Hello! My name is Jaycie VanKampen, and I am a junior at the University of Illinois, studying Agricultural and Consumer Economics with a focus in business markets and management. I am from a very small town in Northwest Illinois, called Thomson. Coming from such a rural area (with a town population of 524 people), I have always had a love for agriculture. My passion for the grain industry started when I began working for Consolidated Grain and Barge 2 years ago as a freshman in college.
After being paired with CGB for my job shadow, I was able to travel and work for two new facilities within the company. I spent some time working for Nick in Albany, and some time working for Hoyt in Homer. These were both new places for me, and I enjoyed every minute spent at each facility. In Homer, I was able to work at a facility that had lots of storage and loaded trains that were then sent to Decatur. I was also able to spend some time in the office, learning about farm accounts and merchandising. While in Albany, I was at a facility along the river that loaded barges. There I was able to observe how barges were loaded and the flow path of commodity storage. Though both facilities are grain elevators, the operations of train loading and barge loading are very different from each other.
My job shadow experience was unique, and I am so thankful for the opportunity. Being able to work at two different places and learn two different market strategies was very interesting to me. I was also able to work with several different employees, and shadow jobs ranging from operations to merchandising. This experience taught me what it takes to run a successful facility, and I was truly able to experience a day in each person’s shoes.
I would like to thank Joanne, Jeff, Nick, Jake, Hoyt, Bruce, and Kris for helping me along my journey and welcoming me into their facilities. I appreciate the time spent working with me to ensure that the experience I received was as beneficial to me as possible. The experiences I had in Homer and Albany has helped shape my career and professional life and has taught me more than I ever imagined. Thank you to the CGB team as well as the GFAI for providing me with this great experience!
This year, I was fortunate enough to have been selected as a GFAI Renewable Scholarship Recipient. This selection allowed me to have the opportunity to job shadow within the Illinois grain industry once again.
A lot has changed since my last blog post in April. I started a GROWMARK Internship mid-May at the Main Office of FS Grain, which is in Morris, IL. This twelve-week internship allowed me to sit at the merchandising desk and learn more about the grain industry. I soon recognized that while classroom education provides a solid foundation, nothing compares to the knowledge learned by doing and seeing. I am appreciative for the willingness Bryan Rader and Justin Burke, both Merchandisers, had in answering questions I asked. By sitting with them each day, I was able to pick up some key terminology and concepts within the grain industry. This increased my confidence while talking about specifics within grain merchandising. Additionally, I was able to pursue some projects that added value. This included working on a project that overhauled the internal process of creating and posting bids each day. This project was created to save time and prevent errors. This summer affirmed to me that I want to start my career within the grain industry.
I am grateful that, at the end of the summer, I was provided an offer to work full-time with FS Grain upon graduation. This offer was for a Grain Consultant position in Ransom, IL, which would essentially make me responsible for grain origination in that area. I accepted the offer and have continued to be excited for this opportunity, which is now just a few months away. This open position was due to the retirement of a long-time grain originator at the facility. This led me to request to job shadow for the GFAI Renewable Scholarship at this facility. I spent two days learning as much as I could about the ins and outs of the FS Grain Ransom facility. I focused a majority of my time with Pat Knapp, the retiring Grain Consultant. Through our conversations, I was able to see the application of building and maintaining strong relationships with the farmers. This included some morning talk with local farmers over a cup of coffee to start the day. It is actually impressive that with a significant customer list like she has, she has been able to maintain the strength of relationships with farmers for all these years. Furthermore, she shared great resources for learning more about the grain markets and where to seek out daily news updates. It gives me great confidence knowing that she is handing over the origination role in such a strong position.
What took this job shadowing experience to the next level was the ability to meet people from all aspects of the facility. That included Kenny Kral, Facility Supervisor. He was able to share key information about the outside, physical assets of the facility, like the rail loop, bin set up, ground pile space, loading and unloading, and much more. This information and tour gave me great perspective on how the facility works and what its advantages and disadvantages are. I also got to sit with Abby Zeimetz, who shared a lot of information about the accounting and settlement pieces of FS Grain. I appreciated the opportunity to see how these day-to-day duties were carried out. I also got to meet other operations personnel and scale operators, who all play an integral role in making the facility run smoothly. This two-day experience has led me to be more prepared and more excited to start in May!
All in all, I have a few takeaways. 1.) The grain industry, especially within the FS GROWMARK System, places and emphasis on people and the relationships with people. 2.) Asking questions will be key to my growth and success. 3.) Farmers are key to success—value, maintain, and, for me, build those relationships.
Hello, my name is Justin Huff, and I am a senior at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign majoring in Animal Science with a concentration in Pre-Veterinary Medicine. My career goal is to become a large animal veterinarian and provide services to food animals in the underserved rural America. My experiences at the University of Illinois sparked my interest in animal nutrition, and I was excited to be paired with The Maschhoff’s for my fall immersion tour. I have a strong connection with the company having served as an animal care technician while obtaining my Associate of Science degree from Kaskaskia, so I was very excited to return to the company in a new area.
I shadowed Mark Nagel for both days of my experience, and I really appreciated his time and the opportunity to learn about their feed mill. He began by giving me a tour of the mill and discussed how the Maschhoff’s pellet nearly 90% of all diets fed to their commercial herds. He explained to me the process of diet formulation and the addition of ingredients to make the desired ration for the various facilities they maintain. My favorite part of the tour was taking the elevator to the top of the mill and seeing the Maschhoff’s “penthouse view.”
In addition to the tour of the facitilty, he discussed the importance of safety at the mill. In the past, they had an explosion at the feed mill site which taught them a valuable lesson about grain safety and the importance of maintaining a clean and safe environment. He explained that the mill remains very conscious of safety and has not had any serious accidents in a considerable amount of time.
Another aspect of the mill that I experienced was the control room, where all the “magic” happens. Connie Kujawa allowed me to observe her methods for mixing feeds, running the pellet machine, and loading trucks all with a click of a button. On some occasions she had to unload some ingredients by hand but most of the systems are automated. In addition to controlling the machinery, she is also responsible for collecting samples from all shipments of feed that leave the facility. This sampling allows them to track any feed that leaves the facility if an accident were to occur. Connie also discussed the importance of being cognoscente of medicated feeds that leave the facility, as it is vital that antibiotics are not given to market hogs to prevent antibiotics from making it into our food system.
My experience at The Maschhoff’s feed mill was very valuable, and I enjoyed learning about the technical aspect of the most important expense in swine production, feed.
Grain & Feed Association of Illinois
3521 Hollis Dr.