Ernst Irrigation traces its history back to 1873, when French shoemaker Francois Ernst set up shop in St. Paul. Thirty-seven years later, in 1910, Francois’ son Henry, who was more interested in the retail hardware business than making shoes, founded Ernst Hardware in St. Paul. In 1934, Ernst Hardware became a John Deere Dealer.
In 1965, Ernst Hardware, which had since passed on to Henry’s son Sledge, took on four partners, two of whom were Don Davidson, a local farmer, and Bill Dolan, a former R.M. Wade rep who knew a lot about irrigation. In 1999, after operating independently for several decades, Ernst Hardware merged with Fisher Implement, another John Deere dealer. They became the Fisher-Ernst Group.
At that same time, with many years of solid irrigation experience under its belt, the fledgling company of Ernst Irrigation was created as a division of the Fisher-Ernst Group. In 2009, when Fisher, which by then had changed its name to Fisher Farm and Lawn, decided to move the John Deere and Ernst Hardware franchises a few miles away, the original owners of Ernst Irrigation opted to buy that entity back and keep it in St. Paul.
Ernst Irrigation general manager Patrick Dolan, Bill’s son, sees a bright future for the company for several reasons, the chief one being the continued support he and his staff have been getting from the surrounding, tight-knit agricultural community. Many of the people who grow hops, grass seed, processing vegetables and nursery crops around St. Paul are related and can boast of ancestors who played a key role in settling the mid-Willamette Valley.