Farmers Exchange Marks Nearly a Century of Service
The Farmers Exchange in Middlebourne has been a familiar face for Tyler County’s communities for decades. Current proprietor, Ron Fletcher, possesses documents that show that the store’s beginnings date back to as early as 1924 when the store operated as a co-op, in which stockholders bought shares of the business.
The original name of the store was called the Middlebourne Feed and Produce Company, and it was sold to Raymond Fletcher and Osie Freeland on February 2, 1929. Freeland later sold all of the shares to Raymond, making him the sole owner in 1934. At that time, however, the store was just a small section of what stands today. The main section was built in 1956. Raymond passed away in 1965, and the shares to the business were left to his daughter Francis and her husband, Ernie Tracy. When Ernie passed away, Francis took over the store, which she was very familiar with. She had, after all, worked there since the age of 13.
Francis worked at the Farmers Exchange until her passing; then, Madeline Archer ended up with the location. Archer then sold the building to Ron Fletcher, who owns and operates the store to this day.
Ron, a nephew of Raymond, reported that he hated to see the business sold off to someone not from the area. Therefore, he took it upon himself to purchase the Farmers Exchange.
Ron can easily reminisce on earlier days of the Farmers Exchange, when his uncle sold John Deere tractors out of the showroom of the building. Ron described how the facility also had two large mixers and a feed mill.
A customer could park his or her truck up to the conveyor and shovel corn onto the conveyor. The conveyor would then take the corn upstairs to the grinder. From there, the corn would go into the mixers.
Ron said one reason he took over the Farmers Exchange was so the area would have a source of sheep and goat feed. Ron said there aren’t many places in the area that have sheep and goat feed containing thymine and ammonium chloride. Without these two ingredients, sheep will get urinary calculi which will lead to death. These two ingredients are available in nature, but if nature doesn’t supply it, then the sheep and goats need a feed that does.
The Farmers Exchange also possesses several different items that date back to its earliest decades. Items – from old locks to plow points, engines, and mixer parts – have been found. Ron said these items bring back a sort of nostalgic feeling and memories of when he was a young boy and spent time with his uncle.
Notably, the Farmers Exchange is the largest performance feed dealer in the state; Ron attributes this to his “feed guy,” John Jones. Furthermore, Ron credits much of the success of the store to his co-workers, which include Amy Larsen. Larsen handles the book work, billing, and ordering finances, and she also taught herself how to use QuickBooks, to better organize the business’s finances.
Meanwhile, Aaron Workman is Ron’s “handy man” around the shop.
Ron, himself, has also shown sheep all over the country and has been involved in farming for most of his life, perhaps making him even more fated to running a beloved store such as the Farmers Exchange. Ron is a board of directors member for a sheep association with shows held in Petersburg, which is the biggest sheep show east of the Mississippi. Ron has also been on the board of directors for the American Sheep Industry for 23 years. He has been involved with electrical projects, plumbing projects and has a little bit of knowledge of just about everything.