My name is Carlie Mettler and I am a sophomore at the University of Illinois majoring in animal science with a minor in crop science. I grew up in Highland, Illinois just east of St. Louis. Both sides of my family farm, so I’ve been around agriculture and farming my whole life. I loved going to the elevator with my dad and was always interested in learning more about the grain industry. In the future, I hope to be an animal nutritionist, so although I am a non-typical applicant for the Grain and Feed Association Scholarship, I still think it's beneficial to know the whole process of the grain industry and how it works with the animal nutrition industry.
For my job shadowing, I was paired with the Highland Top Ag elevator. This elevator was just recently bought out by Top Ag and was originally Oberbeck Grain. I wasn’t sure what to expect out of the experience, but during my two days there I learned a lot. I spent some time talking to a former grain merchandiser and owner of Oberbeck grain, Bob Luitjohan. Knowing nothing about how the grain markets work, he answered a lot of my questions. I learned that there is a lot of risk in trading, a perfect timing for everything, and with experience you start to learn the best time to buy, sell, or keep. I also found that there are many aspects and factors to consider when trading: the weather, other countries' crops, inflation, the value of currency, and a good crop vs. bad crop year are all factors to consider when making decisions.
In addition to talking with Bob, I also got the chance to talk to Angie Fears and Todd Luitjohan who work at the elevator as well. I watched and learned a little bit about how to insert tickets into the computer system and I helped sort all the tickets into a filing system. I also learned about how to create checks from tickets and put them in the office safe. Additionally, I learned a little bit about contracts, spotting, and taking phone calls from farmers. I witnessed farmers asking about their contracts, current prices, splitting tickets, and selling grain. With harvest coming to an end, the office wasn’t too busy but I was able to see a few trucks come in. I watched the grain be weighed, tested, and then driven into the elevator where they dump.
One of the coolest things I did during my job shadowing was going up in the grain elevator. Everything was a gravity system and it was interesting to see how they measure the storage bins to see how much room is left. We stopped at every level of the elevator and I even got to go on the roof and could see the St. Louis Arch. On the elevator is the town's huge Christmas tree that lights up the town every year so it was neat to see the tree up close. Going up in the elevator was an amazing opportunity and I will never forget it.
During my time job shadowing I also got to make some trips to other grain facilities. I went to the New Douglas elevator and got to see a bigger operation that has bigger grain bins and more storage. The dump pits were bigger and the scale system was a little more updated than the Highland location. I also got the chance to go to the river, which is where some of Top Ag’s grain goes, to see Bunge’s operation. It was so crazy and neat to see how a barge is loaded with grain. I never knew that basically an arm comes from the bins that is long enough to reach the river and just fills the barges. It takes about two hours to fill a barge, and at that operation they fill about five to nine barges a day. I also went to see Bunge’s competition in Cahokia which was Cargill, Oakley, and Consolidated Grain. It was neat to see other river operations as well.
I am so thankful I got the experience I had with Top Ag, and for Angie, Todd, and Bob. I truly learned a lot and the people were so nice and informative. I enjoyed my experience so much, and I can’t wait to return in the spring and see what else I can learn.
Grain & Feed Association of Illinois
3521 Hollis Dr.