WOLF Cooperative Provides Organic Feed and Supplies
What you eat directly influences your body. Your immune system in particular is harmed or strengthened by the kinds of food you eat and, by extension, whatever your food consumed before it arrived in your kitchen. That goes for the grain that the chicken ate before it laid the egg you had for breakfast, and the fertilizer and insecticide that the farmer put around the lettuce that you’ll eat on your salad for supper. Organic farmers seek to make a healthy impact by using all-natural ingredients with their animals and crops.
Lamar Bontrager, founder of the Wolcottville Organic Livestock Feed (WOLF) Cooperative, was raised to have respect for organic practices.
“My father farmed organically, not because there was a market for it but he knew it was a sustainable way of farming,” Bontrager says. When the market started up, I was asked if I would be interested in providing feed. For me, it was a no-brainer.”
In 2008, Bontrager expanded his organic feed business into Wolcottville. Within three years, he realized that his growing business was in need of some changes.
“I was by myself, running two facilities and about killing myself,” he explains. “The option of making a co-op came up and I was pretty happy to go that route.”
In 2013, WOLF Cooperative was established with a five-farmer board. Now, more than 100 members across Indiana contribute to the feed mill.
“We do have other shares that are open to investors outside of farmers,” Bontrager says. “That’s the interest-returning stock.”
WOLF Cooperative also has a storefront at its Wolcottville facility. Although the leaders have a few conventional supplies at a Honeyville branch, all the products available at Wolcottville – seeds, regular and custom feed, herbicides, and insecticides among others – are organic.
The co-op does more than just sell products off the shelf.
“We grind, mix and deliver,” Bontrager says. “Service and quality are the two things we try to focus on. We specialize in servicing the community and being there for the community. Just because you’re a small customer doesn’t mean you won’t be taken care of as well as a big customer.”
The co-op also blends liquid and dry fertilizers that are biological and sustainable, based on soil test results.
“We blend for everything from a small garden to large commercial farms,” Bontrager says.
Most of the products sold at the co-op have been tried by someone connected with the company.
The co-op also blends custom feed for those interested.
“We’ll custom blend to what they want,” Bontrager says. “They may want a couple other ingredients that products we blend and keep on the floor may not have.”
Despite the co-op’s huge influence, the company has a genuine family feel, thanks to its community focus.
“It’s the community working together instead of me selling something to you,” Bontrager says. “It’s more of a working together, family-oriented type thing.”
For Bontrager, organic farming is all about sustainability by cultivating healthy soil and animals for the good of the community.
“I hope I’m remembered as someone who saw into the health of our people and that what I was doing was to create a sustainable and healthy way of living,” he says. “We are what we eat. Whatever it is that we’re putting on crops and the feed that we’re feeding to our animals, that’s all going to eventually end up in somebody’s stomach.
Someone is going to eat that. At the end of the day, I want to feel good about what I did, that I provided a sustainable product that will, in return, provide good health and a good immune system for whoever eats it.”
WOLF Cooperative sells feed at eight facilities across a three-state region, and also delivers across the nation. The main co-op branch is located at 109 Union Street in Wolcottville, and can be reached at 260-854-9943. Hours of operation are Mon., Wed. and Friday 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Tue. and Thu. 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Read more about their products online at wolfco-op.com.