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St. James Plaindealer - St. James, MN
  • A Vanishing Way of Life

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  • Darfur--The Farmers Elevator Company of Darfur will close at the end of August after 104 years of operation.
    The elevator served most of the farmers in the western part of Adrian township and Watonwan county, said Susan Anderson. There was an auction August 18.
    The present employees are Tim Sonnabend and Bruce Englin, she said. Lee Bowman, son of Fred Bowman (also a manager), was also the manager for many years.
    Both Englin and Sonnabend were sad about the elevator’s closing, but resigned to their fate. Neither knew what jobs they might take after it closes at the end of this month.
    The elevator has slowly become obsolete as farmers have gained the ability to move their goods to the selling point. In the days of wagon travel, the elevator was of great convenience, but not so much in an age of semis.
    “There’s insufficient grain coming in, so we can’t keep our prices competitive,” said Englin, a 27-year employee.
    In 1989, the local railway was removed, which robbed the rail option from the elevator, said Sonnabend, who has worked there for 33 years--joining up right after finishing high school. “We’re in-between, we’re middlemen.”
    “They’ve diversified, and we rely primarily on grains,” he added. “Also, many farmers have put more storage on their own farms, rather than (storing with us).”
    Englin said the closing of the elevator will definitely impact the community.
    “I remember Darfur having two cafes and two grocery stores, (but) it all just slowly dies,” he said. “One business helps the other, and it gets people to town.”
    For the rest of this story, please see the August 21 print edition of the St. James Plaindealer. 

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