Even when you have a catchy name like Funny Farm Feeds, it’s hard to get your name out there in the feed business, says Ronnie Gillett. But two years after starting the enterprise, he and his …
Even when you have a catchy name like Funny Farm Feeds, it’s hard to get your name out there in the feed business, says Ronnie Gillett. But two years after starting the enterprise, he and his wife, Rozie, are starting to see more demand for their pelleted animal feeds.
“It’s taken time,” Gillett said, “but we are gaining.”
The family recently moved the business to a parcel west of Ralston, relocating a 96-square foot wooden shed and a 300-square-foot metal building to the property. The shed will house packaging, supplies and some finished products while the larger metal building — now on a raised concrete foundation — houses a generator-powered milling machine.
“We’re growing enough that we needed to get … a little more permanent setup,” Gillett said.
Funny Farm Feeds offers alfalfa pellets and feed for chickens, goats, rabbits and calves. The alfalfa pellets are among the most popular and the Gilletts expect to produce upwards of 10 tons per year, delivered by truck and trailer to local farms and ranches and to Poor Boy Feeds in Powell.
“It’s been slow, but it’s picking up slowly,” Gillett said.
Business roughly doubled between 2018 and 2019 and grew again this year by perhaps a quarter, he estimated.
With a slogan of “Where quality is no joke,” Funny Farm Feeds pitches its natural ingredients and use of local sources.
“We’re locally produced and we try to buy as many of the ingredients that we can from local farmers,” Gillett said.
He turns the alfalfa directly into pellets, while adding vitamins A, D and E and calcium carbonate to some of the other products.
“We don’t add chemicals or any of that stuff to any of our feed,” he said. “It’s just natural — comes out of the field and basically goes through our process and gets made into a pellet.”
That differs from a lot of the bigger companies, he said, which insert many fillers that lack nutritional value.
The Gilletts started the business, in part, after being frustrated by a lack of quality feeds and Ronnie’s father, Gary, had suggested starting up a pellet mill long ago. Gary helps out with the project and Ronnie and Rozie Gillett’s three children, especially son Tristan, lend a hand as well. It remains a family enterprise that Ronnie and Rozie work on part-time.
When the Gilletts sought to move to Funny Farm Feeds to the Lane 11 property earlier this year, Park County planning staffers classified it as a value-added business — which required a special use permit, public notices and two public hearings.
“I know this is a very small project and it’s kind of unfortunate, I guess … going through the special use permit process,” planner II Kim Dillivan told county commissioners at their Aug. 19 meeting, “but we really couldn’t classify this as ag production because really it’s not the production ... of alfalfa, because Ronnie [Gillett] really is converting that into something else.”
In applying for the county permit, Gillett indicated that Funny Farm Feeds would operate between daylight and dusk. However, after asking whether it would be possible to go until 9 p.m., commissioners opted to simply remove the limits on the hours of operation.
“I don’t want us to approve something that handcuffs you on your production,” Commissioner Lee Livingston told Gillett; concurred Commission Lloyd Thiel, “It’s surrounded by agriculture, and they farm all night long.”
Commission Chairman Joe Tilden offered his best wishes to Gillett and the business.
“I hope you got to come back to us and ask for an amendment [to the permit] to build another building or something,” Tilden said.
It took a couple days, but Gillett was able to move his metal building to the Lane 11 property a few weeks ago and Funny Farm Feeds is already operating at the new location.
“[We’re] just trying to get our little family-owned business off the ground and running,” Gillett said.
The roughly 8.5-acre property includes plenty of room for any future expansion, with the family constructing a house just east of the buildings.