After a whirlwind of complications postponed my spring host facility plans, I was lucky to complete my two days in June at Bocker-Ruff Grain in Polo, IL. My first day involved a brief tour of the facility, and shadowing Paul Behrends, the General Manager. I learned a great deal about buying grain, how grain is sold and transported via the railway, and a broad understanding of how their facility operates. On day two, I got the opportunity to learn more about the administrative side of their location, along with briefly operating the scale and probing trucks for grain samples. Upon the conclusion of my hosting, Paul and I engaged in a brief conversation about my summer plans. He offered me a part time summer job on the spot. I thoroughly enjoyed my time throughout the summer and got to do a little bit of everything. From operating the scales, grading grain, helping seal the trains, and clean up around the elevator, I was able to work part time before the beginning of my fall semester. This fall I plan to work during the harvest season, when time permits, and I am excited to continue working in the agriculture industry.
Since my journey began with the Grain and Feed Association of Illinois last summer, I have been blessed with numerous opportunities, as well as memories and connections to cherish forever. I want to thank everyone at the GFAI and all of their donors that have made these experiences available to me. I would finally like to wish everyone a safe and successful harvest. Hopefully one thing in 2020 can go right!
My name is Cole Wright and I am a renewable scholarship recipient for 2019-2020 school year. I am a junior at Iowa State University majoring in Agronomy and working towards a minor in Animal Science.
I was going to complete my two day internship at Michlig Grain in Bradford over my spring break. But Illinois was shut down as soon as I got home for break. My internship wasn’t in Illinois, but I figured that this was a close second!
I started working for Henderson Farms as soon as I transferred to Iowa State last fall. I help with the grain side of their operation, and choring cattle and hogs occasionally. Luckily Clint, my boss came to my rescue when Illinois shut down for COVID 19. He has an excavator and bucket that picks up corn that has been piled outside during the fall at local elevators throughout central Iowa. Usually he picks up close to 4 million, this year we will push close to 8 million. We were recently hired to pick up corn for ADM in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. During my spring break, instead of interning at Michlig Grain, he asked to tag along and help with the pile in Cedar Rapids. I ran the skid loader pushing corn from the center of the pile to feed the excavator. ADM had two piles (1 is still left) each with 1.83 million bushels of corn! We picked the one pile in seven days! Averaging 300,000 bushel in a 14 hour shift, or roughly 21,500 bushels an hour! It was a long 7 days, we had to run from noon until 2am to limit fighting the incoming trucks hauling outside corn during ADM’s normal receiving hours.
I was very thankful to be asked to go along and help Lucas (excavator operator) pick up that pile. I look forward to picking up the last one in May. Seeing everyone come together during these tough times showed me how united we are as an agricultural community to keep providing feed, food, and fuel to the country.
Thank you for your continuing support.
Hello everyone! My name is Kamryn Endress and I am currently a senior Agricultural Business major at Western Illinois University. I will be “virtually” graduating in May. Like everyone else, our current reality was one that I could have never imagined when I left class for the last time on March 5th for Spring Break. The COVID-19 situation has definitely changed our worlds and has truly shown us the difference between essential and non essential. I am proud to be involved in an industry that will forever be deemed essential.
I want to start by thanking everyone at the Grain and Feed Association of IL for this tremendous opportunity. I spoke about my experience on last summer’s Industry Immersion Tour in my previous blog. In February, I was able to catch up with everyone at the Convention and Trade show - another awesome experience! Thank you to everyone who put in so many hours to make that a possibility, and to all of the scholarship donors. It is humbling to know that we have their support through our educational journey. This experience has been a highlight of my college career and I was fortunate to meet some pretty amazing people and make some great connections through the GFAI Scholarship!
I had the opportunity to spend my intern days with GROWMARK/Western Grain Marketing both last fall and this spring. I met with Luke Metz at the Virginia Facility in March. The atmosphere was a little different than last fall due to the COVID-19 situation. WGM had recently closed their facilities to non essential visitors, with some employees working remotely from home. I currently work for West Central FS, a GROWMARK member company, and we have taken many of the same measures. Despite that, Luke was still able to provide a great learning opportunity as we discussed an important aspect that will affect the grain industry this summer - the Illinois waterway lock closures.
This summer, Illinois will have many waterway lock closures that will have an impact on grain businesses across the state. These locks will be dewatered and traffic will be unable to pass at Marseilles, Starved Rock, Peoria, and LaGrange. The LaGrange Lock and Dam closure will have the largest impact on WGM’s grain transportation and storage. This closure will begin on July 1st and last until at least September 30th for major rehabilitation and lock machinery replacement. The Beardstown and Havana, IL locations are going to be the most affected in the southern region of the WGM. Based on last year’s business, the company is expecting to have to redirect approximately 6-10 million bushels to be stored in alternative methods; either stored elsewhere or internally. These two locations each put around 100 barges on the river. The only way barges will be able to be loaded at these locations is if the water conditions become high enough so that wickets can be lowered for open pass, allowing traffic to bypass the locks at LaGrange and Peoria. It is not guaranteed that these wickets will be able to be lowered, and there is also a possibility that this closure could last longer than September 30th.
I caught up with Luke again in April. We discussed how the COVID situation has changed their daily operations and how the company is committed to handling the essential needs of their customers. WGM has ensured that their customers are their priority by staying in front of growers with alternative methods of business which includes communicating through text messages, phone calls, and email. Luke was pleased with how well the customers have grasped the technology and said they have done an incredible job adapting to it under these circumstances. The company has also started setting up direct deposit and an online platform that allows customers to view their contracts and delivery sheets online. In times like these, technology truly is a wonderful tool in the Ag industry!
Thank you for reading, I hope you all have a wonderful and healthy summer! And once again, thank you to everyone at GFAI for coordinating such an awesome experience, as well as the multiple companies across the state that are willing to take the time to provide this hands-on opportunity to the scholarship recipients every year!
The world is a large, vast place. This spring I had the unique opportunity to study abroad in Dublin, Ireland for an entire semester. This meant I got to move from small town Illinois halfway across the world to an island in Europe. It was great exploring the unique differences in Europe and learning about the agriculture industry in the European Union. At the University College Dublin, I was able to take some agriculture classes and one was about arable crop production and markets. Learning about the grain industry in Ireland was very interesting to me. Living in Illinois, we specialize in corn and soybeans, with a little bit of wheat and hay. But in Ireland they grow very little maize and soybeans. Rather they focus on hay, barely, Hopps, rye and wheat. A lot of small grains are grown on the island of Ireland. Most of their production isn’t exported but rather goes directly into feeding the livestock on the island or right into the production of beer and liquor. Ireland is famous for Guinness and Irish whiskey, and it is a national staple there. Learning about how different their grain industry is from ours was fascinating. Smaller operations are common where the average farm size is roughly 80 acres. There is not a need for large scale equipment like we have in America. Since returning home early from my experience, I’ve realized that we are extremely lucky to live in Illinois and be a part of Illinois agriculture. If given the chance to return, I would love to explore the grain and feed industry of other countries in Europe.
Hello all; my name is Danielle Hagemann. Last fall I completed two days at Eastland Feed and Grain in Monroe, WI; however, this spring I have planned to be hosted by Bocker Ruff Grain in Polo, IL, under the direction of Paul Behrends. Due to the current pandemic, these plans have been pushed back, to maintain the health and safety of all individuals involved.
COVID-19 has inadvertently turned our world upside down. As members of the agriculture community, we can all agree that upon the completion of 2019 we were praying for an easier 2020. While our wishes don’t seem to be granted, our industry as a whole continues to place food on the bare grocery store shelves, and contribute philanthropically during even the most adverse times. Whether it’s farmers donating their unused N95 masks to health care workers and first responders, or companies including GROWMARK donating grain to food banks in need, we have all stepped up in this time of need.
Farming is never canceled. As agriculturists, some of our best work is done in trying times, and we continue to provide for our population in the most difficult situations. I would like to personally say thank you to all of those involved in every aspect of agriculture. I hope that after the world has returned to normal, everyone will continue to respect and appreciate the American farmer.
Since the Summer Kickoff Tour, I have been able to work several days at Sublette Farmers Elevator. Here I have been able to perform a variety of jobs and learn about the daily tasks of multiple employees. Starting my workdays in November, I was able to be included in what goes on during harvest at the elevator. Some responsibilities included riding along with semi drivers to pick up loads of corn from a local farmer’s field and dumping semi’s when they got to the elevator. I also was able to learn about how things don’t always run as smoothly as you’d like during this busy time of the year. On the first of my workdays, I was included in helping fix buckets on a belt that broke from wear and tear of continuously moving grain. Although things don’t always run perfectly, I learned the importance of having a good team behind the elevator manager to get things running back on track in a fast and efficient way.
During my workdays in Sublette, I was not only able to learn more about the elevator business but also gain a network of individuals. Although Sublette is my hometown elevator, I was surprised by the number of individuals I had not met that worked there. From part-time employees to scale operators, I was able to meet the entire team that helps Sublette Farmers Elevator be successful. On the third workday, I even got to go to a barge loading facility on the Illinois River and meet individuals there and see their operation.
Overall, I enjoyed my experience working at Sublette Farmers Elevator. I feel that I have obtained an excellent overview of the operations that take place at the facility daily. I look forward to eventually using the knowledge I have acquired in my career one day. Thank you to the management and staff at Sublette Farmers Elevator for a great learning experience.
Last August, scholarship recipients went to several different grain and feed elevators or processors in southern Illinois. The companies we toured varied in the way that they handled grain. There were grain elevators, milling/processing plants, and merchandising companies, among others. At each location we were given a tour of their facilities and the function of each different part. We also got to learn about the challenges grain companies have to overcome, whether it be inconvenient weather, competition from other companies, or daily challenges within their own facility. In addition to this, we also gained career advice at most of the locations whether it regarded our future endeavors or the paths of the speakers at each location. Also, the speakers allowed us to gain insight on what it would be like to work for their company. The company representatives shared very insightful information on not only their career but also when giving advice or answers to questions we had. Overall, this was a very beneficial experience and a great way to learn more about the grain industry.
The two days I spent at Tuscola ADM in February were just as great as they were in December. I could not be more thankful for them giving me the opportunity to watch trains being loaded and traders serving our local farmers. Thank you so much Tuscola ADM for giving me this opportunity. Jeff and Jodie words can’t describe how thankful I am for being a part of GFAI. Kenny Hadden and Todd Wiessing were always there to teach and answer any questions I had for them.
Hello again, all! My name is Olivia Kepner and I am currently a Junior studying Animal Science at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Last weekend, I had the privilege to attend the Grain and Feed Association Convention & Expo where fellow scholarship recipients and myself were presented with a few incredible opportunities. The night before the convention, we were able to mingle and speak with vendors at the expo. This provided a great opportunity to build our networking platform and speak with professionals within the industry. It was a great opportunity for scholarship recipients to catch up with our peers that we spent a few days with this past summer during the Immersion Kickoff Tour. I’m looking forward to a great semester at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and connecting again with my Industry Partner: Eastland Feed and Grain. This entire scholarship experience has opened my eyes to a wide variety of opportunities within the grain & feed industry. I cannot thank GFAI enough for this opportunity.
This semester, I have the opportunity to intern with the policy team at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) in Arlington, VA. Having completed fourteen weeks, it’s fair to say it has been a great experience thus far, even during these unprecedented times. NASDA’s members are the directors, secretaries, and commissioners of agriculture at the state level. Having the wide, diverse landscape of the United States represented through these individuals as a resource, NASDA is able to make informed and intelligent proposals to federal officials when advocating for U.S. farmers and ranchers. Through my work with the policy team at NASDA, I have researched and sat in on hearings related to hemp, trade enforcement, and rural broadband. My experiences have granted me opportunities to further my knowledge in these areas of interest, but also the legislative and regulatory processes. Additionally, the opportunity to meet our members and their staff at our winter policy conference provided me an inside look at the daily decision making involved in operating a state department of agriculture. I even had the opportunity to sit in on the Midwest region’s meeting, where the committee discussed in depth the propane supply chain, and how to mitigate risk in a situation like the 2019 harvest shortage. Overall, the internship has provided a means for me to grow professionally through relationships, and academically and intellectually through research processes and policy strategies.