It is not often that a business can commemorate an entire century in operation! Farmers Cooperative Association, Inc. (FCA) has been a staple in Frederick for 100 amazing years. Frederick County Office of Economic Development’s Homegrown Frederick staff had the pleasure of sitting down with general manager Richard O’Hara to learn about the history and future of one of Frederick’s legacy businesses.
The six original board members believed in the future of agriculture in Frederick County, a notion still strongly upheld throughout FCA today. With a common goal to establish a feed and fertilizer pool to provide quality products for local farmers at a better cost, board members traveled to Annapolis to form the Frederick County Farm Bureau Cooperative. On August 8, 1923, their dream became a reality.
The original headquarters for the cooperative was located near what we now know as Sky Stage in Frederick. Interestingly, as the co-op’s operations were being established, board members cosigned all loans the co-op obtained, assuming personal risk for the betterment of Frederick County’s local farming community. The co-op formed relationships with American Milling Company out of Peoria, Illinois, and bulk purchases of Sucrene Feeds were transported to Frederick by rail car. Co-op staff would then travel around the county selling this quality feed at a better price point to farmers. Business was flourishing and the cooperative purchased property for a new mill. To gain more business, the co-op teamed up with The Great Frederick Fair in October 1927, a robust partnership that has remained all these years! By 1930, the company had acquired numerous locations throughout Frederick County and shed “Farm Bureau” from the name.
In the early 1950s, a new mill was built to replace the old pulley and belt system. By 1964, FCA owned three petroleum plants, a fertilizer plant, a lime plant, two feed plants and several other businesses including a poultry processing facility. They also acquired New Windsor Farmers Cooperative. From the formation of the co-op, the majority of FCA’s feed business was concentrated on cattle feed. Frederick County’s dairy industry flourished in the 1980s, with the bulk of FCA’s customers being dairy farmers. In 1990, FCA built a computerized feed mill at their current location to mix and balance feed blends, which is still in use today. At that time, it was the first of its kind in the county. Products were marketed as “fresh feed daily,” a term they still use and stand by today. Feeds are produced closely to the time customers receive them, helping to set FCA apart from large brand-name competitors. By the 21st century, farming in Frederick County began to make a sudden shift. As the local dairy industry began to decline, FCA shifted operations to focus more on equine feed. Today, FCA has over 30 different types of equine feed, and has become a large supplier of feed for show animals of all livestock types.
Through expansions, relocations, The Great Depression and operational changes, Richard expressed that FCA has remained a staple in Frederick County because the goal has remained the same from the beginning: “to provide quality feed at a better price to the farmers in the community.” We applaud FCA’s commitment to the farming community while being able to adapt to meet the needs of an ever-changing industry.
For more information on Farmers Cooperative and to see the products they offer, go visit them in person at 820 E. South St in Frederick or on their website.