When the next bumper crop of corn comes in, Landmark Services Cooperative plans to be ready.
Company officials and local dignitaries officially broke ground for a new shuttle loading grain elevator on Monday (June 24) just west of Columbus.
The idea for this facility began in 2010, when corn was stacked on the ground everyplace the cooperative could find to pile it.
"We had 2.5 million bushels of corn in the Stoughton Trailer parking lot," recalls John Blaska, a Marshall farmer who is chair of the Landmark board of directors.
He said the member-owned company needed to find a way to handle that kind of huge amount of corn and stay relevant in a world of grain giants like ADM, Cargill and Gavilon.
Farms and farm equipment are also getting larger and the cooperative needed to find a way to keep up with agriculture. "The board voted to explore a facility like this. We ran a lot of numbers, worked with consultants."
Blaska said Landmark had chosen this spot in the Town of Fountain Prairie, just west of Fall River, because it is in the heart of corn-producing acreage, but also because it has a good state highway just a stone's throw away and a great rail line to serve it. "It needs to be where the infrastructure is available."
Bob Carlson, Chief Executive Officer of Landmark, said the plans to expand with this shuttle facility coincided with the United Nation's prediction that the world population would hit 2.5 billion people by 2050.
Landmark saw this as one step it could take to help local farmers be more productive and help somehow to feed that burgeoning population.
"In 1960 the average American farmer fed 26 people. By 2011 that single farmer fed 155 people. If we are going to feed 2.5 billion people we will have to increase our productivity by the same amount as we did in the last 10,000 years."
Carlson said Landmark's staff and member-owners are very proud of the fact that they have a business that has survived and thrived for 80 years. At the same time they all want to make sure the business is relevant and has a vision for the future.
"We're looking at what we can do tomorrow."
The new facility will have the capacity to hold 125 rail cars and 4.6 million bushels of storage. "We want to ensure we're as efficient as we possibly can be."
Speed, space and access to markets are things Landmark will need if it is to keep pace with the growth in farming and world demand. "Today is exciting. It's one step in our evolution."
The "Project Endeavor" shuttle loading grain elevator will be able to handle 15-25 million bushels of corn per year and during the peak of corn harvest there may be 400 trucks a day entering and leaving the facility.
Traffic was one of the main concerns of residents in the township where earth has already been moved and the facility is under construction.
"That peak of traffic will be a very short window though," said Mike Elder, who is in charge of environmental health and safety for Landmark and is currently the interim chief operations officer.
One of the goals with this facility is to alleviate wait times for farmers who are sitting in line to dump their grain, he said. "We want to get farmers through very quickly so they aren't wasting their time in line."
The grain elevator will be capable of accepting 20,000 bushels per hour.
Though Landmark considered other sites for this facility, some had problems with miles of town roads that would need to be traveled to get to the site. This 188-acre site is just off Highway 16.
The facility will be similar to another one that Landmark already has at Evansville. There will be concrete grain elevators and two areas for grain piles on the ground. Elder explained that these kinds of piles are engineered to protect the grain.
The corn is piled under a tarp from a central tower so the grain is never exposed to the elements. The tower also includes an aeration system that will help keep the corn in better condition while it is stored.
The will also include a grain dryer to handle wet grain.
The ultimate goal, says Carlson, is to obtain the best price for Wisconsin-grown grain by helping provide access to world markets.