Employees buy Ward Rugh hay company

From left are Andy Schmidt, Corey Rogers and Craig Leishman, new owners of the Ward Rugh Inc. hay company in Ellensburg, Wash.

ELLENSBURG, Wash. — Three employees of the oldest hay company in Ellensburg have bought the firm from the family who started it 84 years ago.

Corey Rogers, Andy Schmidt and Craig Leishman bought Ward Rugh Inc. from Rollie and Marla Bernth on March 6 for an undisclosed price. Marla’s father, Ward Rugh, started the company in 1934 as a trucking concern and moved into hay. Rugh died in 1995.

“Our business philosophy will not change as we move forward. We will continue the legacy of Ward Rugh Inc., which is known around the world for supplying the highest quality Timothy and alfalfa hay,” said Corey Rogers, new president.

“The foundation of this highly reputable business is stronger than ever due to the conservative business philosophy which Rollie and Marla Bernth created,” Rogers said.

Customers, growers and those in business relationships with Ward Rugh Inc. won’t notice much difference as the three partners continue their same roles while taking new titles, he said.

Schmidt, vice president and treasurer, will continue handling purchasing in Kittitas County and domestic sales. Leishman, vice president and secretary, will continue with Columbia Basin purchasing and South Korean sales. Rogers, president, will continue as general manager and with sales to Japan.

The three have a combined 60 years of experience and knowledge working at Ward Rugh Inc.

Joe Wahle, a 32-year employee, will continue as truck dispatcher to the ports of Tacoma and Seattle, safety officer and fleet manager, Rogers said.

The company has 45 employees and is mid-sized among eight hay exporters in Ellensburg, Rogers said. He declined to give the annual tonnage.

The company was built selling hay to California horse race tracks in the 1940s and still sells hay to its first California customer, Angel’s Feed in Los Angeles, Rogers said.

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