, Harold Cory, Tommie Gresham, John Allen, and H. D. Allen to obtain warehouses. The group organized Rice Farmers Coop., Inc. and received a charter from the State of Texas on July 2, 1940.
Rice Farmers Coop., Inc. by-laws state that the purpose of the association was to engage in any activity in connection with the marketing or selling of agricultural products of its members, or with the harvesting, preserving, drying, processing, canning, storing, handling, shipping, or utilization thereof, or, the manufacturing, selling, or supplying to its members of machinery, equipment of supplies; or in the financing of the above named activities, or any one or more of the foregoing activities. The coop may extend any of the foregoing activities to the products of or supplies to non-members.
In 1942, sixteen farmers subscribed $16,000.00 to acquire warehouses. Rice Farmers Coop was able to two warehouses each in El Campo and Louise and leased on each in Ganado and Edna. The members and non-member farmers sacked shocked rice at the field and shipped to the warehouses to store until the rice was sold to the rice mills. There was times that RFC would store sacked flax for area farmers.
In 1947, the coop built the area’s first concrete rice drying facility. The facility consisted of 36 – 1,000 cwt. bins, two continuous flow dryers, unloading pit with a winch that pulled a large scoop called a mule to unload trucks and various bucket elevators, screw and belt conveyers and cleaners. At the time it was the most modern rice dryer in the area. The total cost of this facility was approximately $230,000. This allowed the farmers to mechanically harvest rice and deliver it to the dryer bulk by truck and have it dried, sacked, and stored in the neighboring warehouse. This facility is still in use today.
RFC added working bins, dryers, storage bins, and updated equipment in the 1950’s, 1960’s and the 1970’s. The capacity went from the original 36,000 cwt. to over 570,000 cwt. Yields steadily increased in the 80’s so there was a need for the coop lease storage space at Nine Point Grain and the old ELCO mill in Louise to handle the crop. In 1994, the coop bought the Texas West Indies plant from the Hancock family to fulfill the demand for drying and storage. RFC had its best year for rice volume as it handled approximately 954,000 cwt. first and second crop off of an estimated 14,000 acres. The farm program and restrictions on irrigation water from the Colorado River took its toll on rice acres. The TWI plant was sold to Nine Point Grain in 2006. The coop handled 387,105 cwt of first off of 4555 acres and 116,839 acres of second crop off of 3673 acres in 2014. The coop has purchased land from United Ag on First Street for future use.
In the early years the coop sold bagged fertilizer to the rice farmers. The only fertilizer that was available for several years was 16-20-0 analysis. Later on there were many different analysis and straight nitrogen. The coop sold herbicides as soon as they were available. The bagged fertilizer was unloaded off of train cars or transport trucks into the warehouse near the dryer on East Monseratte. In the early 1970’s, the coop converted that warehouse to a bulk fertilizer.
In 1992, RFC acquired a fertilizer facility on US Highway 59 south of Louise. The old warehouse was demolished. The Louise facility was sold to an oilfield service company in early 2000. In 2003, the coop exited the fertilizer blending business due the competition from large worldwide companies.
In 1972, the coop saw a need to expand its services and supplies to its members by purchasing Dittert Tire Company located across Monseratte Street from the original dryer. The coop continued to its growth and service to the farmers by acquiring Ellwood Oil Company in 1975.
Now RFC was a full service coop offering rice drying and storage, fertilizer and chemicals, tires sales and service and bulk fuel delivery. In 1982, the coop added retail fuel to the list by purchasing the old Modern Farmers fuel station and bulk plant on East First Street.
As the 1980’s came to an end the coop saw the need to improve their sales and service divisions. The current tire and auto service center was constructed. This complex included a new retail and bulk fuel operation and the corporate offices. The tire and auto service center is operated under the name of Mr. Tire Auto Service Center.
Rice Farmers Coop opened its second Mr. Tire Auto Service Center in Bay City on January 20, 2015. RFC, once again, saw a need to serve the farmers and the local area. The coop plans are to expand its fuel business in the Bay City area in the near future. The property across the alley from the El Campo service center has been acquired over the last few years. RFC has plans to build a new tire and auto service center along with a new retail fuel site on that property in the near future.
Jimmy Huey and his team at Mr. Tire Auto Service Center in Bay City are exceptional. Their new shop is spacious, clean, and easy to find right off Hwy 60. Any interaction I’ve had with service technicians has been polite and professional. The team is knowledgeable and very willing to help answer any questions about services and product warranties. I would absolutely recommend this tire shop and automotive service center to anyone in the area. Let them know Amy sent you!