By Christine Walters

Triplicate business columnist

Over the three years that Sheryl and Gary Roeloffs have owned and operated Crescent City Hay and Feed, they have seen a shift from commercial farming to backyard farming. They view diversification as the key to success in Del Norte County.

Q: What do you do and how long have you been doing it?

A: Sheryl: It's a farm store, so we sell hay, feed, health products, gates, fencing materials and lumber. We also carry wood pellets and propane. And we raise pigs and cattle that we sell through the store. So everything you'd need for a ranch.

Q: How long have you lived in Del Norte County?

A: Sheryl: We moved here when we bought the business, so three plus years. We're originally from Apple Gate.

Q: What inspired you to go into this line of work?

A: Gary: I've been in agriculture in one way or another my whole life.

Q: What training or education did you need?

A: Sheryl: The training for the hay is predominantly in the field, and the rest we've been learning through on-the-job training. Gary's been ranching his whole life and his family had a dairy farm. I handle all the healthcare products and I'm a registered nurse.

Q: How has your business changed over the years?

A: Sheryl: I think people are short on time and they want to do as much shopping as they can in one stop, so we're trying to add a few more complementary areas to the feed store, like we got in muck boots because that seems to go with ranching. We added in medications, antibiotics, immunizations for horses, cattle, dogs, cats, goats and sheep.

A: Gary: It's now more of a hobby farm store than a commercial farm store. Our average clientele is in the 30 to 55 age range and mostly female. They're backyard farmers.

Q: What business decision or action would you change if you could do it again?

A: Sheryl: Add on sooner.

Gary: Part of owning a business is trial and error. You can't look back. You always have to look forward and learn from your mistakes. Not getting upset but just moving forward. I would have diversified into fencing and wood products sooner. That's really helped us through the slow times. Diversity is what really helps you make it in this county.

Q: What's the toughest business decision you've ever made?

A: Gary: To buy this business, because we had to move and uproot the whole family. Owning your own business is always a risk, and taking that risk was a tough decision.

Sheryl: Especially because we have a special needs son, and that's always a challenge.

Q: Is your family involved in the day-to-day operation of your business?

A: Gary: Yes. Our daughter, Katrina, takes care of the ranch because she has her own animals. We raise pigs and cattle.

Sheryl: Our older daughter, Esther, is a college student and she helps in the store during her breaks.

Q: What do you enjoy most about your business?

A: Sheryl: Gary and I have our own areas of specialty. The cap that he wears is hay - getting the best hay in for the customers. My area of expertise is the health end, trying to get the medication in for customers to medicate their own animals.

Gary: What I like best about the business is that our customers are our friends also.

Reach Christine Walters at 954-7703