Juxtaposed against the grain elevator built in 1968 are three new large bins at Burress.
|Kent Manning shows his son Mitchell how to run the locomotive.|
The fourth generation of the Manning family is now growing up in the shade of the family grain elevator.
Located in Burress, Neb, Manning Grain is a rarity in a world of grain elevators, they are family owned and operated and have been for nearly 90 years. Population peaked in Burress in the 1890’s at 75. Today the only occupants in Burress share the same last name, Manning and employer, Manning Grain.
Current manager, Kent Manning, grew up in Burress which is located halfway between Fairmont and Exeter just four miles south of Highway 6 in Fillmore County. Many in the older generation know Burress as an attraction for some of the biggest of the big bands between the 1930’s and 1950’s. The dance hall in Burress hosted the likes of Lawrence Welk and other big names.
These days the former dance hall stores feed and the original train depot that was moved now serves as the office for the elevator along with a line of boots and snacks.
The Manning family has deep roots in grain. Kent’s father, Tom Manning moved to Burress as a child in 1934 after his father Earl purchased the A. Koehler C. Grain Elevator and combined his elevator at Sawyer (located one mile north and one mile west of Burress). Earl's father, Seron, was the first Exeter co-op manager and his father Isaac, was a grain dealer.
Even though the population in Burress has declined, business has boomed. Progress has also been evident. Kent said about his grandfather Earl, “He was progressive in his day. . .change is always hard but you have to. There is such a difference in harvest and equipment in today’s farms with semi’s hauling in the grain. We can’t serve the customer if we can’t dump their grain.”
Expansion has been the name of the game in Burress. The original old elevator was burned in 2007 after having stood for more than 125 years. The older elevator visible in the Burress skyline was built in 1968 with the large capacity storage bins added in 2007, 2009 and 2010. Before adding the three large bins the grain elevator had a capacity of about a million bushels. Now, they can store 4.1 million bushels before storing any on the ground.
With the new storage completed and the smaller harvest this last fall Manning grain had the capacity to store all of the grain their customers hauled in.
Hauling the grain out takes a fleet of five independent truckers to navigate the gravel county roads when the rail line was closed in 1998. Kent looks to change this in the future with the elevator’s recent purchase of the rail line and rights from Fairmont to Burress. The seven miles of track is slated for empty car storage right now. They have leased a locomotive, “We are trying to get some revenue to get the track in better shape. Someday we want to ship grain out by rail but it’s not in the immediate plan.”
Kent hopes to create more revenue with a contract to haul loaded cars in and use Manning equipment to unload the rail cars to trucks. Kent is trying to “think in long term growth for our business. To compete in the future we have to have these capability to unload and bigger bins - never know what opportunities will be there with the railroad.”
One of the most modern changes that has affected the grain industry has been the direct relationships ethanol plants have created with farmers. Kent has “seen it affect the business some. But with more acres planted and higher yields we haven’t see a lot of impact yet.“
With grain prices climbing closer to $7.00 a bushel that has had an impact on the elevator business. “It takes a lot more financing to buy the grain. The co-ops have all merged up and are a huge company with a lot more resources.”
And while Manning Grain isn’t a mega conglomerate they have some great resources in their employees including Kent‘s wife Cindy, brother Chris Manning, Kathy Kreinert and Gary Vodicka.
In the meantime Kent and his wife Cindy, who also works in the elevator are watching their kids grow up. Tyler, their oldest, is headed for college. “The kids work here every summer. I think they need to go out and experience the world for a few years before coming back to something like this like I did.”