From an elevator to an oat processing plant, Yaggies Inc. in Yankton, South Dakota, has seen a lot of change since the late 1960s.
After being purchased by Frank Yaggie, the do-it-all value-added ag facility housed both a feed mill and an oat processing plant under one roof. As of 2019, the oats have finally moved out.
At the tail end of 2018, Yaggies finished construction of a $3.5 million oat processing plant at the edge of town that would allow them to double their processing capacity while updating their equipment.
“Everybody will get their space. Right now, it’s like two grown brothers sharing a small room,” Dan Delforge said.
Delforge is the manager at Yaggies and is married to the daughter of one of the controlling partners in the company. Those family ties are what Delforge said keeps Yaggies running. Since the late 60s, Yaggies has been owned an operated by two families – the Petersons and the Richards.
The new oat processing facility is a way of evolving with the times.
“You either get better or you can’t keep up. This was our move to stay relevant for the future,” Delforge said.
The process to build the plant began back in 2015 when the idea was first discussed internally, Delforge said. The oat industry has taken off in recent years, and because the feed mill and the oat processing plant were operating in cramped quarters under one roof, everyone at Yaggies knew a change had to be made.
The oat industry, much like the pork industry in the Yankton area, has exploded over the last five years, and the growth has led to an increased need for cleaner, safer oat groat production. In their old facility, that was just impossible, Delforge said.
“Our current facility is a feed mill and a rolled oat plant under one roof and we’re land locked,” Delforge said. “It’s a narrow lot with no space.”
The internal discussions in 2015 were straight forward – either expand the current facility or build a new one. Yaggies decided to move the oat facility out of the house all together because they lacked space for expansion at the old facility and realized that their equipment was too old for updates.
“We were having trouble finding spare parts,” he said.
After it is all said and done, the only machines that will be moved from the current oat facility will be the packaging robots. Those were added recently to cut down on the hard labor of packing the completed steam rolled oat groats and flour - which are Yaggie’s main oat products.
“Our product gets all over,” Delforge said. “If you have show pigs or feed mills that are making any kind of starters, they’ll usually have our product one way or another.”
The decision to move oats out of the current facility instead of moving the feed mill boiled down to the fact that the oat side of the plant was far more dated than the feed mill. A new oat facility is also far less complex than a new feed mill. Combine that with the rising oat industry, and the choice was simple, Delforge said.
“People used to come into town and drop off their eggs and come pick up their (oat feed),” Delforge said. “But that’s changed a little bit.”
The new facility will sit on a 10-acre lot with about half of that being used for the new building. This way, expansion will come more easily the next time Yaggies needs to update, Delforge said.
The new facility is bigger than the current one that houses both oats and the feed mill, so production will nearly triple as it gets up and running.
While a new facility was needed, the main reason for an updated oat processing plant was to provide a more consistent product for their customers, Delforge said. Their old machines could not always deliver a clean product, and it was a concern for those invested in Yaggie’s products.
“It took several years but we were listening the whole time,” he said.
Now, with new cleaning procedures and updated equipment, Yaggies can jump back into a previously untapped market – pet food. With the new facility, they can also produce dehulled oat groats, which is in a lot of pet food and some bird food.
“That was definitely one of the markets we wanted to touch,” Delforge said.
The facility has taken some test shipments as of late December last year, but is not fully operational. The final pieces of equipment were installed in early January, and the soft opening is slated for the first week of February.