By Julia Debes
For audio file and photos, visit www.kansaswheat.org.
Standing tall above the plains, prairie skyscrapers dot the Kansas landscape. But, these local grain elevators are more than an easy location identifier. Farmers have hauled freshly cut wheat to these businesses to sell, store and ship their grain. And farmers in central Kansas had one more choice for where to conduct their business with a brand-new Bartlett Grain shuttle-loading facility opening in Great Bend.
Grain elevators come in all sizes but fit into a few general categories. The most common in Kansas is called a country or primary elevator. These smaller elevators generally receive grain from farmers at harvest, but do not move it directly to mills or buyers. Instead, grain will move from this type of facility by truck or train to a larger elevator where it will be consolidated with grain from other elevators and farmers.
The new Bartlett Grain facility in Great Bend is an elevator on that larger scale. This shuttle-loading facility can receive grain either directly from farmers or buy grain from other elevators. In turn, this elevator can load grain onto to a 110-car shuttle, a train that hauls grain as a single unit from origin to destination.
According to Andrew Fullerton, a Bartlett grain buyer, this means grain can be delivered at harvest to Great Bend, inspected by the Kansas Grain Inspection Service, sealed and sent to destinations as far away as Mexico without being cars being unloaded or combined with other sources.
This one-stop-shop service requires more storage than a typical country elevator. The Bartlett facility has five 500,000 bushel bins in addition to two 50,000 bushel bins. Each of the facility’s 1,000 bushel capacity dump pits can move 18,000 bushels of grain an hour.
Fullerton said that he hopes to fill a couple of shuttle trains each month. To do, the facility has a load out capacity of 60,000 bushels per hour, filling a rail car in four minutes and taking eight to ten hours to load an entire train.
In order to maximize this potential, Fullerton explained that a shuttle-loading facility must be ideally located to both receive and ship grain. He said the Great Bend facility has easy road access to US-56, heavy axle rail access as well as consistent bushels produced, satisfactory employee pool and solid potential customer base. The Great Bend facility joins nine other Bartlett elevators in Kansas, including shuttle-loaders in Wichita and Kansas City.
Fullerton said that while they will deliver wheat to the best destination, this facility is designed for exporting high quality Kansas hard red winter (HRW) wheat.
“Wheat is our plan – wheat for export,” he said. “Customers consistently recognize the quality of Kansas HRW and that is why we have facilities here in Kansas.”
For farmers, the new Bartlett facility provides another choice for where to deliver their grain – at harvest or later from on-farm storage. For international customers, this facility provides another option for originating high quality HRW directly from the center of Kansas.
“People do business with people,” Fullerton said. “We are on the same team. We are here to promote Kansas wheat and add value to this market.”
That makes this prairie skyscraper a win-win for the entire industry.