All Aboard the Grain Train

Ceres Midland takes us on a tour of their operation and lets us drive a train!

C

eres Midland is about progress. You can see the evolution of the business as you drive along Swayzee Road in Sims, Indiana, as the grain bins tower over the landscape, sentinels of the past. Dave Bettegnies started the business in 1973. History is proudly displayed in the office, in photo frames, and in the stories told by the family. Over the years, he's grown the operation, adding 2 more locations and investing in new bins, updated technology for weighing and moving the corn and grain, and purchasing a locomotive a few years back to help move the cars onto the track for pick up.

When it’s time to move the corn, a bulk weigher determines how much goes into each train car at a time. A scale measures out approximately 12,000 lb. per drop. Of course, trucks also come in and out of the elevator both dropping off and picking up loads. For someone who isn’t all that experienced in how this all works, the mechanics are complex and precise.

All grain that comes into Ceres Midland is locally purchased from grain farms in the area. Ceres Midland, being an agricultural business, sees its busiest season during the harvest, when the staff puts in well over a 80 hour work week. Kenneth Bettegnies, Dave’s son, is up every few hours, testing the moisture in the corn and beans being stored. One of the many stops on a corn kernels journey to the storage bin is a corn dryer. If the corn is holding over 15% in moisture, storage becomes impossible. Properly dried and stored corn, on the other hand, is good for a year and half in storage. In the same way, grain that is dried and kept cool by the fans in the bin will keep for a couple of years. Even in the heat of summer, the corn being shipped out leaves the storage bin at 30 to 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

When the team from First Farmers visited Ceres Midland, we were lucky enough to arrive at the same time as a truck, coming to pick up some corn. There’s a large scale outside of the office on the driveway. The truck is weighed upon arrival, and then again when it leaves. Over lunch, Dave shared the history of the company. It’s a family business, spanning three generations: Dave and his wife, Kim, Dave's son Kenny, and Kenny’s son, Sam. They know the ins and outs of their operation, and after years of work, the mechanics of the business have become almost instinctual.

After lunch, we joined Kenny on a short trip on the locomotive. Despite his better judgment, he did let the team take a turn in the driver’s seat. Nothing makes you feel like a little kid again quite like moving a train up and down the track. The kids in the community do sometimes stop by to take a look at the locomotive, and the youngest members of the Bettegnies clan are no stranger to the blue engine.

Michael Belcher has been working with the family since 2008 as a commercial lender at FFBT, and he’s known them much longer than that. It’s been his privilege to see the business continue to grow and thrive. After the train ride, we all headed over to the South Point elevator, which is the Ceres Midland operation located in Point Isabel, a short 10 minute drive from the main operation. Since the Bettegnies purchased this elevator in 1991, they have added 4 storage bins and more than quadrupled the storage capacity. Kenny showed us how the corn travels from drop off into the final storage bin, a trip that takes approximately 3 minutes. Advances in technology have helped make all of this possible, but the most important piece of this operation is still the dedication of the people who work here. Working so closely with the land and being so tied to the seasons leaves an imprint on a person’s character. It’s a mix of the pride that comes from working with your hands, building and nourishing your community and the humility that comes from recognizing what a blessing it is to be able to do so. This was evident at Ceres Midland, and we’re honored to call these people customers and friends.

It was a hot day to tour a grain elevator, but it was well worth the trip. Thank you to the whole crew at Ceres Midland for letting us come see a small part of your operation.

Written By: Jessica Rolph

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