Blair's Family of Companies

Building and sustaining agriculture in Saskatchewan for four generations
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
Dana MerkWynne

For 67 years and through four generations, Blair’s Family of Companies has been building, sustaining and protecting the livelihood of farmers in central Saskatchewan. As a full-service agriculture retailer with diverse in-house divisions, spanning crop nutrition, crop protection, professional agronomy, animal nutrition, livestock genetics and more, Blair’s partners with area producers to make their businesses more profitable. Blair’s is passionate about serving its customers and believes it is more than a business, but a noble cause because few professions endure as much risk and face as many challenges as farmers.

Within the Blair’s family exists: Blair’s Crop and Livestock Solutions; a crop inputs and animal nutrition business; Blairs.Ag Cattle Company, an international animal genetics business; Blair’s SportsMaster Pro, a wildlife nutrition and management business; Blair’s AgIntelligence, offering professional agronomy and precision-ag services; , TexCana Logistics, a transportation and logistics division of Blair’s focusing on the movement of agricultural products, mainly grain and fertilizer; Blair's Premium Angus Beef, focusing on the production of premium beef for consumers, and Blair's Real Estate Solutions, focusing on unique real estate investment opportunities.

Based in Lanigan, Saskatchewan, the Blair’s family has grown in size and scope over the last several decades and the company now has seven retail locations and 93 full-time employees across operations in Lanigan, Nokomis, Watrous, Liberty, McLean, Strongfield, Lipton and soon to be a fertilizer distribution and warehousing facility in Hanley, just south of Saskatoon.

Blair's Family of Companies

A proud family legacy

Blair’s began in 1948 in Drake, Saskatchewan. “Sandy and Lindsay Blair were farming in the region and they brought some Elephant brand fertilizer from Cominco – it was the first rail car of bulk fertilizer brought into the province,” recounts Kevin Blair, CEO of Blair’s.

Ron Blair later took over the day-to-day management of Blair’s Fertilizer and his son, Kevin Blair and his nephew, Darren Blair joined the company in the years following. “In 2003, Kevin became CEO, and Darren became chief operating officer and is currently co-owner alongside Kevin,” notes Patty Smith, director of business development for Blair's. “They both have sons and daughters involved in the company that make up the fourth generation of family involvement.”

Since inception, the goal of Blair’s has been to bring new ideas and leading technology to producers in central Saskatchewan communities. “We are very proud of our legacy and the history we have built as a leading provider of agricultural innovations,” adds Blair.

At the core- a hands-on approach

Blair’s has quickly grown into a full service agriculture retailer, but the company’s core business remains in providing efficient crop inputs and custom farming services. “Our main focus is supporting crop production; approximately 90 percent of our revenue comes from this core business based in Saskatchewan,” notes Blair.

Crop inputs include; both dry, liquid and NH3 fertilizer, herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, micronutrients and seed. Blair’s also provides custom farming, including seeding, ground and aerial spraying, fertilizer spreading, combining, seed treatment and trucking.

Blair’s sources most of its fertilizer domestically and internationally through strategic alliances. “We bring a lot of our fertilizer in by truck and rail car from the U.S,” says Blair.

“Recently, we have invested in a large warehouse for our fertilizer products to support our seven ag-retail locations,” says Blair. “Blair’s completed a 5,000-metric-tonne monolithic concrete fertilizer dome in Liberty, Saskatchewan. This project has completely changed the skyline in the rural town and is now in operation this spring.”

Adding more capacity allows Blair’s to bring in the latest and most innovative fertilizer products. “Controlled-released fertilizers and nitrogen stabilizers have become a focus for us,” shares Smith. “We believe they have a great fit in improving fertilizer utilization and efficiency in crop production and they are sustainable products for the environment. We are working really hard to bring those products to our customers, but also explaining how they work and how farmers can get the most out of it.”

Blair’s 10-step crop nutrition strategy offers producers the best option for their individual operation. Blair’s understands choosing an appropriate fertilizer is a critical decision and one of the single largest investments in crop production. The 10-step strategy guides customers through equipment setup, soil testing and analysis, target production goals, fertility prescriptions, logistics and terms, tissue testing and analysis and yields, all the way to planning for the next crop year.

With any product, Blair says education is what sets Blair’s apart. “A lot of retailers just want to sell to farmers, but we want to help make them more efficient and profitable and this takes a lot of what I call, ‘heavy lifting,’” he explains. “Every year we invest heavily into product education and training for our staff, so they can better serve our customers, but also to keep our employees motivated and challenged.”

Cutting-edge agronomy

Indeed, Blair’s is doing more than selling inputs and leaving it up to the farmer to control the output; the company partners with producers every step of the way to ensure a successful season. Blair’s AgIntelligence, the professional agronomy services arm of the company, is driving value and higher yield through leading edge technology.

Blair’s has a history of pioneering local technologies, including direct seeding in the ‘80s, preharvest in the 90’s, controlled released fertilizers, micronutrients, fungicides, Chemtrition and more. This division also regularly performs field trials and testing.

In addition, Blair’s AgIntelligence division has formed a strategic partnership with AGRI-TREND Agrology. Blair’s professional agronomists are also AGRI-TREND-certified Agri-Coaches with access to the tools needed to provide leading agronomy for customers. Since forming in 1997, AGRI-TREND has developed one of the most influential networks of scientists, business leaders, and agronomy professionals in the industry, producing an award-winning data platform. With this backing, Blair’s AgIntelligence is helping producers be more profitable and grow more bushels.

“We understand this is a dynamic and at times, volatile industry,” explains Smith. “Our goal is to provide the best solutions and innovations available so our customers can remain profitable. This is a very cash-intensive business, so helping producers manage risk with custom solutions and inputs allows for the best crops possible and more profitability per acre.”

Additional services

While Blair’s notable business is crop nutrition, crop protection and agronomy services, the company is also actively involved in animal nutrition and serving the needs of livestock producers in Saskatchewan. Through Blairs.Ag Cattle Company, the business provides sales of live animals, embryos and semen around the world. “We sell live cattle and frozen genetics throughout North America but we have also sold frozen genetics around the world,” says Blair.

The Blair family has been involved in the purebred industry for more than35 years. The company works with Red Angus, Black Angus and Herefords with a mission to produce, “predictable offspring with predictable matings.”

Furthermore, Blair’s offers a full line of animal nutrition products for livestock customers. These products range from minerals and supplements to complete feeds for beef, dairy, poultry, hog, equine and companion animals.

Growing pains

With such breadth of in-house services, Blair says the greatest challenge for Blair’s is growing across various divisions and even adding new services at a sustainable, controlled rate. “We’ve been on a significant growth trajectory, so we have to be careful to ensure our people and process stay on track with this growth,” he says.

“Growth is a great problem to have but we need to ensure it’s sustainable,” he adds. “Every time we grow a location, the complexity of communication and logistics increases.”

But as long as Blair’s continues to be leaders in providing innovative crop, animal nutrition and land management solutions, Blair doesn’t see anything slowing down any time soon. “Agronomic innovations and prescision-ag technologies are changing all the time and I see this side of the business really ramping up in the coming years,” he predicts. “It’s all about driving profitability and helping our farmers manage risk. At the end of the day, if the farmer isn’t profitable, we can’t be either.”

After 67 years in operation, business is more than dollars and cents for Blair’s. The company continues to serve its customers, who are also neighbors, friends and colleagues, in a business community that is also its home.

For four generations and counting, Blair’s Family of Companies has taken a vested interest in the success of central Saskatchewan producers – ensuring agriculture remains a sustainable, profitable and viable industry

Strategic Partnership(s): 
ATP Nutrition
Canterra
FMC Canada
Growan
Monsanto
Syngenta
WMCZ