Two Agri Trails location managers will be retiring this month after a combined 72 years of service.
Curtis Frick has managed the Durham elevator since 1990. He was a farmer, but he felt he didn’t have enough land to make a living at it. After taking on a few odd jobs, he went to work for the coop.
“I had good employees who showed me the ropes,” he said.
Frick doesn’t see himself as above the other employees.
“I’m just a fellow worker,” he said.
He does a little bit of everything — writing checks, managing feed trucks, unloading grain trucks, and even cleaning grain pits.
Durham now has two dump pits, and weighing is computerized.
Frick recalled when vehicle lines were long at harvest time. Customers came in pickups, wagons, and one- or two-ton trucks. He often distributed soda pop to drivers waiting in line in the heat of summer.
“Now, there are fewer farmers, and bigger farmers,” he said, “and they have semi-trucks and trailers.”
Frick also remembers when trains would leave 10 or so cars on a side track to fill with grain.
“Tampa would have 10 or 15 carloads, and Herington would have some, and they could all be put together in one train,” he said. “Trains don’t do that anymore, but they go sailing through here every 15 minutes, it seems.”
Trucks now haul grain out as it accumulates. Frick said he couldn’t remember when the elevator had to turn someone away for lack of space.
Cell phones have been a good change, he said. Employees and customers can easily communicate.
“Working with farmers and workers was enjoyable,” Frick said. “We were all working toward one goal: getting the harvest in before the rain.”
Frick’s last day will be Saturday. His wife, Clara, will retire from her job at Tabor College at the end of this month.
“We’ll have to get used to each other again,” Frick said, smiling.
They have four children and 10 grandchildren within an hour’s drive and will be spending more time with them.
Frick plans to do more fishing and hunting. He also plans to work at keeping up the family farm he lives on. It was started by his grandfather. His land is leased to his brothers-in-law, so he suspects he may be helping them from time to time.
“I will have to get used to a different routine,” he said.
Dale Klenda of rural Lincolnville will take Frick’s place. Klenda was elevator superintendent at Lincolnville.
When Roger Will joined Tampa Cooperative Association in 1984, it had three locations — Tampa, Durham, and Lincolnville. Will became manager at Durham.
Later, operations in Herington, Carlton, and Gypsum merged with the coop and it became Agri Producers.
When Darrel Anderson left as assistant general manager at Tampa, Will took his place.
In 2016, general manager Stan Utting retired, and the coop merged with several other coops to form Agri Trails. That’s when Will became manager at Tampa, one of 13 elevator locations.
His last day will be May 20.
Looking back over 38 years, Will said technology advancement brought the biggest changes. In the mid- to late 1980s, computers were used to keep track of grain, but daily transactions were still done by hand.
Since then, computerization has grown to impact every part of the business, to processing grain and reporting prices.
Will is feed department manager for the coop. He makes sure four full-time feed mills have the grain they need. He determines pricing and connects with customers.
“Harvest has changed a lot,” he said. “We have a lot more volume with improved seeds.”
Tampa added two big silos, two bunkers, and a big unloading leg to move grain efficiently. Another scale was added a few years ago to provide one for inbound trucks and another one for outbound trucks.
He said having two scales has speeded up the process considerably.
“The best part of my job is the customers,” he said. ‘You get to develop relationships that can continue for 40 years.”
He and his wife, Jody, who is retiring at the same time, have two married children who live at Herington. The Wills are busy going to their eight grandchildren’s activities.
Will plans to spend time working on his 80-acre homestead to prepare it for sale. The couple plan to build a house on land they own in rural Herington. They also have purchased a recreational vehicle and hope to travel.
Nathan Barney of rural Tampa will take over when Will leaves. He has been with the coop since 2008.
Last modified May 5, 2022