This last month I had the privilege of conducting an interview with Justin Burke to learn more about the grain and feed industry. Justin is a Grain Merchandiser for FS Grain in Morris. There his duties include the selling of grain to the different markets available to him at his northern Illinois location. Some of these markets include container, river, ethanol, or rail. Justin also oversees FS Grain’s hedging platform to manage the risk of the company.
After learning about his position, I asked about his history within the agriculture industry. Justin grew up a few miles away from me in northern Illinois on a family grain operation. While attending Western Illinois University he got his first experience working for the GROWMARK system while interning as a crop scout for Ag View FS. Upon graduation, he started his career at Ag Land FS. After a few years there he started working for Maplehurst Farms before taking on his current position. In these two positions, he worked in more of an elevator operations role as well as buying grain from farmers. Although he enjoyed his time learning in these roles he loves working as a grain merchandiser. When asked why, he responded by saying it is due to the constant change of the markets. With factors in the market always changing so does the prices. You never know what your day is going to be like.
During our interview, I also asked him how he was trained and how he continues to learn. When coming to FS Grain Justin used a lot of his prior experience to be successful. Soon after starting he was beginning his role. He learned by doing and what he didn’t know he asked others for their advice. This mentality has made him a successful grain merchandiser for the 23 different FS Grain locations he sells for. In the future, he plans to continue to learn more about the different markets available to sell to.
When asked about why he choose FS Grain he said it was the culture of the company. He loved being part of a large company with many entities but wanted the small company connection. Being a part of FS Grain provides him this. Because GROWMARK is a cooperative he feels it has a greater connection with the farmers they work with.
I enjoyed getting to know Justin and his experience at FS Grain better. It was interesting to learn about the position from his perspective.
My name is Taylor Hartke and I am currently a junior studying at Southern Illinois University majoring in Agricultural Communications and minoring in Agribusiness Economics. I hail from Teutopolis, Illinois where I was raised on my family’s diversified grain and livestock operation. The experiences I gained on the farm as well as through student organizations allowed me to develop a deep passion for serving the farm, the farmer, and the consumer. I am honored to have been named a 2020 Industry Immersion Scholarship Recipient. During both the kick-off tour this summer and my two days of job shadowing experience I was able to expand my knowledge about the grain and feed industry while networking with industry professionals. On December 21st & 22nd, I spent two days job shadowing at the Corporate Headquarters of Total Grain Marketing in Effingham, Illinois. Over these two days, I was able to watch exactly what happens when farmers call seeking advice or wanting to sell their grain. I saw first-hand what steps must occur in order for grain to be acquired, sold, and transported. I learned more about why markets were fluctuating on those given days which included wage stricks in Argentina as well as China’s continued purchases of US commodities. Since TGM is where my family, sells our grain, I found it interesting that half of their grain is transported by rail and half by truck. On those two days, I not only learned about each individual’s roles and duties, but I also helped with filing paperwork, writing the end of the day numbers, completing spreadsheets, and any other tasks that arose. Thank you to Kim, Lori, Austin, Wendy, Ken, and Tisha for allowing me to spend my two days there. Overall, this scholarship experience has broadened my knowledge, and I look forward to returning this spring for another chance to continue learning and experiencing what the industry has to offer.
- Taylor Hartke
I worked two days at my local elevator, Tuscola ADM. I was able to witness how a train is loaded at our facility. Todd Wiessing talked so much about how important safety and culture is at his elevator. The second day I asked to be in the office. I was able to shadow Kenny Hadden and witness how the merchants handle customers. Mr. Hadden talked to me about how important a relationship with a farmer is! I feel blessed to have such a great elevator filled with wonderful people so close to home. I am thankful for the opportunity Tuscola ADM has given me the past couple of years.
During the Fall 2020 semester, I had the opportunity to spend two days job shadowing at Eric Howell Grain. I observed the daily work of Heather Howell who has multiple titles due to it being a smaller operation.
Eric Howell Grain is a grain elevator located in Benton, KY and they have two additional drop-off branches in Murray, KY and Stella, KY. They buy and sell white and yellow corn, soybeans, and wheat. Due to the historical increase in commodity prices at harvest time they currently have multiple farmers that are having to fill contracts below what the current cash price is today.
Farmers have the opportunity to grow Enogen corn and Eric Howell Grain will pay a premium price per bushel for the grain. They’ll then sell it to the ethanol plants who will pay a higher price for the corn because it enhances ethanol production. Ethanol production is helping to lead us to a cleaner environment by helping to reduce carbon emissions.
I was able to look at and calculate the shrink reductions costs and drying costs that are dependent upon the moisture percentage the corn is brought in at. Farmers in Western, KY are experiencing much higher moisture levels due to cooler and rainy weather.
Lastly, I was also able to take a look at the end of the months reports that Eric Howell Grain has to turn in to their financial lender which is River Valley AgCredit. River-Valley AgCredit wants to make sure that they are making strides to pay-off their loan and keeping accurate records. In the 2019 end of year financial reports, I was able to review and analyze different key statements and components that were compiled together by a third party accountant.
My name is Isaac Brockman and I am a junior Agribusiness major at Illinois State University. I am from Verona, IL, which is where my family farms corn and soybeans. It has been a blessing to have been selected for the GFAI Scholarship, as this scholarship has gone beyond just a one-time recognition. In the summer, fellow recipients and I were able to enjoy the information-filled and eye-opening Industry Immersion Tour. This experience allowed us to network, gain a wider perspective on Illinois agriculture, and understand how important the grain and feed industries are to the economy, infrastructure, and communities of Illinois.
In addition to the Industry Immersion Tour, we recipients were fortunate enough to be set up with job shadowing experiences in the fall and spring. I was fortunate to be connected with FS GRAIN, which is based in Morris, IL, only about twenty-five minutes from my home. What made this experience even more valuable was that I was working towards earning an internship with FS GRAIN for next summer. At the main office, I was able to meet the staff and understand how they worked together for the function of the organization. I spent valuable time learning from Bryan Rader, Merchandising Manager, who explained the core business functions of FS GRAIN and how they utilize the many markets available in Northern Illinois. In the afternoon, I had the opportunity to travel to one of FS GRAIN’s container loading facilities, where I was able to learn how grain, especially soybeans, move efficiently from rural Illinois farms to Asian markets. Because of the awesome people at FS GRAIN and GROWMARK, I was able to earn and accept an offer for a summer 2021 GROWMARK Internship at FS GRAIN, shortly after the first job shadow day! Weeks later, I was called back for my second day and traveled to one of FS GRAIN’s modern rail-loading facilities. There, I was able to learn from Facility Supervisor Paul Hogan, who gave a great tour of the facility and was a great resource for questions I had about their operations. I was amazed by how quickly they fill railcars. It was also quite impressive to hear that the inbound grain can be dumped so quickly at this facility, which definitely provides value to farmers in the rush of harvest and even in the slower months. I had an awesome couple days this fall and look forward to continuing my GFAI Job Shadow experience at FS GRAIN in the spring!