Graham retires from Lapeer Grain
Operations Manager steps down from post, looks forward to leisure time
November 24, 2010IMLAY CITY — Customers, co-workers and the community bid farewell to Lapeer Grain's Ray Graham last week who retired after 30 years on the job.
Graham spent the last 18 years as operations manager at the Imlay City farm supply and grain elevator on Second Street. He also put in 12 years at the Lapeer facility.
Just about everything fell into Graham's job description. Customers say it wasn't unusual to see him answering the phones, pushing a lawn mower, weighing a load of corn, blending fertilizer or tending to anything around the office or elevator that needed attention.
Graham said he enjoyed his work immensely but is looking forward to spending time on his 14 acres in northern Oakland County where he'll do a little bit of 'farming' himself.
"I love to hunt and fish and I'll finally have time to put in a few food plots for next year's season," he said.
Along the way, Graham's accumulated a comprehensive knowledge of the industry and has been witness to some of the biggest changes in modern agriculture.
At the top of that list are today's fluctuating markets.
"Supply and demand used to drive the markets but it's not that way today,"Graham said.
"It used to be that you'd see a half cent change a day...a penny at the most. Now, it's anywhere from 0 to 70 cents a day."
In the fields, RoundupReadyTM crops changed the way just about everyone did business. It meant that producing a crop was less expensive for farmers and the elevator had fewer chemicals to stock.
Locally, he said it's been interesting to watch the landscape change in terms of crops with soybeans replacing corn as the dominant crop. Corn acres still see an occasional boost when prices are healthy but otherwise beans are "less expensive to plant and world demand for soybeans is getting bigger and bigger," he added.
Most of the corn that comes through their elevator is destined to become livestock feed. Some goes toward ethanol production. Half of the local soybean crop also ends up in feed. The remainder is exported.
Wheat follows behind beans and corn as far as crop size with much of the local harvest destined to become Wheaties and other food products.
Lapeer Grain markets about 10 million bushels of grain every year. They have facilities in Lapeer, Imlay City, Capac, Jeddo and Deckerville.
Although farmers have been tested over the years, Graham says the industry, both locally and globally, is poised to grow.
"Agriculture is becoming very, very important. It's always been important but with everyone talking about our global economy and people wanting to eat well, there will be a greater emphasis on agriculture," he said.
"U.S. farmers can feed the world."
As the auto and manufacturing industry lags in Michigan, it seems everyone is starting to recognize the strength of the state's second largest industry.
Graham, who grew up on a dairy farm in Brown City, earned an ag management degree from Michigan State University in 1965. He was drafted and served in Vietnam before returning to Michigan. Aside for working in the elevator business, Graham sold tractors and briefly, held a desk job, which he soon learned wasn't suited for him.
With the workday behind him, Graham says he's also looking forward to spending more time with his family, including four grandchildren.
Maria Brown joined the Tri-City Times staff in 2003, the same year she earned a bachelor's degree in English from Calvin College. Born and raised in Imlay City, she now resides north of Capac where she enjoys working on the farm, gardening and reading.