Garden City Co-op shows off new Plymell facility




Garden City Co-op's new elevator and crop production center at Plymell only took about a year to complete, but the $9.5 million project has been a long time coming, said John McClelland, general manager of the co-op.

The co-op unveiled the new facilities on Wednesday as part of an open house for the project, which has been in the planning phase for several years.

"This facility has been a long time in coming and needed for a long time, and we finally got ourselves in a position where we could financially afford it," McClelland said. "The business reasons seemed to indicate that it was a good time to build, so we've constructed a 1 million-bushel grain facility, all upright concrete, 5,000-bushel-an-hour dryer and a 3,000-bushel-per-hour receiving leg, so it's a high-speed, very efficient facility."

The new facility also boasts a 30,000-bushel-per-hour receiving capacity.

"We have a 20,000-bushel-an-hour receiving leg and a 10,000-bushel-an-hour receiving leg. Our other facilities, we've got around 8,000- to 10,000-bushel-an-hour receiving legs," Toby Wilson, the co-op's chief operations officer, said.

Wilson said the co-op's older facilities' overall capacities range from 800,000 to 1.8 million, depending on the location.

"These tanks are 200,000 bushel apiece compared to an old concrete elevator that's going to be 20, 25,000 a tank," he said.

The new facility also has both inbound and outbound scales, which McClelland said will be helpful for farmers.

"And hopefully, when we have big harvests and need to quick-ship grain to keep our facility open, we'll be able to manage our trucks so they're not in our farmers' way and they can continue on with their harvest," he said.

In addition to the grain facility, a new crop production facility contains liquid fertilizer and anhydrous ammonia storage, as well as both bulk and packaged crop protection product storage.

McClelland said the crop production facility's features also will save a lot of time.

"Right next to the grain facility is a new crop production facility, which offers a lot of state-of-the-art technology. We've got big liquid storage, we've got blending capability and the blending capability is done with mass flow meters, not with scales, so that greatly increases the speed, efficiency and accuracy," he said. "And then right next to (the crop production facility) is a bulk and packaged chemical warehouse for crop protection products. They also feature a mass flow meter, and the facility is big enough that the farmer can actually pull through with his sprayer on his semi on his way to the field, we can fill him up with the necessary products, and he's out the door and on the field."

McClelland said the crop production facility should be open later in the fall but that the grain facility will be open sooner.

"The grain facility will be open for business here in just a few weeks when the combines start rolling," he said. "Our target date was always to be ready for fall harvest in 2013, and we made it."

He said there will be two employees in the grain facility and two in the crop production facility, and that all of them will be cross-trained in order to meet the demands of the busy harvest season.

Boyd Lear, chairman of the co-op's board of directors, said a facility has been needed in the Plymell area for decades.

"With as much production as we have in this area — southern Finney County, northern Haskell County — it makes sense to have a facility here," Lear said.

McClelland said that despite the drought, irrigated crop land in the area not only continues to produce but also the feedlots rely more heavily on elevators than in the past.

"The majority of corn in southwest Kansas goes directly to feedlots for high-moisture corn pits. And for a variety of reasons — the way that business has evolved, economic reasons, who their customers are — their reliance on high-moisture corn pits has declined every year, and we've seen the feedlot sector step away from taking wet corn out of the field and rely more on the elevators to store it. And so production may not be increasing, but the demand for our service and for elevator storage has greatly increased over the last few years, and that's a trend we see going on in the future," he said.

Lear said employees at other facilities aided with certain aspects of the design.

"What we did, our other facility where we have chemical grain and fertilizer, it's just kind of been put together and disjointed and a lot of the things don't work, and so one of my personal charges to the staff was, 'If you could just wipe this all off and set everything back where you want it, how would you arrange it? If you could just start with a clean sheet of paper, how would you redo that facility?' And that's what we tried to do here," Lear said.

Today, the Garden City Co-op is hosting another open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at its Holcomb facility at 6915 Lowe Road. That location underwent renovations, including the addition of a new scale house, which according to a press release from the co-op, will dramatically increase the speed and convenience for farmers delivering their grain to the Garden City Co-op's busiest facility.

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