MODESTO -- A Modesto company has helped ensure the health of cattle and poultry, key parts of the area's economy.
Along the way, it has done the same for dogs, cats and horses.
Veterinary Service Inc., founded in 1960, was inducted Thursday night into the Stanislaus County Agricultural Hall of Fame.
The company distributes medications, grooming supplies, pet food and plenty of other products in California and beyond.
"They carry a complete line of animal supplies," said Ann Padgett, office manager at Oakdale Feed and Seed, who has done business with VSI for 27 years. "And we have found them to be an honest company."
About 460 people turned out at the Assyrian-American Civic Club in Turlock for the 15th annual Ag Hall of Fame Dinner. It doubled as a fund-raiser for the National Ag Science Center, an interactive museum planned for the Modesto Junior College West Campus.
VSI employs 220 to 230 people, about 50 of them at the headquarters and warehouse on Bangs Avenue just east of Sisk Road. It has branches in Merced, Fresno, Visalia, Riverside and Albany, Ore.
An employee stock ownership plan has put 85 percent of the company in the workers' hands.
VSI was started in Modesto by veterinarians Willis "Woody" Woodward and Donald Rosenberg, along with Frank Sweetman, a salesman of animal health products. John Pugliese joined them in 1962.
The first headquarters was on Jefferson Street near downtown Modesto, now part of the city bus yard.
At first, VSI served only the poultry industry, including an up-and-coming company called Foster Farms, also founded in Modesto.
It later moved into distributing products for beef and dairy cattle, as well as items sold at feed and pet stores. Today, the feed and pet portion makes up about 60 percent of the business, cattle accounts for 30 percent and poultry the rest.
John Scheuber became VSI's general manager in 1979 and today is president and chief executive officer.
He talked about the company during a tour last week of the current headquarters, which opened in 1996. It has a 40,000-square-foot warehouse where workers handle everything from shampoo for dogs to lamps that keep chicks warm.
"What we're selling are things that an animal needs to look good, feel good and show well," Scheuber said.
The emphasis on serving pet owners has helped VSI weather tough economic times, he said.
"They're not in it for the money," he said. "They're in it for the love of their pets. We saw that as a growth opportunity for us."
Scheuber grew up on a dairy farm off Crows Landing Road and taught agriculture at Patterson High School and MJC before joining VSI.
He also has been president of the National Ag Science Center board.
"He's just been really instrumental in making sure that education was in the forefront of people's minds," center director Michele Laverty said.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2385.
AG HALL OF FAME ROSTER
2012: Veterinary Service Inc., a Modesto-based distributor of livestock and pet care products
2011: Stanislaus Food Products, a tomato canner in Modesto
2010: Duarte Nursery, a Hughson-area supplier of trees and vines for commercial fruit and nut growers
2009: Dave Wilson Nursery, a supplier of fruit, nut and shade trees east of Hickman
2008: Flory Industries, a maker of nut-harvesting machinery in Salida
2007: Burchell Nursery, a supplier of fruit and nut trees near Oakdale
2006: Ratto Bros., a grower and packer of fresh produce west of Modesto
2005: A.L. Gilbert, a feed company in Oakdale and Keyes
2004: Ernie Gemperle, an egg producer in Turlock; Floyd Zaiger, a tree-fruit breeder in Modesto
2003: Larry Carter, a former executive director of the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau; Daniel, Mike, Tom and Earl Perez, growers of diverse crops on the West Side
2002: J.S. West and family, owners of egg, feed and other operations in the region
2001: Ernest and Julio Gallo, founders of E.&J. Gallo Winery in Modesto
2000: Mary and Bill Lyons Sr., owners of Mapes Ranch, west of Modesto; Max and Verda Foster, founders of the Foster Farms chicken and dairy enterprises
1999: Bill Ulm, a Modesto-area farmer and county supervisor; Rolland Starn, a Hughson-area farmer and county supervisor; Gertie Zehrung, a Hughson-area farmer involved in Ag in the Classroom
1998: Clare Berryhill, a Ceres-area farmer who served in the state Legislature and as California secretary of food and agriculture; Henry Voss, a Ceres- area farmer who also was state agriculture secretary; Richard Lyng of Modesto, who was U.S. and state agriculture secretary; Ann Veneman, a Modesto native who was U.S. and state agriculture secretary and executive director of UNICEF