Pilot Grove Coop Elevator Inc.: An Anchor of Missouri’s Agricultural Community

Pilot Grove Coop Elevator Inc. (PGC) was officially founded in 1974, just one year after the centennial celebration of Pilot Grove, Mo. Local legend attributes the town’s name to a small cluster of trees that early settlers used as a common marker in a landscape dominated by prairie grasses. These days Pilot Grove is known for being a close-knit community and an important agricultural anchor between Kansas City and Columbia, Mo., in part because of PGC.

The cooperative (co-op) bills itself as “the best serving the best” and Earl Haller, general manager and 22-year veteran of PGC, describes the co-op as “just a typical grain elevator.” PGC, however, is much more than just a grain elevator. The co-op takes pride continuing the town’s role as an important agricultural community and supports its loyal client base with a blend of old-fashioned customer service and the best products available on the market.

“We try to keep our customers satisfied and give them the service we know they deserve,” emphasizes Haller. During harvest season PGC employs a staff of 16 full-time employees and seven additional part-time and seasonal professionals, all of who have extensive personal and professional experience in the local agricultural market.

Going Virtual

The co-op’s customers are peppered across Central Missouri and PGC aims to make every transaction a personalized experience. The co-op serves as a grain originator, which Haller estimates accounts for 70- percent of the co-ops total annual sales, but PGC takes the service a step further by hosting an online grain offer center through its website, where it additionally posts the latest grain prices.

The service is powered by industry leader DTN Marketspace and has helped the co-op’s customers take advantage of wildly fluctuating prices with a platform that consolidates and tracks the entire cash bid process securely. The grain portal is available to users 24 hours a day so producers don’t have to wait until the markets are open to do business, and since the tool can be accessed from any Internet-ready device, producers can make a sale from anywhere with an Internet connection.

Once an offer is accepted local grain producers look to PGC to take over storage and transportation services and the company can then shift gears and set the producer up with a variety of agricultural supplies to get a head start on the next year, including a great supply of seeds, bulk and bag feeds, and much more. “We’ve got everything a grain farmer could need except for fuel,” says Haller.

But PGC also has to have an eye out for the future needs of its clients and the co-op is always in some stage of expanding and diversifying. The co-op expanded its grain storage and handling equipment in 2006 adding an additional 140,000-bushel grain bin outfitted with a bucket elevator, as well as a 4-ton capacity mixer, two feed storage bins and one 2,000 bushel-per-hour load-out spout. This year PGC is upping the capacity again, building an 80-foot by 100-foot feed warehouse, as well as an additional 400,000-bushel grain bin, which Haller estimates will push PGC’s total grain storage capacity over the 2 million bushel mark.

Ahead of the Trend

PGC will also be introducing a handful of new products, like Roundup Ready alfalfa sprouts, Garst sunflower seed and red clover seed, which PGC brought on as a cost-effective alternative to the cover crop staple lespedeza that has seen a sharp price increase recently.

“We’re also going to be working on wetting our feet in GPS grid sampling this year,” expands Haller. GPS-aided grid soil sampling services have become popular in recent years by enabling farmers to ascertain the precise soil conditions across producing acreage in 2-acre increments. The soil testing service will also help boost PGC’s agronomy consulting services and ensure that co-op clients buy only what is needed to maximize acreage yields. Newer equipment is also now available that makes soil sampling possible during cold winter months, which could also help PGC stay busy during long Missouri winters.

But PGC is more than just the local source for technical agronomy advice. The co-op lives up to its namesake’s reputation as an anchor of the community by hosting and sponsoring many Pilot Grove events, including a fish fry celebration to celebrate Pine Grove School’s homecoming basketball game, a feeding and grooming clinic at the Boone County Fair Grounds, and a seminar on cover crops.

PGC is continually looking to invest in additional grain storage capacity and technologies that help the local farmers get a leg-up on the competition. Pilot Grove Coop Elevator Inc. has built itself on strong customer service, and it is poised to find further growth in the coming years as an anchor of the agricultural community.