Gifford grain elevator to be rebuilt
Premier Cooperative will reopen its grain elevator in Gifford.
Addressing the Rantoul Rotary Club and the annual Farmers Day Meeting earlier this month, Premier Co-op Regional Manager Dave Kieffer said the cooperative there has been closed since the Nov. 17 tornado.
Kieffer said the company plans to put nearly $800,000 into the plant not only to replace existing structural equipment but also to improve its loading and unloading capabilities for local grain farmers.
As the largest farm co-op in the state, Premier had looked at closing the plant in the heart of Gifford's business district for safety reasons, but Kieffer said talks with Mayor Derald Ackerman and other community leaders convinced company officials that reinvesting was well worth it.
"Farmers own us, so the customer is the boss. We try to be a good neighbor," Kieffer said of the company founded in 2009 when three area co-ops merged in 25 locations, creating a better market for the 50 million bushels of grain handled annually.
He said seeing the devastation the tornado caused "touched their lives," talking about the Gifford community, noting it was amazing to see all the help the community received from throughout the area.
Kieffer said local farmers were right in the mix, helping each other and putting aside petty grievances.
He said the decision to rebuild was easy.
"It wouldn't be right if we didn't keep it going," he said. "The mayor and other people asked to keep it going. They wanted to keep the business in Gifford."
Kieffer said damage to the plant was major — destroying the roofs and grain-conveying systems atop the towers and putting a hole in a bin that contained 300,000 bushels of soybeans. He said that grain had to be moved to another facility.
He said the plant is basically shut down right now, but once the weather breaks, reconstruction will begin as a lot of the work for grain-moving devices will have to be done right on the spot. He said farmers will be pleased because faster equipment is being installed to handle grain processing.
"We love our heritage," Kieffer said of Premier's history. "We love what we do."
The farmer meeting is set up every year by Rotarian Justin Kneeland.
Dr. Dave Kruger was also honored by the club for his contributions to the Paul Harris Foundation.