History of Bleyhl

Farmer-owned since 1964

Bleyhl got its name from brothers Alex and Carl Bleyhl, born in the early 1900s in North Dakota to German immigrant farmers. In 1929, they opened a turkey hatchery in Mabton and in 1934 opened a feed store. They got off to a humble start, "mixing their turkey feed with a hoe on a shop floor in Mabton." (Tri-City Herald, page 1, July 22, 1974)

The business quickly outgrew its location and they moved the store to Grandview in 1937 on Main Street. Seven years later it was destroyed by a fire and they moved across the street to 119. E. Wine Country Rd. Alex Bleyhl operated the farm store and Carl Bleyhl managed their farm, raising turkeys and growing asparagus and Concord grapes. He sold 100,000 turkeys annually between Thanksgiving and New Year's, earning the title of "the largest single turkey-raising operation in the Pacific Northwest." (Yakima Herald, page 14, September 3, 1963)

The Bleyhl brothers brought on a couple partners, Ray Whitcomb and H.W. "Wes" Farwell to open a store in Sunnyside called "Bleyhl and Farwell". In 1947 they formed "Bleyhl's Inc." In 1950 they purchased Aqua-Gro fertilizers and Link Distributing Co. in Grandview. Alex Bleyhl served as the president of these companies. The brothers were quite active in community affairs. They founded the Bleyhl Community Library in 1957. Alex was on the city council for 15 years and they helped found a local bank.

Bleyhl Farm Service, Inc. was incorporated as a cooperative in 1964 by 237 farmers who each chipped in $1 to have collective buying power. Ray Whitcomb became the first general manager. Cliff Onsgard was elected president of the board and remained in that position for more than 30 years.

Bleyhl's second general manager, Fred Harris, started out his Bleyhl career fresh out of high school, sewing sacks and sweeping floors at the grain mill. "The Bleyhl brothers and Ray Whitcomb provided a lot of breaks for me," Harris told the Tri-City Herald in 1974.

The co-op was originally affiliated with Pacific Supply Cooperative, a regional co-op with main offices in Portland. Pacific Supply was Bleyhl's main supplier and financing institution. In 1973, Bleyhl achieved financial independence and purchased its Grandview location from Pacific Supply. That same year, Carl Bleyhl retired from the board of directors, formally ending the Bleyhl family's ties to the business that still bears its name.

The co-op now has over 900 farmer-owners and employs over 100 people at locations in Zillah, Sunnyside, Grandview and Pasco.