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RISING — It’s been slower than usual at the Premier Cooperative grain elevator in Rising, just west of Champaign.

Farmers were late to start planting, so harvest is coming in late.

“We’re pretty far behind,” said Nancy Turner, the elevator’s manager. “We’re at least two to three weeks behind.”

As of last week, about 25 percent of Illinois corn and soybeans had been harvested, less than half as far along as a year ago at this point.

“This year is an entirely different year than we’ve ever had,” Turner said. “We’ve got a couple farmers that are done, and some of them haven’t even hardly started. So it’s just an odd, odd year. I don’t think I’ve seen a year quite this crazy.”

But the Rising elevator has slowed down in another way; with fewer small family farms, it’s no longer the place to hang out.

“It used to be on a rainy day, this place used to be full of farmers,” said Delmer Castor, who worked at the elevator for more than 50 years until he retired last year. “Today, if you had all the farmers who live within 4 or 5 miles show up here, you wouldn’t fill that table up.”

With more large landowners, he said when “you go down the road, a lot of these guys farm and you don’t even know who they are.”

While the smaller landowners may haul the grain themselves, a large landowner likely won’t.

“There’s less and less farmers,” Turner said. “And the big farmers ... they don’t bring the grain to us, usually. So we’re getting less and less, which is sad.”

Castor said his crop is doing “a lot better than we thought it was going to.”

“It looks like the corn crop is going to be better than the bean crop was,” Castor said. “Corn is all over the place. North of Mahomet where I farm, the soil has some dry spots and you can see on the yield monitor on the combine it goes from 200 bushels an acre to 100 in the same pass through the field. Yields are better than I thought they was going to be.”

“We got all the beans done except for one little field that ain’t quite ready, and maybe by the end of the day, we’ll be half done with corn,” Castor said.

During harvest, Turner runs the elevator with three other people: two outside and a seasonal helper inside.

Farmers bring their grain to the elevator and park on top of a large scale, which weighs the truck.

Turner guides a probe into the grain, which sucks a small sample into the office to be tested.

“I test it for moisture and then pounds per bushel,” said Chase Carlson, a recent Iowa State grad who helps Turner in the elevator office.

He feeds the grain into a machine that checks the moisture level, and Turner checks the non-GMO crops to make sure they in fact aren’t genetically modified.

After the truck is weighed, the farmer drives to the grain bins and dumps the corn or soybeans and into a pit.

“It takes the grain up to the top, and it goes to whichever bin we have it set for,” said Stan Hardwick, who works outside at the Rising elevator.

Once the truck is empty, the farmer circles around and weighs the truck again to calculate the net weight of the grain dropped off.

From there, Premier ships the corn and beans to ADM in Decatur, Cargill in Bloomington and Gibson City, and the One Earth Energy ethanol plant in Gibson City, Turner said.

And the farmer continues harvesting, until they return to drop off more grain.

“They come every 15, 20 minutes,” said Turner, who knows which farm the grain came from by the truck that pulls up.

“They don’t usually sneak up a different one on me. After this many years, it’s the same people over and over.”

While the Rising elevator isn’t the social hub it used to be, Turner said she still feels connected to the farmers.

“This is my 36th year, so I know them all quite well, and they know me quite well,” Turner said. “I enjoy my customers. I really do.”