Grain elevator operations have been an integral part of Hope since its inception (or very nearly so, anyway). The first elevator was established in Hope in 1910 by the Speltz Grain and Coal Co. of Albert Lea. A.C. Anderson ran the original elevator operation (as well as the railroad depot). He was one of the first people (if not the first person) to move to the newly established village of Hope. In addition to the elevator business, Speltz also dealt in coal and (eventually) lumber.
As evidenced by this 1938 aerial photo, things have changed significantly over the years -
Circa 1983, the elevator was purchased by the MWCG Export Company (Minnesota Waxy Corn Growers) and the name was changed to "SunRich" (reflecting the company's change in focus - from corn to soy beans). Since that time, the company has been growing steadily.
SunRich specializes in certified organic (identity-preserved, non-genetically modified) grains, paying growers premium prices for said "speciality" grains. There are three grain dumps at the facility, with two for specialty, contracted grains and a third for co-mingled grains. All grain is gene tested before dumping. Exports are worldwide. SunRich also sells "pure seed" to its growers. Contracts with growers are set up with price surety (prices are set before the crops are even planted). SunRich markets primarily corn and soy beans, although they also deal (to a lesser degree) in grain, oats and sunflowers. Besides selling food ingredients to other processors, the company also has its own private label.
SunRich is currently riding a wave of demand for soy products (with a big chunk of that from Japan). Influenced by the Japanese, SunRich spent years developing their "soy milk" product. Initial attempts were "dreadful", but over time the product improved (and public awareness of the product increased). Now, SunRich supplies nearly half of the nation's soy milk. SunRich also sells bags of frozen soy beans under their own brand.
SunRich has a number of facilities scattered around the state (and around the whole country, actually), and as of 2002 employeed 350 people. SunRich was acquired by "SunOpta" in 1999, but all that corporate wheeling and dealing doesn't much interest me, so I think I'll just leave it at that.
The Hope elevator operation is just that and no more (IE, no actual food processing). Bulk grains are delivered by either hopper trailer (IE, truck) or railcar. Processing the inbound grain involves cleaning and sorting the kernals, sifting out foreign material and removing broken kernals and whatnot. Processed grains are then shipped out either in bags or bulk. Outbound shipping is by hopper trailer, dry van trailer (for bagged product), hopper railcar, or intermodal container (the latter by truck only - there is no intermodal rail traffic at this facility).
The admin building / weigh station pictured above was constructed in 1989.
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