Recent History – 1999
Aug. 5, 1999
By Kelly Henschel, Daily News Staff
As the wheat pours from the back of Steve Feschuk’s truck, it is a bittersweet moment.
The Bonanza farmer watches as the golden flow is swallowed up by the grating in the floor, as elevator manager Deanna Boyle snaps a picture. It is the last time such an act will be performed at the Cargill AgHorizons grain elevator in Dawson Creek. As of Wednesday afternoon, the long-time landmark on the Alaska Highway will be empty, set for demolition later this month.
“I’d like to be around to see that, because I was there when it was built, so I’d like to be around when it comes down”, says Harry Schmidt, who managed the elevator for 22 years until his departure in 1992. Built by National Grain in 1963, the elevator was part of a complex including the feed mill and store that is now Peavey Mart, and was considered to be one of the hubs of Peace country grain operations, Schmidt says.
In 1974 Cargill bought out National Grain. The feed mill burnt down shortly thereafter, but millions of tonnes of grain were still to go through the facility in the following years.
“In the early years when they had the feed mill, … we probably had about 50 per cent of the business,” Schmidt says.
Farmers came to the elevator from all over the B.C. and Alberta Peace, and the main bulk of the grain was shipped down to the Fraser Valley area.
“It was one of the top locations for the company at that time,” he says, considering there were eight or 10 elevators in town at the time. “We had the volume of business, it was a major part of the market then. It’s too bad that changed and it’s getting closed.”
Thirty-six years later, the elevator is being shut down, in part because of safety concerns and in part because of new techniques being used to move grain, says Mike Burton, Cargill’s regional supervisor for the Peace area.
“There’s changing markets in western Canadian agriculture,” he says. “Dawson Creek is still going to be a big part of the business for Cargill, we’re just not going to have a physical structure there.”
Cargill will instead be moving to more off-farm interaction with the producers, and a representative will work with producers to set up individual programs.
“We’re trying to get more personal with our customers,” Burton says.
Grain, meanwhile, will be shipped to Cargill facilities in Fort St. John or Rycroft, Alberta or will be sold directly to purchasers such as feedlots or livestock yards, wherever they can get the best price, Burton says.
Boyle will continue to operate the Cargill office in Dawson Creek as the marketing representative, and looks forward to the opportunity of getting out to the farms and meeting with the producers.
“I guess the one thing I want to stress is that Cargill isn’t moving from Dawson, if anything I want to make it stronger and have more time to spend with the producers,” she says.
Still, she says, it’s kind of sad to see the old elevator go.
“It’s part of our history,” she says. “You spend a lot of hours here, you get where you feel like a lot of the farmers are like relatives.”
Boyle will be in the office (782-5833) until Aug. 13 and is available to answer any questions and concerns.