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Our history

Family owned since 1886.

The JDH legacy.

Since 1886, our company was known as J.D. Heiskell & Co. Today, we operate under the name JDH. Discover some of the key people and places of our past as told by our company matriarch and historian, Pat Hillman.

Step inside a storied history that still inspires how we work today.


1886 team of horses pulling wagons full of grain

The sale that started it all.

Jefferson Davis Heiskell arrives in Tulare, California to supervise the construction of a new grain storage warehouse for his employer. Shortly after, he buys the warehouse and goes into business for himself under the name J.D. Heiskell & Co.


Trucks and wagons in front of warehouse in Delano, CA in early 1900's
Old photo of worker in Delano warehouse surrounded by feed bags

Establishing roots in the San Joaquin Valley.

J.D. Heiskell & Co. establishes itself as a trusted source of grain commodities in one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions. Eventually, mixing capabilities are added to meet the needs of a burgeoning population of livestock feeders and dairy operators.


Black and white photo of first feed truck in 1920
News article from 1925 about the first cotton bale

The start of a new generation.

In 1925, Jefferson Heiskell builds the first-ever cotton gin in Tulare County. The cotton seed is sold to a nearby processing plant to extract the oil. Upon his death in 1926, his only son, John, inherits the business. John’s younger sister, Elizabeth, joins as secretary and office manager. His older sister, Lucy, is vice president.


Old photo of gin workers in front of the gin in 1935
An old black and white photo of a cotton gin mill in 1935.

Expansion into animal feed and oil.

As animal agriculture grows in the San Joaquin Valley, so does the demand for feed. The company responds by mixing rations for poultry feeders and beef cattle farmers. In 1934, John and Elizabeth build a small cottonseed oil extraction mill of their own. It operates as a profitable enterprise until 1965.


Aerial of the Mill in 1955

Meeting the needs of local dairies.

There’s an influx of competition for livestock feed in the San Joaquin Valley. In response, John Heiskell adds a small feed-mixing mill to the back of the warehouse. In 1948, we hire our first feed salesman, Frank Menezes, to call on local dairy operators — many of whom are Portuguese immigrants like Frank.


Black and white photo of the first JDH bulk tanks in 1953
Black and white photo of JDH fair booth in 1959

Small improvements and new staff.

The feed operation continues to modernize with help from Dale Hillman, John Heiskell’s son-in-law, John Black, the new feed mill manager, and Bill Logan, the company’s first welder. We buy our first bulk feed delivery trucks and cut load times in half with a “drive-through” configuration of overhead steel loading bins.


Black and white photo of a JDH feed mill in the 1960s
Heiskell's Hi-Yield Alfalfa Seed bag

Diversifying the feed offering.

J.D. Heiskell nutritionist Joe Orr collaborates with equine nutritionist Dr. M.E. Ensminger to develop a horse feed brand called Pegus, eventually the top-selling brand in California. We also become a distributor of Loomix, a liquid nutrition additive. In 1961, we add a Fertilizer and Seeds Division to support farmers, which brings in steady revenue until the mid-1980s.


Black and white aerial photo of the new mill in 1972

Modernizing the feed mill and preparing for the future.

In 1970, John Heiskell officially retires. After much convincing, John Heiskell’s son-in-law, Dale Hillman, persuades him to invest in a new, state-of-the-art, computerized feed mill that will significantly boost capacity and efficiency. John lives long enough to attend the grand opening. Upon John’s death in 1972, Dale is named president of J.D. Heiskell & Co.


Tractor feeding dairy cows in feed barn

The biggest dairy boom in the San Joaquin Valley.

In 1980, Scot Hillman, Dale’s son, becomes the first of the family’s fourth generation to join the business. And just in time, too. A surge in land development moves more dairy operations to Tulare County. In 1989, we launch a merchandising group for originating commodities. In six years, it becomes our principal revenue stream.


Vintage photo of Dale speaking at 100 year celebration.
J.D. Heiskell & Co. Inc. 100 years graphic seal

One hundred years of J.D. Heiskell & Co.

After months and months of planning, we host a centennial celebration, coordinated by Pat Hillman, Jeff Heiskell’s granddaughter. The “Celebration of a Century” includes a special dinner, multiple parties, public tours and various other events. On June 21, 1986, the official birthday of the company, Jeff Hillman is born and named after the company’s founder.


1989 photo of the original track with a train on it
The first JDH switch engine train on the track. It's navy blue with yellow stripes and says J. D. Heiskell and Co., Inc.

Building for the next century.

Dale Hillman oversees a major expansion of rail capabilities for the company that enables us to become a volume buyer and shipper of Midwest grains. With two miles of spur track and six 100-foot-tall silos, the new train receiving facility is one of the first sites in California that can handle 75-car “unit trains” of bulk grain.


Dairy cows eating in the feedlot
Calf Launch signage for J.D. Heiskel

An era of partnerships begins.

In 1992, we join forces with feed manufacturer DeRaad Warehouse Inc. to optimize efficiencies. By 1993, we assume full ownership. In 1994, with a staff of 95 and counting, we complete construction on a new 5,000 sq. ft. office space. In 1995, we enter a major partnership with Dairyman’s Cooperative Creamery Association. By 1998, we produce over 50,000 tons of feed per month.


Family photo of Scot, Pat and Dale Hillman. They're dressed up and standing close together inside.
Headshot of Daune

A time of unprecedented growth and expansion.

In February 2000, Scot Hillman is appointed president. In June of that year, he oversees the acquisition of five dairy-production feed mills — resulting in an over 300% growth in volume. It vaults us into the top five U.S. feed manufacturers. In response to the sudden growth, Scot hires Duane “Butch” Fischer as the company’s first nonfamily leader. Butch becomes president and CEO in 2002 and plays a leading role in orchestrating a culture and directional shift that comes to define our path forever.


Forbes, America's Largest Private Companies graphic
Cover for 2002 Forbes Largest Private Companies Publication

Entering the billion-dollar club.

In 2002, Forbes includes J.D. Heiskell & Co. on its list of the Top 250 Privately Held Firms. In 2003, our company sales exceed $1 billion for the first time.


JDH Gooding mill with two grain bins, and two other large buildings for mixing and making feed ingredients. There is a bright blue sky and a train stopped in front of the bins.
Aerial of the JDH headquarters in Omaha. The building is brick and stucco. The sky is blue with just a few clouds in the background.

J.D. Heiskell goes east, north and south.

From 2004 to 2010 (and beyond), we continue to acquire more mills, storage, transloading and manufacturing facilities at key locations in Idaho, Texas and New Mexico. We open a Southwest regional office in Amarillo and a commodity and trading office in Nebraska. As our footprint expands, so does our customer base.


Front view of a group of cargo containers waiting to be loaded
Headshot Ryan Pellett Vice President, Business Development

The acquisition of Hawkeye Gold.

In our 125th year in business, we purchase Hawkeye Gold LLC, a marketer of ethanol and ethanol co-products based in Ames, Iowa. With Hawkeye Gold’s bulk vessel export capabilities, J.D. Heiskell & Co. reaches international markets for the first time. They still operate under the Hawkeye Gold name today. In 2012, Ryan Pellett is promoted to CEO — he goes on to play a significant role in shaping the company’s strategic direction.


Aerial of Gold Star mill in the winter. There's snow covering the land and you can see car and tractor tracks around the facility.
A large sign outside, in front of a mill, that shows the Gold Star logo

The acquisition of Gold Star Feed & Grain.

In 2014, we complete a joint venture with Kent Nutrition Group in New York, Vermont and Maine by acquiring 100% of Gold Star Feed & Grain, a leader in dairy feed manufacturing and delivery. Gold Star continues to operate under its name to serve its longtime dairy customers in the northeastern U.S.


Two JDH traders on the trade floor at JDH headquarters

The acquisition of CSC.

To further diversify our geographic customer base, we acquire Commodity Specialists Company (CSC), a successful trading enterprise for wet brewer’s grains with offices throughout the Southeast and along the East Coast. Today, the business continues to market brewer’s grain, commodities, feed and pet food under the CSC name.


Meeting of JDH employees in the boardroom, lead by CEO, Jeff Hillman

A new era of company leadership.

On December 1, 2022, Jeff Hillman, current chief financial officer, born on the company’s 100th anniversary, is named CEO of J.D. Heiskell & Co. — marking the fifth generation of executive family leadership. Chief operating officer Aaron Reid is named company president.


A new look for a new era.

After decades of expansion and revenue milestones, J.D. Heiskell & Co. begins officially operating under the shortened name, JDH, with a bold new logo, tagline and visual brand to match. With the launch of a new website and sales materials, JDH enters its next phase of growth — built to serve the next generation of discerning feed and dairy customers.