This past week the Killarney branch of Shur-Gro Farm Services celebrated their 50th anniversary with close to 300 of their customers and community members at the Shamrock Centre for a full dinner, entertainment and keynote speaker.

"I don't think it could have gone any better," shares Killarney branch Manager, Bart Sutherland. "Mother nature came through for us with the rain which allowed for the attendance we had of about 280. So that number is pretty amazing in our minds."

Founder and owner of Shur-Gro, Ron Helwer, was in attendance and shared the beginnings of the family-owned operation as well as stories from the decades of the challenges and accomplishments, from the original start of the company in 1968 in Brandon, to the opening of the second location in Killarney in 1974, to where they are today. 

Helwer shared the positives of the 1970's as a time of growth, of the struggles of the 80's with the high interest rates, but also how his family and staff held fast to their mandate of serving their communities both in the good and in the difficult economic times.

"Ron is probably one of the, if not the most, amazing person I know," shares Bart Sutherland. "He's 91 years old and he still goes to work every day and he absolutely loves the business he's in, and the people who work for him, and the customers that his employees serve."

A little bit of history of the founder of Shur-Gro, Ron Helwer

Helwer was born and raised in Libau, MB on a mixed-farm operation, the family producing and selling a variety of crop and dairy products.  He started his entrepreneurship in 1952 when Ron and his father started a Massey-Harris dealership. The dealership expanded to both selling and repairing appliances and machinery, and then they purchased a dealership in Selkirk and operated as bulk fuel agents.  

After growing the bulk fuel operation to three locations, Ron sold the business in 1968 and began working as a Shell agent, selling fuel, crop nutrients, and farm supplies before opening Shur-Gro the same year in Brandon.  The Shur-Gro operation originally operated as a fuel and crop nutrition dealer.

Today, Shur-Gro provides services in crop nutrition, crop protection, seeds, and custom services in 14 locations in Manitoba, the furthest north being Shoal Lake, the furthest south being Waskada, MB.

At Wednesday night's Killarney banquet, Ron Helwer, gave special recognition to his team in Killarney, and to all of their Shur-Gro branches across southern Manitoba, as well as the many farmers and supporters who partner with them each growing season.

Keynote Speaker, Curtis Weber

You could hear a pin drop as Curtis shared his story of how he grew up in the farming community of Battleford, SK and worked side by side with his father and brothers in building/erecting steel grain bins.  He shared how being experienced in the dangers of working with large equipment didn't stop him and the crew he was working with from having a horrific accident with a low-hanging power line.  

Weber shared how he was steadying the metal bin due to high winds when the massive cylinder was being lowered in place with the crane. However the operator of the crane did not boom down enough and backed into the power, sending 14,400 volts of electricity through Weber's body as he became the ground point.

Two other workers were in the live zone and were thrown back, away from the bin.  But Weber was surrounded by the steel base and so the electricity threw him from one side of the base to the other, sending a total of three cycles of 14,400 volts through his body.  His co-workers saw Weber in a ball of fire with only his hands and feet visible outside of the fireball.

He was given 0% chance of survival, and his family was warned he would not survive his injuries of 3rd and 4th degree burns to over 60% of his body.  Seven months in a drug-induced coma, two amputations, and many skin grafts, Curtis had a long 6-year road to recovery. 

That was July of 1999 and Curtis was only 17 years old.  Today Weber travels around the world sharing his message of 'safety first, take the time, and assess the risks' with his story.

It was a sobering reminder to everyone in the banquet room at the Shamrock Centre on Wednesday night to be farm-safe, to remember that massive catastrophes can happen with massive machinery, that rushing to get something done can end in tragedy.

"We searched for some type of motivational speaker and finally came up with Curtis," shares Bart Sutherland." It was a pretty fitting topic for the crowd that was in the room that night."

To summarize the 50th Anniversary celebration, Sutherland says it was so very good to be able to celebrate together with their customers and their community.

"And the whole team here at Shur-Gro is proud of the company and the man who we work for, and I'm sure we'll be celebrating the 60th in another ten years!"