For my manager interview I decided to interview Gene Miller, an elevator manager in Fairbury, IL for Prairie Central Co-op. Gene began his career in the grain and feed industry with Honegger’s feed mill in Fairbury back in the early 1980s. His main responsibilities were loading feed trucks and taking care of feed inventory bags. Taking inventory was crucial to managing the supply chain of products for customers, and maintaining the necessary quantity of supplies to meet consumer demands based off of sales trends. After several months, Gene was introduced to an open position in 1989 with Prairie Central in Acoya, IL. Gene maintained the dryers for storage of grain and once again unloaded grain via train and truck. He eventually worked his way up to manager of the site in a few months. At the Fairbury elevator Gene also oversees grain quality, and blending and shipping to meet standards of processers. Much of his corn is sent to the Pontiac location, which is usually transported to chicken feed processors down south. The soybeans are sent to Incobrasa in Gilman IL. Another responsibility he has is taking monthly inventory of grain. The amount of grain on hand directly impacts the commodity prices of both corn and soybeans, so keeping an accurate record of grain stocks is important. Safety and housekeeping records are responsibilities that have become more prominent since Gene first started working in the grain industry. Safety regulations have increased or become stricter over time; thus, Gene has had to adjust to these rules to not only keep himself safe but also other employees. For example, a harness is required when entering the bin. Also, no one can be in the bin when the sweep auger is running. These are just a couple examples, but Gene mentioned that safety is one of the most important aspects of his jobs to ensure no one is harmed on the job and the grain is stored safely. Another major responsibility Gene manages is supervising seasonal help during the harvest season. Although, additional help is greatly needed during the busiest time of the year, managing part time help can be one of Gene’s most difficult challenges. Part time help isn’t always the most dependable, and having the ability to teach newcomers not only how to do the job but to also be aware of the safety standards is challenging to say the least. The major changes over the course of Gene’s career have mostly happened with farmers. Bigger equipment and less farmers have resulted in faster harvests. Technology has made processes more automated with less manual labor necessary. With that said, Gene still prefers to do things the old-fashion way. For example, many elevators no longer write the grain prices for farmers to see on a white board but Gene continues to do so for those few farmers that prefer this method over receiving text updates.
In regards to advice for someone interested in this industry, Gene suggested suitable characteristics that one would possess would be a strong work ethic and would enjoy working outside although in dusty and uncomfortable conditions at times. Working well with others and knowledge of equipment are a positive attribute to have as well. To successfully prepare for a career in this field Gene stated there aren’t really in required steps necessary. Ultimately, as demonstrated by Gene himself, owning an inherent ability to work hard and being motivated to learn will lead to a prosperous and satisfying career. As for obtaining a four-year degree, Gene suggested earning one isn’t imperative to have a solid career in the grain industry. Although one may be beneficial, through internships and the never-ending desire to attain more knowledge, one can easily work their way up the ladder in the grain industry. The last topic we discussed was Gene’s favorite and least favorite part of the job. As much as Gene likes working outside, fighting with defective equipment in unfavorable weather is never ideal. On the other hand, having the regular opportunity to converse with farmers and working independently are nice benefits of the job. Overall, Gene provided me with great insight to what his job consists of and some valuable information that will benefit me as pursue my career after graduation.