A HAY MAN’S TALE
The Biography and History of W.J. Small and The W.J. Small Companies.
By Judy Small Weitekamp
Dedicated to the past employees of The W.J. Small Company.
With beginnings as a family history, A Hay Man’s Tale quickly became a story to be added to the archives of United States agriculture. It is written in the interests of historians of agronomy, the Great Depression and home front World War II years, farm industry and machinery, and for biography buffs in general. W. J. Small was a forerunner of nutrition for farm animals. He grew up on farms in Illinois, Texas, Oklahoma, and settled in Southeast Kansas with a farm community hay business that grew into big business. He took up banking as a career along the way during the most financially turbulent times of United States history (1924-1938), and still made farm community headline news nearly every week for several years with his successes in farm business. His work with animal feed over-shadowed his work as a banker, and about town, he was primarily known as “the hay man.”
W. J. Small’s home town and headquarters was Neodesha, Kansas. His companies were The W. J. Small Company, The W. J. Small Sales Company, American Chlorophyll, Midwest Engineering & Tool Company (METCO), Airosol, Inc., National Ice Service, Louisiana Ice and eventually The W. J. Small Company, Division of Archer Daniels Midland when he sold the business to A-D-M in 1952.
W. J. Small was a pioneer in the business of dehydrating alfalfa, one of the most important ingredients in feed for farm animals. His company began in a farm community in the early 1930s. Twenty years later, his products were in demand nationwide.
The W. J. Small Company extended its territory into several states, and its dehydrated alfalfa was sold worldwide. The company had eight divisions, including harvesting, storage, laboratory testing, and sales. It worked in a nearly self-sufficient, independent way, from making its own machinery to printing many of its own business forms.
W. J. ran the business almost single handedly, but the people who worked for him made the company successful. In the 1930s, W. J.’s employees were people confronted by severe economic hard-ships and were thankful to have jobs under any conditions. The 1940s war years brought more work hours because of employee shortages. Then the employees’ greatest challenge was to maintain production. Stories from those loyal W. J. Small Company employees paint a fascinating picture of a different era.
W. J. evolved new methods of preserving alfalfa and pioneered other W. J. Small companies, including Airosol and American Chlorophyll. The W. J. Small companies made a considerable amount of money, and W. J. and his wife, Hazel, true philanthropists, gave time, love, work and money back to their communities’ churches, hospitals, Boy Scouts, needy families, and schools.
This history of W. J. Small and his companies is written to recognize W. J. Small and his employees for their contributions to United States agriculture and to the economic stability and wartime security of the nation. It is hoped this tribute will also inspire the subsequent generations who have benefited by these endeavors.