Tahgahoning Enterprises Inc.
Walpole Island Reserve consists of five islands – St. Anne’s, Squirrel, Bassett, Seaway and Walpole. There is presently farm land on three of the islands – St. Anne’s, Squirrel and Walpole. The total agricultural area of the five islands is approximately 12,000 acres. The soils are highly productive sandy loams well suited for agriculture with proper drainage. There is a network of drainage ditches which are pumped into the lake by two pumping stations. Prior to 1971 the agricultural land was leased to non-native farmers. Walpole Island Band Council began farming a portion of the farmland, initially 200 acres, under the name of Walpole Island Farms. The following year this acreage rose to 500 acres comprised of mostly small parcels of land previously not being cultivated. By starting this farming enterprise, the agricultural resource would benefit the entire community by providing revenue, employment, training, and assistance to band members interested in agriculture. In 1973, Tahgahoning Enterprises was formed with original funding provided by the band. That year, the Farm Credit Corporation provided a $100,000.00 loan to upgrade farm machinery. The working capital was obtained with a line of credit from a commercial bank with the initial guarantee from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND). Within three years the farm’s financial position improved to the point where it had no further need of the DIAND guarantee. Suring the next 30 years, Tahgahoning proved itself financially responsible and had no difficulty in obtaining credit in the business community.
The elevator storage and drying complex was built in 1989 due to storage and drying costs of $1.217 million from 1973 to 1989. Those costs in 1988 alone were approximately $130,000.00. The facility also would provide a quality, consistent product with it’s energy efficient technology. A premium could be obtained from the product as well as creating new jobs within the community.
The $1.9 elevator complex was built with a Native Economic Development Program (NEDP) grant of $600,000.00 and and Indian Agricultural Program of Ontario (IAPO) loan of $650,000.00 from Tahgahoning Enterprises Inc. – an Ontario Corporation set up to obtain funds.
The elevator was operational for the late 1989 harvest and in 1990 the first full year of operation. The complex consists of an office building (offices, washrooms, lunch room, payroll electrical room and test room); 80’x10′ truck scale; grain storage of four 100,000 bushel steel bins with temperature monitoring, aeration, with unloading conveyors; two 2200 bushel batch grain dryers with the capacity of approximately 20,000 bushels per day drying at 15 points of moisture; 18,000 bushels cone bottomed wet tank; structural tower with 10,000 bushel per hour capacity leg, receiving pit, cleaner and distributor head.
The farming operation has a full line of equipment to till, plant, spray and harvest soybeans and corn. Fertility is maintained by the use of fertilizer, and weed control is achieved by the use of herbicides and cultivation. In 1991, Tahgahoning began growing seed corn as a value added crop. The 50 acres of seed corn in addition to the added income, provided short-term employment for 80 people with a payroll of $6,000.00. In 1992, this acreage grew to 270 acres, providing short-term employment for 140 people, mostly teenagers, and a payroll of $45,000.00 In 1993 and 1994 this acreage grew to 400 acres providing short-term employment to 200 people, approximately 1/2 youths and 1/2 adults, with a payroll of $65,000.00. Tahgahoning was enrolled in the Land Stewardship Program in which a minimum of 30% refuse must be on top of the ground to prevent wind erosion of soil and maintain moisture.
In 1993 the Walpole Island First Nation at the request of the Tahgahoning Board of Directors, returned $175,000.00 of the rent money to begin systematic subsurface (tiling) of band land. This amount of money in addition to $30,000.00 of Tahgahoning’s cash enabled 550 acres to be tiled at 50 foot intervals.
In 1994, the Tahgahoning Board entered into a three year agreement with the Aboriginal Business Development Program (ABDP), Indian Agricultural Program of Ontario (IAPO), and arranged an Ontario Tile Loan (OTL) to tile more land – approximately 550 acres over each of the next three years. All studies indicated that the increased yield from properly drained land should increase revenue to easiil pay the principal and interest over the 10 year period. At present, all of the band owned land which Tahgahoning leases, has been tiled and all tile loans retire in early 2004. This improvement increases its ultimate rental value and this becomes an asset to the community. Tahgahoning has spent approximately $1,500,000.00
in drainage in the past 10 years. Payment on drainage loans has been a strain on cash flow but all accounts were paid on time. Complete systematic subsurface drainage allowed TEI to compete with mainland farmers and become a major contributor to the Walpole Island economy.
Over the years, crops grown by Tahgahoning have been commercial and waxy corn, seed corn, seed soybeans, peas, wheat, potatoes, sugar beets, white beans, chickory and seed canola.
With the Board and the employee’s positive attitude, Tahgahoning will be a successful and profitable enterprise although it requires some help from the grain markets and Mother Nature.
The main part of Tahgahoning Enterprises Inc. is it’s Board of Directors and employees who are progressive thinkers and conscientious workers. The Board consists of seven persons (all community members). Regular employees total twelve. Each employee takes pride in the workmanship performed and takes care of the equipment to prevent damage and maximize performance. In season, they are required and willing to work long hours and plant and harvest crops. The day to day operation is the responsibility of the General Manager who reports to the Board of Directors which set the general policies.