Celebrating 100 years in business


SUBLETTE — In February of 1919 a number of farmers gathered at the town hall in Sublette to consider the advisability of organizing a Farmers Elevator. There were 50 present and it was a unanimous opinion to move forward with the idea.

In early April of that year an application to organize the company, with $30,000 capital stock, was filed with the Illinois Secretary of State.

The company purchased the JW Betendorf elevator located in Sublette later that year. The object of the purchase was to provide the opportunity for buying and selling of grains, coal, lumber, building materials, hay, straw, livestock and all other merchandise and commodities used by farmers. Today the company offers grain storage, buys and sells grain and retails fertilizer, chemicals, seed, feed, lumber and building material

When the elevator was started, the grain was shipped by rail to the Illinois River and other locations. The last box cars of grain were shipped in about 1973. At about that time Jerry Bonnell started working at the elevator as a truck driver and today 46 years later he is still driving for the elevator. He is also the longest term employee the elevator has ever had. Now the grain is hauled via trucks to river terminals, container loaders and processors at various locations.

“We strive to serve the entire community, not just the farmers,” said Steve Klein, manager.

“Today, the grain storage capacity is 3,700,000 bushels and the company will be expanding once again with the addition of a 1.3 million bushel capacity bin on Inlet Road. The industry sees fewer but bigger farmers than years ago, but for the most part, they are familiar family names from the area.

“Grain yields have increased greatly and the equipment is a lot bigger,” said Klein.

Sublette Farmer’s Elevator currently has 11 employees. The staff celebrated their 100th anniversary with current stockholders at a special dinner on March 7 at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church hall. There was a display of historic memorabilia at the dinner for all to enjoy.

The elevator operates as a cooperative, meaning that each stockholder receives a portion of the proceeds, dependent on the amount of business they have done throughout the year.

When Klein started working at the elevator, Lester Full was his manager. Full worked for the Sublette Farmer’s Elevator for 35 years and served as manager for 31 years. Klein has been manager for 35 of his 44 years of employment.

The current board of directors include: Steve Becker, Dean Dinges, John Schultz, Shawn Leffelman, Marty Montavon, John Schmidt and Lance Walter. The Officers are Marty Montavon, president; Shawn Leffelman, vice president and John Schmidt, secretary-treasurer.

Key employees include Steve Klein, manager; Reed Akre, incoming manager; Jason Streit, assistant manager, Nancy Mathieu, bookkeeper, Sarah Kaecker, bookkeeper, and assistants Jerry Bonnell, Mike Burkardt, Dennis Antoine, Marty Bonnell, Nick Kaecker and James Bonnell.