Update from Colter Lewis (U of I)

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.

Update from Seth Mitchell (U of I)

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. 

Update from Kamryn Endress (WIU)

Hello everyone! My name is Kamryn Endress and I am currently a senior at Western IL University. I am majoring in Agricultural Business with a minor in Agronomy. I grew up in a small community in West Central IL. Unlike many of my classmates and fellow scholarship recipients, I did not grow up on a farm. My interest in the Agricultural Industry came after extensive involvement in FFA and within my local Agricultural community. This involvement led me to continue my education to pursue a career in the Ag Industry. I have always been very humbled and honored to have the support of those in the industry, and the Grain and Feed Association of IL is no exception!

The GFAI Industry Immersion Tour was an awesome experience. Throughout the tour we were not only able to connect with many professionals in the industry and tour their facilities, but also learn about the company culture and employment opportunities available. Jeff and Jodie of GFAI gave us a great experience as well and it was fun getting to know them during the tour! It was also great sharing the experience with the prior IL State FFA officer team, as well as the other scholarship recipients.

This past summer I was a GROWMARK Intern, working with precision technology at West Central FS. It was an interesting year to put it mildly, as far as what we witnessed with the planting, growing, and harvest conditions. This internship, as well as the GFAI experience, provided a unique and incredible learning experience as far as how to handle these adverse conditions and the challenges they bring. The Grain and Feed Scholarship gave me an opportunity to finish out the season working with Mark Hobrock, General Manager at Western Grain Marketing, a GROWMARK member company. Mark is a great guy, very down to earth, and genuinely interested in sharing his knowledge and passion for the industry. I could immediately tell he was an outstanding leader for the company, and very respected by his employees and peers.

On our first day, Mark gave me a tour of the Rushville facility. Here I met several of the employees and learned a great deal about the company. He then gave a presentation that covered all aspects of the business and we discussed how the company works to meet the growers’ needs, as well as the efforts they put in to show their appreciation to their customers. Mark then proceeded to give me a crash course in futures markets and basis. After that, we toured the Adair location where I was able to watch them test for weight, moisture content and foreign material on a load that was just brought in as well as learn about rail, barge and container freight logistics. We visited the Virginia facility during our second day. Here I was able to meet with Luke Metz, who is an Originator and Commodity Broker with WGM. We discussed the many aspects of origination and merchandising, contracts and a career within the grain industry. Luke was also a wealth of knowledge and easy to talk to. After lunch, we met up with John Whittle with CHS in Minnesota and Shota Onoe from Kanematsu Corporation in Japan to finish out our day.

I could not have asked for a better overall experience. I am looking forward to attending the Convention in February, as well as spending more time learning about the grain and feed industry in the spring. I’d like to sincerely thank GFAI for this amazing opportunity and generous scholarship, Jeff and Jodie for their hospitality during the kickoff tour, the many companies who welcomed us into their facilities and spoke to us about the industry and employment opportunities, as well as Mark and the crew at WGM for the opportunity to spend some time working with them!

Update from Logan Miller (U of I)

I am currently a junior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, majoring in Crop Sciences with a minor in Food and Agribusiness Management.  For my industry immersion, I was able to visit Prairie Central Cooperative.  They have ten grain elevator locations in central Illinois- two of which my family hauls grain to.  I was fortunate enough to be able to visit one of these facilities, as well as their new Chenoa elevator built in the last couple of years.  Scheduling a day that worked for the managers of the elevator as well as my schedule was challenging given the inconvenient weather throughout fall, but we managed to make two dates work.

The first day I visited the Weston elevator location and got to learn about each individual person’s role at that location.  I started off the day learning how to use the scale and the challenges the scale operator faced.  One of these was making sure the grain being tested for moisture was a high enough temperature, or else the moisture tester wouldn’t read the moisture percentage correctly.  To resolve this issue, a blow dryer was used to warm up the grain to at least a temperature of 45 degrees Fahrenheit.  The rest of the day I got to learn how they hedged for grain and different methods used to analyze the market.

At the Chenoa elevator, I got to experience a much more technologically advanced system of storing and handling grain compared to that of Weston.  Since everything is automatically driven at Chenoa, they can monitor the grain from a computer screen.  As great as this sounds, there is still human interaction needed to ensure all systems are running properly.  For example, throughout the day periodically I got to re-calibrate the moisture reader on the dryer, which involved collecting samples from the dryer.  The day I visited wasn’t that busy – mostly there were internal transfers of grain from other Prairie Central locations.  Ths was due to the fact that the Chenoa location is on natural gas, and due to the shortage of propane the other locations didn’t want to take in wetter grain.  I enjoyed both of my visits thoroughly and would not only like to thank those who took the time at Prairie Central to show me the significance of their role in the grain industry, but additionally the Grain and Feed Association of Illinois for granting me this scholarship and providing me with these opportunities.

Update from Olivia Kepner (University of Wisconsin – Platteville)

My name is Olivia Kepner, and I am currently a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. I am an Animal Science major with minors in Strategic Marketing & Visual Communications and English. Growing up in Northwest Illinois on my family’s farrow-to-finish swine farm, agriculture and livestock have always been part of my life. My older sister and I are our family’s 5th generation to live and work the land in those softly rolling hills. I hope to take my education to the field of animal nutrition after I graduate, and eventually find my way back home in Northwest Illinois to carry on my family’s heritage.

After receiving the Grain and Feed Association of Illinois’ scholarship, I was overtaken with gratitude and excitement. Attending the GFAI Kickoff Tour in late August, I was able to connect with my peers, industry professionals, and gain an incredibly valuable experience. Those three days were jam packed with educational conversations, networking opportunities, and people who are enthusiastic about agriculture. It’s always astonishing to see how quickly a simple tie to agriculture can open up conversation between two complete strangers.

I’ve completed one of two of my required shadowing days for this fall. I was fortunate enough to be paired with Eastland Feed & Grain, a feed mill based out of Shannon, Illinois. I worked with Abbey Niebur out of Eastland’s Honey Creek Mill location in Monroe, Wisconsin. During the day, we visited a handful of farms to collect feed samples, walk cows, and go over ration changes with the farmers. Abbey has her Master’s Degree in Ruminant Nutrition from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and we talked a lot about the importance of furthering your education to work within the field of agriculture. It was wonderful to hear Abbey’s perspective and experience of being a young female in the world of animal nutrition. I’m looking forward to spending some time in early December with one of Eastland’s other ruminant nutritionists, Kelly Flack.

I would like to thank the Grain & Feed Association of Illinois for providing me with such incredible opportunities and Eastland Feed & Grain for hosting and teaching me along the way. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with the other scholarship recipients and GFAI staff at the convention in February!

Update from Danielle Hagemann (Highland Community College)

Hello everyone,

My name is Danielle Hagemann, and I’m currently a sophomore at my local community college, Highland Community College. In December I will graduate with my associate of science, and will then transfer to University of Wisconsin – Platteville to finish my bachelor’s degree in agribusiness, with an emphasis in communications and marketing. As a kid, I grew up showing livestock, so of course my main interest was animal science. That being said, my current major is animal science, but after having the opportunity to be a part of the GFAIs Kickoff Tour and Industry Immersion Program my eyes have been further opened to the opportunities in all areas of agriculture, so I’m choosing to change my major to agribusiness.

During the month of October, I had the opportunity to be hosted by Eastland Feed and Grain, a feed mill headquartered in Shannon, IL. During my two days, I traveled to Monroe, WI and shadowed Abbey Niebuhr and Adam Coulthard at the Honey Creek Mill location. This mill was built in 2017 and is fully automized and is able to serve many operations throughout Southern Wisconsin. Abbey, a nutritionist with Eastland, allowed me to spend the day with her traveling to various farms, taking feed samples, and meeting with farmers to talk about their current rations and changes that would need to be made in the upcoming winter months. Adam, the manager of the Honey Creek location gave me an insight into the technical side of the operation touching on topics such as biosecurity, compliance, and logistics. I’m very grateful to have been given this opportunity to gain new insights and learn a great deal and am looking forward to attending the association’s convention in February.

Update from Ella Banks (Wabash Valley College)

My name is Ella Banks. I am currently a sophomore at Wabash Valley College where I
am studying Business Management and Agribusiness. During my time in high school, I began thinking about what I wanted to do when “I grew up”. My dad has been a long time manager at Gavilon Grain in Browns, IL. He was originally the one who encouraged me to pursue a degree in Agribusiness. After spending a year and a half working under him, I could tell that it would be a perfect fit for me. When I received the Grain and Feed Association of Illinois scholarship, I was ecstatic to be able to go on the tour, and meet other young adults interested in Ag. Sadly, I was unable to attend the event due to being a collegiate athlete. Although this has made me miss out on some of the Grain and Feed Association events, I am still very excited to have received the scholarship and partake in future events that will be hosted.

I would like to thank the Grain and Feed Association of Illinois for allowing me to still
receive the scholarship even though some things have been made difficult because of my
schedule. This scholarship has enabled me to be able to spend my host days at Gavilon Grain in Browns, IL. While at Gavilon, I will be shadowing the grain merchandiser, regional superintendent, and the location manager. By doing this, I will be able to learn even more about each of these positions, in hopes that I can find out exactly what I want to do. I am already looking forward to the convention in February.