Even birds need to eat, and nobody knows that better than Rick, Brian and Kevin Sheehy. The three brothers co-own Havegard Farm in Algoma, which distributes bird feed throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and the Dakotas.
The company was started by their father, Richard, in 1973. After spending nearly 30 years working for Quaker Oats, he used his knowledge of milling to start Havegard Farm on Washington Island in Door County. He focused mainly on producing flours, cornmeal and hot cereals.
A few years later, Sheehy realized he had everything he needed to make and sell bird feed and added that to the product lineup. It wasn’t long before bird feed was the only thing the company sold. Havegard Farm made the move from Washington Island to Algoma in 1981.
As for the three Sheehy brothers, there was never a question about whether they’d step into the family business.
“As dad got into his mid to late 60s, we took over,” Kevin Sheehy says. “We had the greatest teacher in our father. And then, in his later years, the greatest consultant.”
Bird feed is a competitive business, and Sheehy says much of the company’s success is owed to the quality of its product. Havegard’s seed mix is highly oily and doesn’t contain any filler grains, which offer no nutritional value for birds.
The other feature that makes its seed mixes special? Cherry juice. When Richard Sheehy started the company, he also owned a small orchard. Hoping he could mitigate some of the damage the birds were causing to the cherry trees, Sheehy added cherry juice to the bird feed.
“It just stuck,” Kevin Sheehy says. “We’ve become known for it. People don’t always remember the name of the product, but they’ll say, ‘I get that stuff with the cherry juice in it.’”
With a quality product, lots of hard work and a little bit of luck, the company has continued to thrive. In addition to distribution, Havegard Farm has run a successful retail location just south of Sturgeon Bay for more than 20 years.
Looking to the future, the brothers have their eyes on growth and expansion. But, above all else, they look forward to continuing to work together.
“We get along famously,” Sheehy says. “Our whole family gets along. We’re the odd ones.”