March 1, 2021

Every Day Is Harvest at Lakota – Location Profile, Part 1

MaxYield Cooperative - LakotaWhile harvest is always busy, nothing quite compares to MaxYield Cooperative’s Lakota location, where the team keeps things rolling year-round, no matter how hectic things get.

“We hit a new record on October 1 this year when we weighed 294 trucks hauling 302,637 bushels of corn—and we got the job done in eight hours and seven minutes,” said Sheryll Denney, grain originator. That same day, the team also weighed 25 trucks hauling products for the Green Plains Renewable Energy (GPRE) ethanol plant, which is located next to MaxYield’s Lakota office.

This milestone surpasses the previous one-day record set in 2010, when the team weighed 274 trucks in eight and a half hours. Farmers like Bill Lofstrom of Lakota value this exceptional service. “We’re in communication with MaxYield’s Lakota grain team frequently and deliver a lot of our grain there. They’ve always been very accommodating and work hard for the farmer.”

Growing from small beginnings

MaxYield has been involved with the ethanol plant at Lakota for more than a decade. At Lakota’s inception as Midwest Grain Processing (MGP), MaxYield had been already originating corn at Hobarton for six years, said Harry Bormann, MaxYield’s grain team leader. Not only did the farmer-owned MGP approach MaxYield about grain origination, but MaxYield became a significant investor in the business, which helped the plant become a reality, Bormann noted.

MaxYield - LakotaIn September of 2002, MaxYield’s Bob Burkhardt hired Denney, an experienced cooperative controller, to get the computer system running at the Lakota location. By the time the facility opened on November 8, 2002, Denney and one other employee weighed in 28 trucks from the tiny MGP office.

Lakota-area farmer Rod Smith is glad that the ethanol plant and MaxYield located in his area. “This has improved grain prices and revitalized the whole community,” said Smith, who has farmed full-time since 1979 and sold land so the ethanol plant’s rail line could be built. “I like doing business with MaxYield, because they work for the clients and treat everyone with respect.”

Keep that corn coming

The business has grown rapidly through the years, said Denney, who noted that the plant used 1.5 million bushels of corn each month in the early years but now requires 3 million bushels each month since the plant doubled in size around 2005-2006.

MaxYield takes in approximately 36 million bushels of corn each year for this 100-million-gallon plant. In comparison, MaxYield’s Hobarton location takes in 12 to 15 million bushels a year. “The MaxYield locations that would come close to the volume of grain we handle at Lakota would be Belmond and Mallard,” said Denney, who stated that the Lakota team dumps grain from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. each weekday.

Lakota is one of the few 100-million-gallons-per-year ethanol plants that sources more than 75% of its corn directly from farmers, added Bormann, who noted that this arrangement provides the plant with high-quality corn and offers area farmers better corn prices.

Anyone can deliver grain to Lakota, as long as they are a MaxYield client. “Just about every week, we have new clients here,” said Denney, who boasts that her team works with 600 clients across northern Iowa and southern Minnesota.

MaxYield Lakota team

The MaxYield – Lakota team, from left: Kathie Ostrander, Sheryll Denney, Tiffany Wycoff, Kelsie Koppen.

Grain deliveries from at least 150 trucks are required each weekday to ensure there will be enough corn to supply the plant during the week and throughout the weekend. “While we have 1.4 million bushels of grain storage, it’s not that much for a plant that operates 24/7,” Denney said. “That’s why we’re constantly in contact with clients to buy grain.”

Denney and her team, including Kathie Ostrander, Tiffany Wycoff, and Kelsie Koppen, know their clients by name and recognize many of their voices when they call in. This individualized service extends to deliveries, added Denney, who noted that the MaxYield team works with clients’ schedules to ensure that the 3 million bushels required each month are spread out into manageable amounts each week.

Sometimes Mother Nature can complicate the process. Denney keeps a close eye on the weekly weather forecast, especially in the winter, to ensure that the ethanol plant has enough corn. “In the winter of 2010, by the time we’d get a truck in and out of here, the road would blow shut with snow. While situations like this can make our work stressful, our clients always come through for us.”

To learn more about grain marketing opportunities at the GPRE plant at Lakota, click here.


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