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  • Caylie Gnyra

Vermilion Seed Cleaning Plant Celebrates 70 Years of Service

Vermilion Seed Cleaning Plant Manager Kimberly Rowsell; Vermilion Seed Cleaning Association President Travis Woywitka; board members Alvin Lumley, Derek Moses, Chad Eyben, and Scott Konieczny; Plant Operator Cory Nydokus; and board member Dean Waterfield at the Vermilion Seed Cleaning Plant’s 70th anniversary celebration. Missing: Aubrey Gutsch. Photo Caylie Gnyra

The Vermilion Seed Cleaning Plant celebrated its 70 years of service by hosting a customer appreciation barbecue on Thursday, June 27.

The first recorded meeting of the Vermilion Seed Cleaners Association took place on January 21, 1952, marking the inception of what would become a significant agricultural facility. The primary agenda was to discuss the construction of a new seed plant, with an estimated cost of $40,000. Funding was to be provided in equal portions by three parties: The Alberta Provincial Government, the County, and shareholders, with shares being sold at $25 each.

By December of the following year, construction was completed and the plant went into operation. The initial machinery included an indent machine, an air/screen machine, and a cereal treater. The total cost of the project was $45,000, slightly exceeding the initial estimate. C.J. McCormick was the first president of the Vermilion Seed Cleaners Association while E.D. Colburne was the plant’s first manager.

Over a decade later, the annual meeting on December 12, 1964, saw discussions about renovating the existing plant and exploring the possibility of constructing a new one. By June 19, 1965, the association passed a motion to proceed with renovations rather than selling the original plant. The period from 1965 to 1983 was marked by tremendous changes, including the addition of new steel bins, upgraded cleaning and treating machines, and enhancements to the plant’s exterior with a new dust collector, treating sheds, and vinyl siding. Notably, the plant experimented with new ideas such as an electromagnetic zapper, which were eventually discarded.

With funding from shareholders and the Upgrading Program in place at the time, new machines were added, including a gravity and width grader. These upgrades positioned the plant as a leader in the cleaning and sacking of canola. By 1982, the plant had reached its operational peak, limited only by head height as far as larger capacity cleaning machines were concerned. That year, the replacement cost was insured at $1,000,000.

At the annual meeting on December 8, 1983, members discussed the possibility of building a new plant. This idea gained momentum, and on October 4, 1984, a special shareholders meeting resulted in a motion to construct a new facility. The budget for this new plant was $1,000,000, with funding again distributed amongst the Alberta Provincial Government at 40 per cent, shareholders at 40 per cent, and 20 per cent from the County.

The new plant began operating on March 10, 1986, holding its official opening on June 12 of that year. The impressive facility boasted an indent machine, air/screen machine, width grader, gravity, spirals, debearder, cereal treater, canola treater, and pulse crop treater. In the summer of 1988, a 25’ x 50’ cold storage warehouse was added, and in the summer of 2002, phase one of bin expansion was completed.

In the last two decades, the plant has added four new seed cleaning bins and two additional bins for screening, as well as a colour sorter alongside equipment upgrades.

Alan Forbes, who has performed maintenance and repairs on the plant since it opened seven decades ago, noted that the plant has only ever had four managers: Colburne, Donald Fadden, Melvin Reid, and Kim Rowsell.

Today, under the leadership of President Travis Woywitka and Manager Rowsell, the Vermilion Seed Cleaning Plant continues to thrive. Reflecting seventy years of involvement and collaboration between the provincial government, the county government, local boards, staff, and shareholders, the plant stands as a testament to what can be achieved through shared vision and cooperative effort.

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