Days after fire razed a Crystal City grain elevator to the ground, Kyle Holman had an extra 400 bushels of wheat to move, and no local terminal.
“Maybe I wasn’t the best customer as far as using them consistently, but there were definitely situations where it’s going to be hard to replace the convenience of having an elevator 15 miles down the road,” he said.
The wooden grain elevator, owned by Paterson Grain, burned Aug. 20, with flames eventually spreading to a local hardware store. A second Paterson elevator escaped unharmed.
The fire has eliminated the closest local grain hauling option for producers in the area, many of whom are now in the full swing of harvest and have little time for a long haul.
Locals expect smaller producers to feel the brunt of the loss.
“There’s no rail service there anymore, so everything is trucked in and trucked out,” Holman said. “There is a certain clientele that elevator really catered to.”
“I think it’s going to hurt the smaller guys a little bit more than the bigger farms,” another local farmer, Landon Friesen, said. “Some of the smaller guys maybe don’t have the equipment to move long distances. Now they’re going to start paying freight and it just takes out of the bottom line for them.”
Friesen, who farms east of Crystal City, says he did not typically use the local elevator, although other producers in his area did.
Local farmers must now look to facilities in Killarney, 70 km to the west, or Morden and Winkler, 70-80 km to the east.
Somerset may be other another to the north, Friesen added, although it is also 50 km away.
Paterson Grain has not announced any plans to replace the lost elevator.
“We’ve been in the Crystal City community for decades and decades and we’re committed to continuing to serve our loyal customer base in the area,” said Murray Froese, Paterson Grain’s director of corporate affairs.
“We have another facility in Crystal City. We have not yet finished the cleanup from the fire… so I can’t confirm particular building plans.”
Froese said the company is currently focused on cleanup, as well as on the single employee injured in the fire, later identified by media as 31-year-old Brodie Richardson.
The company said it is making alternative arrangements for customers in the area.
Holman said he has received an email from the company calling for farmers with outstanding contracts or who are owed money to contact Paterson Grain.
The company has not confirmed how much grain was lost in the blaze, saying only that it was a “significant loss.”
“I can’t comment on the volume it was seeing,” Froese said of the elevator prior to the fire. “I can tell you that, obviously, we’re in harvest and it was very busy.”
Remaining undamaged grain will be shipped to other Paterson locations, he added.
“It’s definitely a direct impact on our small town,” Friesen said. “There’s still lots of 50-, 60-, 70-year-old farmers in the area who use it lots, yet there’s lot of bigger, younger farms that use it as well.”