Coop changes but employee remains steadfast
Lincolnville elevator manager Perry Gutsch has seen several changes in the cooperative’s associations, but he has remained steady at the helm for 32 years. Since taking over in 1985, he has kept the business flowing smoothly from one year to the next.
Over the years, Gutsch has kept a steady hand as the elevator changed from being part of Tampa Cooperative Association to Agri Producers Coop in 1993, to Agri Trails Coop in 2016, and his career isn’t finished.
When he graduated from college in the early 80s, jobs were hard to come by.
He was thankful when the owner of the Delavan elevator gave him a chance to work there, but it closed down after a year.
He was back at the family farm near Burdick and working for his father in 1985 when Stan Utting, general manager of Tampa Cooperative Association, called and offered him a job.
After driving a spray truck, he was given the job of manager of the Lincolnville elevator.
He said he learned a lot from the coop’s assistant manager, Darel Anderson, who helped him get started.
“Don’t ask your help to do anything you wouldn’t do,” Anderson had told him.
He learned to do it all.
When he started in 1985, the coop operated differently than now. Each elevator manager had to be knowledgeable about almost all aspects of the business, including animal nutrition, feed production, fertilizer, and weed control.
Lincolnville had a feed mill and a sprayer, and Gutsch often was called out to check fields for insect damage or weed problems. Much of that work now is specialized and done by others trained in those services.
Although Gutsch is an employee, he also has three full-time employees and hires extra help during summers.
He said the hardest part of his job is collecting unpaid bills from farmers.
“I know all these people,” he said, “and it’s hard to know how to deal with it.”
He has always enjoyed wheat harvest better than fall harvest because it usually is completed in two weeks. One year he got burned out and wanted to quit. He was working 15-hour days and getting tired of it.
“I was getting up and going to Hope with paperwork at 7 a.m., then working at the elevator until 10:30 p.m.,” he said.
His wife encouraged him to keep going, and he was reminded that he grew up on a farm, where long days were common.
“It’s harder as I get older,” he said, but he has no regrets. “I can’t think of another job I would rather be doing. It’s been flexible enough for me to be involved in what my kids were doing. It’s been a good job.”
Last modified Aug. 31, 2017