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.
Through the Grain and Feed Scholarship I was given the opportunity to work at a host facility for two days in each semester after receiving the scholarship. Due to location and its exceptional reputation, I chose to work at Prairie Central Cooperative. Thus far, I have only worked two days. Both days were valued learning experiences in their own way. My first day consisted of gathering some insight to the logistics of the company and their day to day struggle throughout the odd harvest. They allowed me to operate the scale and probe for some time. For the remainder of the day a fellow scholarship recipient and I were educated on how Prairie Central hedges grain and analyzes the market.
On our second day, we were sent to Prairie Central’s new facility in Chenoa. They have every right to be proud of this facility. I was in awe by how efficient and well executed the facility was. Some of our tasks included babysitting a dryer and recalibrating it throughout the day, dumping trucks, and operating the scale. With it being a slow day, we took a tour and discussed some of the issues the harvest presented. I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to work with this company even if it was only a few days. For that, I would like to thank the Grain and Feed Association and Prairie Central Cooperative.
Hello everyone! My name is Colter Lewis and I am currently a sophomore in the Parkland Pathways Program to the University of Illinois. My major is in Agriculture and Consumer Economics with a concentration is Markets and Management. I spent my industry immersion experience with ADM in Tuscola, IL. Tuscola is a country grain elevator rail house asset, this means they purchase grain from farmers and store the purchased grain. ADM in Tuscola is very unique because they have access to three different railroads. They have Union Pacific access that goes to Texas and Mexico, CSX which goes to domestic feed lots in the southeast region of America, and the Canadian National that is for the export market to the gulf. This facility has the opportunity to sell grain into alternative domestic rail markets.
I picked two different days in December to spend with the staff in Tuscola. I picked a day that when they had a CSX train to load. This requires hired grain graders and a day that a train was not being loaded to spend time with our merchandising staff. The day we had a train I spent time in the control room and I watched the grain graders take samples from the cars being loaded. They ran samples through the machine for moisture and test weight after, they picked for damage and foreign material. Every five cars they would test for aflatoxin. I soon found out why, aflatoxin is very dangerous to animals and with this train going to a feed lot it is very important that grain testing positive for aflatoxin is not loaded into rail cars. After my experience in the control room I went out to the load out. I had to wear a hardhat and safety glasses before I walked out to the load out. Safety is very important in the ADM culture. Throughout the day I spent with operations I learned about the manpower and functions it takes to run a country rail house.
The second day of my industry immersion experience I spent with Kenny Hadden was amazing! Mr. Hadden is the Regional Commercial Manager of East Central Illinois. He oversees 8 elevators in his region. He communicates with both his merchandising/origination staff as well as his operations staff daily. Mr. Hadden constantly monitors the eastern rail market and other domestic feed markets to find the best opportunity to sell trains. I also learned that country elevators are very connected to farmers which means customer service is very valuable. Mr. Hadden informed me that the relationship with the farmer is very important and I could tell he has trained his staff in customer relations very well. I also had the opportunity to talk with the staff members where they told me that they helped farmers manage risk. As a young individual that is interested in becoming a grain merchandiser in my future Mr. Hadden gave me some great career/ personal advice. He informed me to be honest and fair, to always tell the truth, and to learn from your mistakes. He stressed the importance of asking questions and taking detailed notes. I learned a lot about practicing good business from Mr. Hadden.
I would like to thank ADM Tuscola for the educational opportunity. This opportunity allowed me to expand my knowledge for the grain business. I am looking forward to being in attendance at the convention in February to learn more about the grain and feed industry. A big thank you to Jeff and Jodie for all the time and resources you have provided me.
Hello, my name is Seth Mitchell, and I am currently a sophomore at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign pursuing a double major in Animal Science and Agricultural and Consumer Economics. Having grown up showing pigs, I gained an interest in animal nutrition which initially inspired me to pursue a degree in animal sciences. After exploring other areas of agriculture, I decided that a dual major with agricultural economics would be valuable for understanding business management and policy issues on a broader scale. In this way, I can use my combined degrees to achieve my goal of business management within the livestock nutrition sector.
Naturally, I was very excited to be paired with Dr. Omarh Mendoza, the Director of Nutrition for The Maschhoffs, Inc., for my fall semester two-day industry immersion experience. In November, I traveled to the main office in Carlyle, Illinois, where I was welcomed by Omarh. He started by explaining the background of the large swine production company, as well as his personal background and role at The Maschhoffs. From the beginning, it was apparent that he is passionate about his job. We also began discussing formulation, feed ingredients, and the new challenge of removing ractopamine from all diets to accommodate trade with China. After that, I began meeting with several of Omarh’s colleagues to gain a broader understanding of the entire nutrition process and the company as a whole. First, I sat down with Lindsey Core who explained her role as a merchandiser purchasing primarily macro and micro ingredients for the feed rations. Then I met with Doug Gibson, the Quality Assurance Manager, whose main project at the time was testing for residual ractopamine in the feed mills. He also showed me how he evaluates charts for inconsistent data from the feed mills, such as high corn moisture, so they can modify the rations if needed. After meeting with Doug, I had the opportunity to talk to Di Richey, Susan Schwartzkopf, and Chelsey Ammann at the feed order desk about the process of communicating with the production partners and the feed mills to get the correct ration to the farms. After lunch, I met with Amy Kolweier who discussed her role as a grain originator for the feed mills and finished the day with Mark Nagel, the manager of the Carlyle Mill. Mark gave me a tour of the mill and explained the pelleting process since nearly all the feeds are pelleted. Overall, day one of my industry immersion experience at The Maschhoffs was full of meeting great people and soaking up knowledge.
Day two started with Katie Brown, the Senior Research Manager, who talked about some of her current research projects at the farm and how the company conducts research to maximize profitability. Then I spent a couple of hours back with Omarh working on formulation, feed cost analysis, and looking at iodine values as a measure of unsaturation in fat to determine carcass quality. He also showed me some data from recent studies involving the effects on carcass traits and growth traits by various fat sources in feed rations. It was very interesting to learn about the challenges of balancing a ration to satisfy the iodine value standards of the packers while remaining the least cost for the company. After that, I met with Justin Fix, the Director of Genetics, where I learned about the company’s maternal and terminal lines. I also met with Dale Hentges, the Associate Director of Genetic Programs, who told me some statistics about the herd’s genetics. He also discussed the creation of indexes to measure the economic value of traits as well as the use of post-cervical AI rods. I ended the day with Nick in the marketing department who talked about the packers who purchase swine from The Maschhoffs and how the contracts are worded with a price formula. He also spoke about the organizational structure of the production managers who oversee a region and are the main point of contact for the production partners. That wrapped up another big day of learning.
My industry immersion experience at The Maschhoffs was truly eye-opening to the opportunities that exist in animal science and feed nutrition. It was incredible to see the amount of detail, resources, and research that the company puts into achieving the least cost per pound of gain while maintaining a high-quality product. I am extremely thankful to Dr. Omarh Mendoza and his colleagues for taking the time to meet with me and share their expertise. Also, thanks to Jodie and Jeff at the Grain and Feed Association of Illinois for making this industry immersion experience possible. Without a doubt, I am more excited than ever for my future career in the industry, and I am looking forward to my business pairing in the spring semester.