It would be difficult to travel U.S. Highway 71 between Redwood Falls and Sanborn without noticing the massive construction operation under way by the County Road 16 turnoff to Clements.
Farmward Cooperative (formerly Harvest Land Cooperative, which merged with Co-Op County Farmers Elevator of Renville) is building a new grain storage facility on the greenfield site. The entire complex went up relatively quickly and with little effort.
However, there were a couple years of hard work and logistical planning behind the project.
“It was about a two-year process from start to end,” said Dan Christensen with Farmward Cooperative. “Initially, we had a site chosen, but based upon soil engineering reports that site wasn’t deemed suitable to build that type of facility on. That sent us back to the drawing board. We sampled a handful of other properties, including the existing site inside of Clements. We were looking hard at that to see how maybe we could remodel or restructure that to (make) it a more modern, efficient facility.”
In the end, however, Christensen said the original Clements site wouldn’t meet their needs. He commented that an expandable, flexible location was needed not only for current use, but looking forward into the future of the needs for the cooperative and its owner/members.
“We had to not just take one to three year goals into mind, but even think 15 to 20 years out to what the business could be in the future,” Christensen added. “Where we are setting in Clements right now, we are pretty much landlocked. That kind of forced our hand to move outside of the city limits.”
Christensen said the new facility speaks to Farmward Cooperative’s commitment to future of farming in the area.
“We didn’t want to abandon our core Clements base,” Christensen said. “This new facility is completely modern. Speed wise we can dump 60,000 bushels per hour. “It is well laid out and well thought out for a starter elevator with the future in mind to add on as needed.”
“The producers want to get the crop harvested, to the elevator and back out into the fields. If they are waiting in lines, they are going to look elsewhere or take their grain elsewhere, or build on-farm storage,” Christensen added. “That’s not what any cooperative wants. “We want to be there for our owner/members and give them the best service that we can.”
The specs on the new Farmward elevator are impressive. On site there will be 840,000 bushels of steel bin storage and 1.5 million bushels of ground pile.
In addition, the facility will have 60,000 bushel per hour total dumping capacity, a 4,500 bushel per hour corn dryer, an overhead tank load out, complete facility automation and hazardous monitoring control, and a remote scale ticket printer located at the out bound scale. Plus there is plenty of room for future expansion of services and storage.
Tests of the equipment on the new site were scheduled for Sept. 5, 2017. Christensen said no plans have been approved one way or the other for the current elevator inside Clements other than it will be open through harvest of this year.
“(The elevator in Clements) will be open for harvest,” Christensen said. “Our plan for right now is to get it full and then make that decision once we get the harvest in. Anything past that, I haven't been involved in any discussions.”
One interesting, almost prophetic coincidence with the new Farmward elevator on U.S. Highway 71 is that the old timber and tin Rowena Community Elevator can be seen less than a mile way in the background.
“It kind of gives you a blast from the past,” Christensen commented. “Not to say anything bad about Rowena, but it just shows you how far farming has come from where it once was to where it is now.”
Christensen said the new greenfield site elevator was a lot of work, but it was rewarding.
“We drew our home turf on the map and said ‘we’re here for you, we’re not abandoning you,’” Christensen said. “We’re trying to make our services better. “That’s been a mantra that has been preached here: we want to get better before we get bigger. “People think we are getting bigger, but were not in essence. We are just getting better, and we try to get better all the time on each aspect of farming that we are involved in.”