The top of the Pelican Rapids Farmers Elevator feed mill toppled to the ground Jan. 28. Contractor Hough Incorporated, Detroit Lakes, performed the demolition—and debris clean-up of the nearly 100 foot tall structure is expected to continue through this week.

Farmers Elevator demolition attracted crowd

They don’t build ‘em like they used to; back in 1959. 

The demolition of the Pelican Rapids Farmers Elevator was a sight to behold for the dozens of spectators who watched the process last week. 

The top half of the elevator came down before noon Jan. 28. Rising from the destruction—clouds of dust that covered the equivalent of a city block. 

Height of the structure was about 100 feet—give or take a foot or a meter or two, said elevator manager Peter Scott. 

Construction of the elevator six decades ago was a big day for members of the co-op, which was established in 1905. 

A couple dozen vehicles lined the perimeter, at various locations, to watch local history come tumbling down. 

The 1950s were boom years for agriculture. “Those years after World War II were when a lot of these elevators were built,” said co-op member Rick Evenson, who was among the many spectators over the course of the operation. 

Oldtimers and current and past employees were also in the crowd—including Steve Rotz, Brian Nelson, Kevin Bakken and Jeff Ellingson. Jeff’s father, Rodney, remembers unloading wood and materials for the construction of the feed mill.

A newspaper delivery boy in his youth, Chet Nettestad remembers the building going up while he was on deliveries about town. He also remembers when the train still ran to Pelican. The feed mill was located where the railroad turnaround was. The train depot was to the south. 

There are about 200 active members in the co-op today. 

The closing of the bulk feed mill in February of 2020 was a sign of the times. Mainly, the decline in livestock—most notably, fewer dairy operations. 

The closing of the bulk feed plant ended, including grinding, mixing and delivery, said Scott. The elevator continues with feed, but in prepackaged product. 

Despite the discontinuation of the feed operation, the 2020-21 fiscal year is looking good for the elevator. 

“We’re having a positive year, things are looking good,” said Scott. 

To illustrate this, Scott noted that cash prices a year ago for corn was $3.19; while this year, it was $4.87 as of Jan. 28. Soybeans were at $7.88 last year; now $12.88. Wheat rose a dollar, to $5.88 a bushel. 

As for the old feed mill, its demise was quite a spectacle. 

A big John Deere tugged away at the southeast corner Thursday morning—breaking the four main support beams, said Rick Nelson, Hough Incorporated, Detroit Lakes. 

“We thought it would fall down on its own after we busted the support beams,” said Nelson. Hough is the contractor for the demolition and clean-up. 

Hough crews then moved to the north side of the elevator. We gave it a slight push, and it came down,” said Nelson. 

Actually, the Pelican elevator “went down easier than most,” said Nelson. He recalled the Gonvick elevator, up north, which had tree timbers in its original structure—plus four or five additions. That job was a challenge. And the Herman, Minnesota, elevator about five years ago came down a little harder, too. 

All the metal and iron from the Pelican elevator will be recycled. The concrete will be broken up for roadwork. The wood will be hauled way, with some of it repurposed. 

“The grain and farm business has changed a lot…A lot of these old elevators are just obsolete, said Nelson. 

As for the vacant space remaining, “it will be nice to have an open area for parking semis and trailers,” said Scott, which should help reduce the bottleneck next fall during harvest time.