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Shuttle loader takes Grainland to next level PDF Print E-mail
Written by Darci Tomky   

Project plans have come full circle as Grainland Co-op’s shuttle loader and circle track project has begun initial fill processes, with its first loads scheduled for early next year.

The multi-million-dollar project takes Grainland, a locally controlled retail division of CHS Inc., to the next level, according to general manager Rick Unrein.

“It gives us a terminal elevator presence in Phillips County that hopefully will return many benefits to our stockholders and the county for many years to come,” said Unrein.

Brand-new cement rail ties make up nearly 8,000 feet of track circling around Grainland Co-op’s multi-million-dollar shuttle loader project northeast of Holyoke. Eight concrete silos provide nearly 1.4 million bushels of grain storage, and 110-car shuttle trains can utilize the circle track as they are loaded up with commodities.   

—Enterprise photo

The project, located just northeast of Holyoke off Highway 23 and County Road 41, allows Grainland to ship commodities using a 110-car shuttle train.

Unrein said it should give Grainland a competitive advantage when rail freight is the market for the grain.

Previously, if Grainland wanted to ship by rail, they had to co-load trains in more than one location. The shuttle loader and circle track will bring the price down as the 110-car train can all be loaded at the same time.

Grainland is finalizing contracts and agreements with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and Nebraska, Kansas Colorado Railway.

According to the inspector, the nearly 8,000 feet of track with brand-new cement rail ties is the best circle track in the world.

It runs in a circle next to eight concrete silos, which gives Grainland almost 1.4 million bushels of additional storage.

The view from the top of the facility shows the circle made by the railroad track, which allows trains to load all 110 cars at the same time.  

—Enterprise photo

Unrein explained in-bound grain can be taken in at 60,000 bushels per hour and out-bound grain can be loaded out at 80,000 bushels per hour. However, he said they would probably be running them at 20,000 bushels per hour below the max speed.

“The whole system is built for speed,” he said, noting everything from radio-frequency identification cards and scale placement to pit sizes and capacity make it very efficient.

A large area allows two lines of trucks to wait to unload grain. The farmers scan RFID cards to check in and check out — a new technology that automatically registers in a computer which farmer and which field the load came from.

Two stalls allow for two trucks to unload at the same time, and the facility is unique because the area is big enough for both hoppers under the truck to unload without having to move the truck forward.

The elevator system on one side of the 140-foot-tall silos takes the grain up and distributes it to one of the eight sections, and another system on the opposite side takes the grain to an unloading station over the rail cars.

Unrein stressed the facility is state of the art, safe, environmentally friendly and run completely by computers. A special cleaning system also keeps it relatively dust-free.

Final project details at the new facility include planting grass and putting in a well.

At least two new Grainland employees are needed at the shuttle loader.

Two trucks can unload grain side by side at the new Grainland facility.  

—Enterprise photo

At the new shuttle loader project, Grainland employee John Sherlock unloads wheat from both hoppers without having to pull the truck forward.  

—Enterprise photo

“We are so excited,” said Unrein of the new facility. The project has been in the works a long time and is finally coming to completion.

The first day of actual dirt work was Feb. 5, 2013. Grainland expected the terminal/operations system to be done in time for wheat harvest this year, but some structural issues with the bins required them to put in some liners.

Unrein said it wasn’t all bad to push back the opening date because it will be good to test the system before the busy harvest time.

The silos began filling with wheat the last week in September. The facility had to fill 25 percent and then wait seven days before filling another 25 percent. Seven more days passed, and they are currently working on the third quarter of wheat to fill the silos.

When that is complete, they must wait 28 days before filling the final 25 percent, and after that, 28 more days before they will be able to unload.

Unrein said Grainland plans to unload four trains, one each month in February, March, April and May of 2015.

Once the initial fill process is complete, Grainland will be accepting wheat from farmers as needed.

The highest percent of wheat trains will go to the Gulf, said Unrein. If corn trains ever come into play in the future, they can be either exported overseas or used domestically in the U.S.

Unrein said the use of the railroad to ship commodities all depends on whether the co-op would get a better price for rail or for truck. He said right now the railroad cars are in high demand, so down the road when the railroad gears up with more staff and more rail cars to handle the demand, Grainland will be in good shape.

Trains will pull under this system for grain to be easily unloaded into the 110 cars of a shuttle train.  

—Enterprise photo

Grainland employee John Sherlock shows how the shuttle loader project is run completely by computers.

—Enterprise photo

By installing a circle track, Unrein said, it has opened the door for other companies to use it. He has already heard some interest from wind generation and oil companies.

Grain is Grainland’s priority, he said, but they are always looking for additional ways to provide some income.

Looking at the idea of an industrial park, Unrein said there is a possibility for other companies to use Grainland land near the circle track or for the companies to buy land adjacent to it.

There is also the possibility that Grainland could install a dry fertilizer hub to utilize the shuttle loader facility, as well.

“We are very pleased we are well ahead of budget on the project,” said Unrein. “We should know a final number in December.”

Starting with an $18 million budget, Unrein said this is probably the biggest project in the history of Phillips County.

“It’s something we can be proud of for a long time.”

Unrein is very excited to have an open house to show off the new facility around May of next year.

Sitting atop the 140-foot-tall concrete silos, the system at left brings up the grain from the unloading station and distributes it toward the right into one of the eight silos.  

—Enterprise photo

Holyoke Enterprise October 30, 2014

Family harvest time reaps rewards PDF Print E-mail
Written by Isaac Kreider   

Holyoke’s economy is made up of all the common sectors of business, but farming is perhaps what this area is best known for. And it’s not all hired hands and large operations. Many farms around Holyoke are run by the family, and that can mean everyone in the family.

Harvest is a time to reap the bounty of one’s crops, but it is also a time to further sow the seeds of the family. It is the time of year when the work schedule can cover a full rotation of the clock — or more — but it offers a chance to bond with those dear to the heart over a passion that is dear to the heart as well.

“The kids have helped with the harvest over the years and always made it fun,” Jan Millage said. “But it was mainly Steve and Adam this year.”

Millage said they completed their harvest of more than 1,000 acres of corn Friday, Oct. 17. Since they don’t have hired help, her husband Steve is the one who does all the pre-harvest prep work on the farming machinery.

They feel fortunate that one child or another — this year being their son Adam — was available to put in the long hours helping when the time came to hit the fields. And she was always ready and willing to do her part also.

“If they needed parts or meals, I was always on standby,” Millage said. “And I would help move equipment from one section to another and drive them back and forth across the fields.”

Sometimes not everyone is available, but other times the whole extended family gets in on the action. However the crew pans out, family always comes through and works until the job gets done.

“We all love it,” Angie Powell said. “In what other profession can the whole family be involved everywhere from in a minimal aspect to on a grand scale?”

Powell gets quite the family crew together during harvest time — her dad Mark Clayton and stepmom Jean; her brother Justin Clayton, his wife Ashley and their son Levi; and her husband Aaron and their two sons, Mason and Riley.

Brothers Riley and Mason Powell, pictured at left and center, and their cousin Levi Clayton sit on the snout of a combine out in one of the family’s fields. The boys are starting to learn the ways of the farming lifestyle, and helping with harvest wherever they can, so that one day they can be an integral part of the family operation.

Jean Clayton said she loves to see the boys’ enthusiasm when it comes to following their dads and grandpa.

“There have been times where all three boys have fallen asleep on the combine,” Clayton said. “They get a kick out of all of it. Beings that they’re all boys, they probably really enjoy it more.”

The old adage “don’t hire your family” may run true in some professions, but farming tends to be different from other lines of work in many regards. It can be very beneficial to have one’s own kin — kids, siblings, nephews and nieces, etc. — around to help, especially when they have grown up learning and experiencing the family’s ideals and work ethic.

Powell said she could talk for hours about the beauty of everybody working together during harvest.

“It’s a wonderful time, and everyone has tons of fun,” Powell said. “There’s just a different vibe that you don’t get in any other setting.”

She spoke about different family members driving combines and grain carts and taking meals out to the fields at night so the workers don’t have to eat when they get home late.

“Especially during the summer wheat harvest, we set up tables and spread out food,” Powell said. “Everyone stops and eats together and gets to enjoy more family time.”

In a family operation, everyone lends a hand. Whether it’s making lines in the fields, hauling loads, cooking meals, washing clothes, coordinating schedules, making supply runs, tending to the kids, lifting spirits or supervising the whole operation, each member of the family has a certain place where he or she can contribute.

In a family operation such as theirs, the Powells and Claytons aren’t just growing crops, they are also growing the next generation of family farmers.

Powell said she tries to get her sons, Mason, 7, and Riley, 6, out to the fields every evening during harvest to get in on as much of the experience as possible.

“My boys are learning yields, percentages, techniques and all kinds of other things,” Powell said. “They say they want to be farmers when they grow up! So I figure why not have them start to learn about these things now?”

Powell further described the enthusiasm her boys have when school gets out and it’s time to head out to the fields.

“They absolutely love getting dressed for the fields and want to get out there as quickly as possible,” Powell said. “They fight over who gets to ride with Dad first, but they are simply excited to emulate their father, the farmer.”

When corn harvest season comes around, the daylight hours might be getting a little bit shorter, but the working hours probably aren’t.

“Harvest time makes for long days and keeps the men away from home,” Clayton said. “When everyone takes part, it’s a great way for the little ones to hang out with their dad. And a nice way for him to also spend time with his spouse.”

Farming as a family bolsters a deep respect for each other and what each individual brings to the farm to make it successful.

“I think family farms are all about pride, honor and respect,” Powell said. “Pride in the work that you individually put in, pride in what others have done before you and pride in what the future holds for our children.”

So when the bountiful bushels come pouring in, or even if the yields are not as promising and there aren’t as many people to share the duties, be thankful for the family that endures through each season.

And remember these simple words from Thomas Jefferson, who was quite the farmer back in his day: “The happiest moments of my life have been those which I have passed in the company of my family.”

Holyoke Enterprise October 30, 2014

KCI to install broadband equipment on water tower PDF Print E-mail
Written by Isaac Kreider   

By Isaac Kreider

After several months of negotiations with Kentec Communications Inc. of Sterling, the Holyoke City Council made final arrangements for its agreement with the company at the Tuesday, Oct. 21, meeting.

The agreement requires KCI to pay $135 per month to rent space on the Holyoke water tower for its broadband Internet equipment.

Equipment will include four sectors, which are small antennas about 6 inches wide and roughly 18 inches long. They are to be placed outside the tower rail to send signals in each direction. Two dishes will also be installed, taking up about a 2-foot-by-1-foot area.

KCI’s Kent Sager has said that the equipment will not create a conflict or disrupt any current frequency. The company has also placed equipment on Haxtun’s water tower.

City Superintendent Mark Brown said new electrical lines will need to be run to the water tower. KCI will be responsible for the expenses to install these new services that will run parallel to the Chase 3000 electrical lines.

The agreement was approved on a 4-1 vote, with Mayor Pro Tem Kevin Scott casting the opposing vote and councilmember J.C. Peckham abstaining from voting, citing a vested interest in the matter. Mayor Orville Tonsing was not present for the meeting.


Council discusses allowing wine tasting in town

New businesses bring new ideas, and even though Red’s Liquors LLC is not an entirely new business in Holyoke, owners Jeff and Olga Sullivan have new ideas they are wanting to offer to the community.

Olga was in attendance at the council meeting last week to discuss an ordinance to allow wine tastings in the city.

“We have attended multiple tastings in the Denver area,” Sullivan said. “It is a popular way to promote business and educate customers about products. It is closely regulated and can be a lot of fun.”

Sullivan was well-prepared with specific and thorough information about the requirements and restrictions that they would be adhering to when conducting a wine tasting at their store.

She informed the council of some of the more pertinent details, including that a tasting can only be conducted by a person who has completed a server training program and only on licensed premises. Tastings must be held between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., cannot exceed five hours in length and cannot occur on more than four days per week, Monday-Saturday.

Sullivan also noted that regulations prohibit anyone under the age of 21 from being served, limit customers to four one-ounce samples of wine and require the licensee to promptly remove all open and unconsumed beverages from the premises following a tasting.

City Attorney Al Wall said a wine tasting ordinance was being discussed a few years back, but the initiator decided not to continue with it and the matter was dropped at that time.

The council agreed to have Wall come up with a sample ordinance agreement to be reviewed at the next council meeting Tuesday, Nov. 4.


City workers to attend LTAP fall classes

The Local Technical Assistance Program is a partnership with the Federal Highway Administration. It is an information and training provider for the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges and provides training courses across the country.

At the Oct. 21 meeting, councilmembers agreed to send two city workers to an “Advanced Chip Seal” course this fall. Chip seal is a form of pavement surface treatment. Two city workers will also be selected to attend a “Safety on the Job” course this fall.


Officials report

Brown reported two power outages that occured since the last council meeting. One was on Oct. 15 in the 800 blocks of S. Baxter and S. Belford avenues. The other was on Oct. 17 in the 200-500 blocks of S. High School and S. Coleman avenues. Both outages were caused by squirrels.

He also acknowledged the completion of the alley paving between the 100 block of S. Interocean and S. Baxter avenues.

Brown mentioned “’tis the season” for leaf cleanup. The streets crew has been out with “Snuffy,” the city’s leaf disposal machine, and is working to clear up leaves piled in the gutters.

City Clerk/Treasurer Kathy Olofson stated that the 2015 budget is moving right along, and the council plans to have a work session after its Nov. 4 meeting.

Police Chief Doug Bergstrom was unable to attend Tuesday’s meeting, but councilmember David Churchwell made an announcement on his behalf. Churchwell told the council that asbestos tests had been received by the Holyoke Police Department regarding the trailers at the mobile home park east of the hospital and action is to be taken soon to clean up the trailers in question.


Other business

In other business Tuesday, the council:

—approved a donation request from the Golden Plains Recreation Center for 12 swimming pool passes for its third annual fundraising event.

—appointed Steve Triplette to finish Eldon McCormick’s term on the Holyoke Planning Commission through June 2018.

—designated Brown to attend the Holyoke Lions Club meeting Oct. 23 to discuss the construction plans for the Mini Park project.

—renewed the business lease for Ron’s, effective Nov. 1, 2014–Oct. 31, 2015.

—renewed the liquor license for First Dragon Chinese Restaurant.

—appointed Judy Beavers to another three-year term on the Cemetery Board.

Holyoke Enterprise October 30, 2014