PRESTON, Idaho — Franklin County grain farmers say the opening of a new mill in their area has broadened product offerings, improved feed quality and reduced waiting times for delivering and receiving grain.
Valley Wide Cooperative acquired the Preston grain mill through a merger with Franklin County Grain Growers in January 2012. The mill, which was built in the mid-1930s, was destroyed by a fire of an undetermined cause the following March.
Until the new mill opened early this May, Valley Wide hauled grain 22 miles to Intermountain Farmers in Trenton, Utah, for flaking and processing. The cooperative devised a makeshift system to continue bagging feed in Preston and mixed feed directly in trucks.
“It was very inefficient,” said Shaun Parkinson, Valley Wide feed division manager.
The new facility cost $3 million to build. It includes a new flat storage facility, where up to 1,200 tons of grain can be stored on site. It has separate flaker mills for corn and barley, compared with a single mill at the old facility. Parkinson said it also has a mixing system that can handle 30 tons of grain per hour and an efficient bagging system. Valley Wide produces bagged feed for wholesale accounts and its retail locations throughout Southern Idaho.
Parkinson said more than 300 famers sell grain to the mill and should notice quicker unloading times during harvest.
“Our trucks will pull in, load and go. Before, they could be waiting upwards of an hour,” Parkinson said.
Another 200-300 customers buy feed from the mill and should benefit from “new and better options for their dairy mixes, new products, better mixing and liquid application they didn’t have before.”
While the old mill had the ability to apply liquid molasses to feed, the new facility can also mix in liquid animal fat.
Preston farmer Robert Swainston, a Valley Wide board member, hauled out one of the first loads produced at the new facility. Swainston has a small dairy and beef herd.
“When it used to take us 45 minutes to an hour to load a semi, you can pull a semi in there now, and in 10 minutes you’re back out the door,” Swainston said.
He said the new mill also loads grain by dumping it in from above, which is much gentler than the conveyor system used to load from the old mill. Handling grain hurts quality, Swainston explained. He said the new mill also retains the best attribute of the old mill.
“The one thing our old mill did really well was roll barley. Nobody rolled barley like we did, and now we got this new mill doing the same thing,” Swainston said.
Mike Geddes a local organic dairy owner, said about a dozen regional organic dairies who now use a dilapidated mill in Downey have asked Valley Wide to process their feed. Valley Wide would have to undergo additional sanitation requirements to handle organic feed.
“We’ve got other priorities now,” Parkinson said. “It is something we’re going to seriously look at to see if it’s a possibility.”