MIAMI COUNTY — Area grain elevators are in full swing, keeping Troy Elevator operations manager Jim Routzahn busy this harvest season.
It’s Routzahn’s 45th harvest at the grain elevator located on County-Road 25-A and Eldean outside of Troy. Troy Elevator is a division of Mennel Milling Company, based in Fostoria.
Routzahn began his career at the elevator on July 21, 1972, and has been on site for harvest season ever since.
“The most fun time of the year is harvest,” Routzahn said. “You get to see more people that you might not see other times. There’s people who don’t have bins who haul out to the elevator at harvest. You meet friends, you make friends, you get to see friends you don’t see other times.”
The Sabina native worked at various elevators around Ohio for four years before being hired at Troy when the elevator was owned by Early & Daniel.
Routzahn, who grew up on a 100-acre farm, began his career in the grain industry, first working at a local elevator near his hometown during his senior in high school.
Routzahn worked at various other co-ops, delivering feed and other tasks, as he finished his schooling at Clark State. One weekend after traveling to Terre Haute, Indiana, for a hog show, a friend working in Troy called him up seeking help at the Troy elevator.
“I had a friend that was working here that called up and said, ‘You wanna job?’ Well, yeah, I needed to do something. I talked to the manager and superintendent. I showed up the next morning and I’ve been here ever since,” he said. “I enjoy the work. I enjoy agriculture. My original plan was I wanted to farm, but my dad didn’t have the backing or the acreage to get into farming. I wanted to stay in agriculture … and came down here and been here ever since.”
Routzahn remembered when the Troy location did a lot more volume before larger grain operations in Dayton, Greenville and Sidney began to compete.
“We shipped a lot more trains. We were a big market in the area,” he said. Large semi trucking operations and higher tariffs for train transportation slowed Troy’s need for rail transport the last few years, but rail transport will start up again in the coming weeks, he said.
Routzahn has used Upper Valley Career Center’s co-op program for 20 years for students to get hands-on experience in the agriculture industry, much like he did when he was in school.
“I like working with the younger generations. It’s good to have young people around,” he said.
Routzahn can recall several harvests — both good and bad — including in 2009, when the grain was so wet that drying times were slow and lines were backed up to Eldean Road during a two-week period. Routzhan said he had to shut down at noon because grain volume was so wet. During that particular harvest, farmers were wrapped around the elevator twice waiting to dump their loads off and head back to the fields before the elevator was open.
“Our customers were great that year. Every elevator was behind, but everybody was calm about it,” he said.
Routzahn helped champion the local Bushels for Hunger program with cooperation from other local elevators and farmers. The Bushels for Hunger program donates the price per bushel toward local food pantries in Miami County along with Farm Bureau and other supporters. It is the eighth year for the program. In 2016, along with Farm Bureau and other local entities, $11,000 was raised and helped Fletcher Food Pantry, Needy Basket, Newton Food Pantry and the Health Partners Free Clinic.
“In 2009, which was a terrific bushel year, a farmer from Covington donated a full semi load and donated it to Bushels for Hunger because he knew it was going to his local pantry. People give two bushel here, five bushel there, and at the end, they cut them a check and they split them up to the pantries,” Routzahn said.
Troy Elevator was the first elevator in the county to support the program and then helped other local elevators set up accounts for farmers and customers to donate.
Routzahn also humbly downplays his role in helping outfit local fire departments with rescue tubes in case of grain entrapment scenarios. Routzahn helped coordinate training sessions on site at the elevator and drummed up donations to purchase a rescue tube to donate to the Troy Fire Department. Now Miami County Farm Bureau helps with the donation of the rescue tubes along with the local FFAs for all the local fire departments to have access to the life-saving apparatus.
Earlier this month, Routzahn loaned grain to the Troy Fire Department to train for grain-related emergencies. He said he’s glad to help the community out.
Despite this year’s wet field conditions, Routzhan said harvest is his favorite time of the year.
“It’s busy, it’s active, it’s taxing, but yet, it’s enjoyable with the camaraderie with the customers. It’s an enjoyable time of the year,” he said.
Follow Melanie Yingst on Twitter @Troydailynews