2011-03-22 / Front Page

Gosport Farming Family Happily Selling Grain Locally To New POET Biorefining

Rejuvenated Ethanol Facility Continuously Seeking New Sellers
by Michael Stanley
Staff Writer


Rural Gosport farmer Rob Chesser watches as a load of grain fills up his semi Friday morning at Park Valley Farms before making a trip to the POET Biorefining in Cloverdale, where the grain is used for ethanol production. (Staff Photo) Rural Gosport farmer Rob Chesser watches as a load of grain fills up his semi Friday morning at Park Valley Farms before making a trip to the POET Biorefining in Cloverdale, where the grain is used for ethanol production. (Staff Photo) Nearly 50,000 bushels of number two corn grain remains in the grain bins at Park Valley Farms in rural Gosport for Rob, Polly and Clay Chesser’s operations, but the corn is quickly being trucked passed Interstate 70 in Cloverdale to the newly opened POET Biorefining for ethanol production.

“I think it’s a good deal, anything we can do to relieve dependence on middle eastern oil, if we’re not going to drill for it ourselves, we’ve got to do something,” Rob Chesser said. “We have a lot of oil reserves in the country, but nobody wants to touch it. Something has to take up the slack, I know a lot of people complain about using what they call food for fuel, but in the case of ethanol, most of the corn for that is used for livestock feed. They are refining it down to ethanol, but the by product of it, probably half the volume, still goes into livestock feed, so you’re not taking it away from the livestock industry. I don’t know if it’s the best idea or not, but it’s the most efficient one they’ve came up with so far.”


For more than the past decade, Gosport couple Rob and Polly Chesser have taken over the Park Valley Farms operation began by Polly’s father, Dale Morris. The couple and their four sons own and operate the farm, which provides feed grain to the new POET ethanol Biorefining plant in Cloverdale. (Staff Photo) For more than the past decade, Gosport couple Rob and Polly Chesser have taken over the Park Valley Farms operation began by Polly’s father, Dale Morris. The couple and their four sons own and operate the farm, which provides feed grain to the new POET ethanol Biorefining plant in Cloverdale. (Staff Photo) The farm began with Polly’s father, Dale Morris in 1970, who has since retired. The couple have been running the family farm for more than 10 years now.

“Since I’ve been around here for the last 23 years, gradually over the years, we’ve been able to get a little closer to home. We use to haul clear to Evansville for the best market, GPC (Grain Processing Corporation) has probably been in Washington (Indiana) for 10 years, so that was as good of a market and half the distance. Now we have this in Cloverdale, so we’re tickled it’s there. It’s helped us quite a bit, we do our own hauling, so it takes a lot less of my time. We can get a lot more done, I hauled four loads up there the other day and was finished in the middle of the afternoon. If you go to Evansville, you can get two loads in one trip, which is six hours of driving at four dollars a gallon.”

Initially opened in 2008 under Altra Biofuels Indiana, the Chessers sold grain to the plant before, however, that didn’t last long before the plant was shut down. He has higher hopes for the plant now under the management of the nation’s largest producer in ethanol.

“It was opened up there before, and we sold grain to them, but they didn’t last very long,” he said. “Corn was higher than normal and I think they were just a small outfit getting going, so that probably killed them right off the bat. But POET is the largest producer in the United States and this one was supposed to be the second largest plant in the country. They’re going to use a lot of corn, that’s for sure.”

POET purchased the 90-million gallon-per-year producing ethanol facility in June of 2010 and recently re-opened the plant with more than $30 million in upgrades and renovations. The plant has an anticipated corn consumption of 31 million bushels annually and is still purchasing corn from area farmers.

POET Biorefining Cloverdale General Manager Dave Brooks noted 21 Owen County farmers have sold corn to the plant thus far.

“Farmers here know what they’re doing, and the quality and quantity of the corn supply is a big reason POET wanted to come to Cloverdale,” Brooks said. “It’s been great getting to know the local farmers, who are our partners in this work. We’re glad to offer another market for them to sell their corn into.”

“It’s handy for us out here, it’s good for our situation. I’d say it will wind up raising the price of corn around here by about 20 cents by the time its all said and done, because you’ve got a lot of other big users of feed corn down south who now have to bid for the same stuff. It’s good in that aspect,” Chesser explained. “The main thing is just the location, that’s huge. For us to get the prices they are paying, we’ve got to drive 60 to 100 miles to either Washington or Evansville to get them. I hauled probably 15 loads up there to the plant before I had to refuel, well if I’m hauling down south, it’s about six loads and we’re fueling again. So just the savings in fuel alone is big, we’re sure glad to have it there.”

While Rob and Clay tend to the large majority of farm work, Polly handles all of the financial aspects of the business.

“I watch the commodity markets go up, we also have Dataline on our computer that tells us all of the surrounding grain markets, but since POET has came into the picture, they have had the better price and they are close. So it makes it very nice. I’ll call them and contract say 5,000 bushels at the price for the day for a delivery in a certain month. You can spot sell too, just taking whatever they’re paying for it that day.”

The Chesser’s are currently hoping to get back to the planting aspect of work in mid-April if weather allows. The farm is a large producer of corn and soybeans, while Clay, 16, the couple’s second oldest son raises pigs as well on the 1,600 acres in Owen and Monroe counties.

“We’re hoping they make a go of it, which looks pretty promising,” Polly said of POET’s operations in Cloverdale. “I hope the ethanol catches on anyway, to get our dependency off of oil a little more.”

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