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Buckerfield’s has a long established reputation for quality in the home & garden, animal feed and farm markets of British Columbia. Branded and private label products for pet owners, gardeners and hobby farmers are sold by the Buckerfield’s chain of retail stores throughout Southern BC and Vancouver Island.
Much of the story of Buckerfield’s Limited is rooted in the life and times of its founder, Ernest Buckerfield. Ernest grew up on a farm near Moncton. Unfortunately, his father died while he was at Dalhousie University and he was only able to attend for one year. Like many, he moved west to take advantage of the opportunities that the booming west offered.
In 1890 he arrived in Vancouver and began working as a salesman for his uncle’s grain company. A few years later, he established his own feed and flour business and in 1919 he joined with Frederick T. Vernon, eventually becoming a partner in the firm of Vernon & Buckerfield. Historian Arn Keeling described the firm as having four branches in 1923, marketing feed, flour farm equipment and supplies to lower mainland poultry and livestock farmers. Vernon and Buckerfield expanded gradually in the 1920s, absorbing other small millers.
Buckerfield’s Limited was established in 1927 after Frederick Vernon retired from the business. Expansion continued through the 1930s and the firm soon became the largest feed company in British Columbia. The company eventually took over the retail branches and fertilizer division of rival Vancouver miller, Spillers of England.
An interesting aspect of the Buckerfield’s operation was its dehydrated grass product, “Vita-Grass” Building on British research that demonstrated dried grass not only retained, but concentrated nutrients, Buckerfields invested in thousands of acres for the operation.
The product was kept in CO2 storage to preserve the Vitamin A, then was shipped as far as the Maritimes where it was used as an ingredient in animal feed. A very small percentage was also used for human consumption. By 1947, the company was the largest producer of dehydrated grass in the British Empire- until the discovery of synthetic Vitamin A gradually eroded this business.
The most dramatic chapter of Buckerfields story occurred in 1951. In that year Ernest Buckerfield fell gravely ill. He was hospitalized and did not believe he would survive more than a few weeks. He sent a message to Federal Grain owner and president Harry Sellers, asking him to buy the company.
After some consideration, it was decided that two Winnipeg-based, family owned firms, Pioneer Grain and Federal Grain, would purchase equal parts of the company. Soon after the purchase Ernest Buckerfield recovered and continued as president until his retirement several years later. In 1965, Pioneer grain acquired complete ownership of Buckerfields.
The company was acquired from Pioneer Grain in February of 2005 by five shareholders with a vision to reestablish a retail chain of stores under the Buckerfield’s banner. Since the purchase, the company has opened two new stores in the Salmon Arm and Abbotsford area.
The significance of Ernest Buckerfield’s contribution to the business community of Western Canada was recently reaffirmed in print when the story of his life appeared as a section of David Mitchell’s book B.C.’s Business leaders of the Century. And although he died in 1971, the legacy of the business he founded continues to flourish.