Agribusiness: Custom Blending unveils line of dry spices for retail outlets

FORT COLLINS — Just in time for the kickoff of the outdoor barbecue season, Custom Blending Inc., a local manufacturer of dry spices and liquid food flavorings, is introducing four new dry spices into its retail line.

Sold at area groceries under the “Savory Blend” name, the new spices are “just the thing” to spruce up hamburgers, chicken, seafood or pork cooked on a backyard grill, said company president and sole owner John Conway.

“Even the label reminds the shopper of backyard cooking because the background is checkered, like a tablecloth that I envision people using at picnics and cookouts in the back yard,” he said.

Conway wouldn’t speculate on how much additional revenue the new products will bring in, but agreed that they should spice up the company’s current annual revenues of more than $1 million.

Custom Blending started 13 years ago, when Conway purchased two separate companies and customized and blended them into the current enterprise that occupies 7,800 square feet and employs nine.

In addition to the retail market, the company sells to restaurants and to other food manufacturers.

Extension adding Web page

Jim Smith, Weld County’s new cooperative-extension director, is implementing new ways to disseminate all the information the extension service generates for ag producers throughout the county.

In June, the extension service will start a Web page, which will publish the results of the latest ag tests as well as upcoming programs and events, Smith said.

“When I came to interview for this job, I drove around this large county and wondered how in the world we could get out the information to everyone,” Smith said. “And I thought of the computer, because people today want instant information, and the computer is that.”

Smith took over the directorship in mid-February, coming from Travis County, Texas. He has also worked for extension offices in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles.

In March, his office created the first monthly report of seminars, meetings, tours and field days held; attendance figures; and other contacts extension agents had with the public.

The monthly report is distributed to the Weld County Commissioners, and a year-end report will go to state legislators, Smith said.

Smith said that he would like to develop an agribusiness brochure showing how agriculture impacts the area.

“It could be used to recruit new ag businesses, as well as to educate children in the schools about where our food and fiber come from,” he said.

The job of the extension service is to “bring research-based information to the ag producers, which we hope will make them more viable and sustainable,” he said. “We are trying to help keep producers in the business of producing.”

New farm tools on the market

Both John Deere and Case IH area dealers are introducing new equipment this year.

John Deere’s newest tractor runs on tracks, muck like a bulldozer, instead of on wheels, said Duane Wallin, owner of Bi-State Machinery Co. in Greeley.

“The main advantage is less ground compaction,” Wallin said, and, according to comments by farmers who have used the machine, it is just as maneuverable as a wheel tractor, has good visibility and extra traction, Wallin said.

“Last fall near La Salle after the heavy snow, a guy was trying to plow with a regular tractor with mechanical front-wheel drive, and he was experiencing 22 to 24 percent slippage,’ Wallin said.

“We took a track machine out there with the same horsepower, and it went to 8 percent slip right away,” he said.

Full retail price of the new 8200T (with tracks) is just less than $129,000, or about a 7 percent increase over the 8200 MFWD (with wheels), he said.

“Right now, we’re trying to figure out what the life of the tracks will be versus tires. Probably if a person could get a third to a half more life out of the tracks, it would justify the cost difference,” Wallin said.

Ellis & Capp Equipment Co. in Greeley will introduce in June three varieties of the MX tractor by Case IH, said Irv Kindsfater, sales manager.

The compact MX will have 67, 74 or 83 horsepower. “So for the dairy people and those who need to work in a small area with that kind of horsepower, they will have more maneuverability,” Kindsfater said.

Two additional MX models will offer options up to 145 horsepower.

Kindsfater said the full retail price on the compact MX will be about $68,000, depending on options.

The dealership is also introducing a new self-propelled windrower, Kindsfater said.

At $77,000 to $80,000, full retail value, the new model 8870 Windrower has more horsepower, comes with a two-foot wider cutting and the header attachment can be reversed for easier cleaning of clogs, a distinct safety feature, he said.

Kindsfater said the new design also has all the hand controls mounted directly to the seat, so they will be in the same motions as the seat, ensuring greater “creature comforts” and a smoother ride.

“It’s right up there next to a Lazy Boy recliner,” Kindsfater said.