LINEBORO — A fine dust filled the air as R.F. Warner Sons, Inc.'s employees Pablo Saldana and William Gantz filled a bag with rye for a farmer. The rye is just one of feeds R.F. Warner Sons, Inc. in Lineboro, mixes daily. The feed mill, run by Allen and Kate Warner, has been family owned and operated since 1932.
"I like that its quality feed made the old way," said Frank Burnette, who purchases feed from the mill for his goats. "It has really good ingredients and my animals like it. In fact, it's the only feed they eat."
Burnette, of Freeland, said he frequents the mill for because of the customer service.
"You don't find a lot of mills around that are family operations," Burnette said. "The people are really nice to deal with."
Mills that mix their own grain are also rare these days, according to Kate Warner.
"It's hard work and a very dusty job," she said.
Allen Warner explained the dust is very fine and easy to brush off.
"It's not dirty dirt like mud or grease, it's clean," he said. "My father always said feed dirt is clean dirt."
Allen said he was around the business from the time he was small and knew he would one day take over the operation.
"I enjoyed it. I don't enjoy the work like I used to — in my younger days I lifted a lot of feed and worked a lot of long hours," he said.
Kate explained employees have to lift, stack and move 50- and 100-pound bags of feed. The Warners have two full-time employees in the mill and a customer service representative in the office.
"It's a strenuous job and a dirty work environment, but we love animals and the industry," Kate said.
Pablo Saldana, who manages the mill, said the dust is all part of the job.
"I've been here almost nine years. I enjoy it because it's part of agriculture," said Saldana, who comes from a farming background in Mexico.
The mill mixes something every day, Allen said. The process begins when grain is dumped into a pit adjacent to the mill. The grain goes onto an auger and travels to a set of elevators in the mill. The elevators take the grain to the second floor where the seeds are cleaned and weighed by machines.
After the grain is measured, it travels up a second set of elevators to be stored at the top of the mill, Allen said. The grain is transported by an auger on the top floor of the mill and stored in a bin until it is ready to be used.
"When we're ready to bag, the seed is channeled to the second floor," Allen said. "The bagger can be moved anywhere in the mill."
Allen said the mill uses local corn and barley as well as Canadian oats. They grind it or mix it through a crimper and add feed ingredients to it — wheat bran, soybean meal based concentrate pellets, molasses, vitamins and minerals. They also supplement their feed supply with product from a national feed company to provide for animals with special needs.
"We don't worry about what other mills do. We come into work and do our own thing," Allen said.
Allen said the mill became a family-owned business in 1932 when Allen's grandfather Raymond F. Warner and his brother Morris purchased the operation, which was made of wood. In 1948, the family added a work area with two mixers and, in 1958, they built a storage area. Raymond bought out Morris and ran the mill until his death in 1959. Raymond's two sons William and George took over and changed the name to R.F. Warner Sons. In 1988, George sold his part to Allen's father William and the business became incorporated. In 1999, the family tore down the original wooden structure and put up a new section for mixing, bagging and storage. Allen and his wife, Kate, currently own the business.
"My family has always lived in the house across the street," said Allen. "We can walk to work. We're never closed. Even when we have storms, if you need us, we're right across the street."
Allen said he and Kate also maintain a small farm with a cow and calf herd and a small flock of sheep. Kate also tends to a 350 to 400 egg-laying flock and seasonally raises broilers and turkeys.
Carroll County Breaking News
Allen said many of his customers hear about them by word of mouth.
"Our customer base is from the surrounding area — Carroll County and southern part of Pennsylvania. Our customers are mainly hobby farmers who feed horses, sheep, cattle, goats, chickens and turkeys," Allen said. "We just do the same thing we've always done."
Matt Dell, of Manchester, recently bought 2,400 pounds of soybean meal and minerals for his cows.
"It's like local tradition. My grandfather bought feed here for 30 years and my family continues to buy feed here," Dell said. "It's kind of like family. It's one of those places where they know you as soon as you walk in."