Co-op manager celebrates 25 years
Lyman Adams of Hillsboro grew up on a farm in northwest Kansas. Times were tough and he was not the least bit interested in agriculture. He did not study ag-related subjects in high school or college.
“I was not going to have anything to do with agriculture,” he said. “I was going to the big cities to find greener pastures.”
As fate would have it, Adams has spent his entire career in the business of agriculture. On Jan. 2, he will have completed 25 years as general manager of Cooperative Grain and Supply, headquartered in Hillsboro.
The grain cooperative has elevators in Canton, Lehigh, Marion, and Canada, as well.
Adams was a senior majoring in accounting at Kansas State University in 1973 when his uncle was serving on the board of directors of a farm cooperative at Grainfield.
They were looking for someone with a farm background who could audit grain cooperatives. Adams’ uncle recommended him, and they offered him the job.
He spent two years auditing cooperatives throughout the state. One of the first audits he did was at CG&S in Hillsboro. Bert Regier was the general manager.
“I was impressed with the area but didn’t dream that I would be back managing the co-op here,” he said.
He spent seven years at the Great Bend cooperative, serving as office manager and assistant manager. The co-op generally served large farmers who grew crops under irrigation and had expense accounts of $200,000 or more.
He came to the job at CG&S on Jan. 1, 1986. It was a change from the job at Great Bend, where 120 to 130-acre irrigation circles were common. This area featured dryland farming, and 80 acres was considered a big field. Expense accounts of $20,000 or less were common.
In 1986, wheat and milo were the two main crops grown in the area. Today, wheat is still the leading crop, but corn and soybeans are ahead of milo for the first time. Feed milling and grain marketing were parts of the business. Now, Countryside Feed LLC is the co-op’s feed company and Team Marketing Alliance LLC is the grain-marketing company. CG&S was involved in the sale of propane, tires, and batteries. Since then, the co-op has disposed of those services.
The co-op has acquired two convenience stores — Ampride in Hillsboro and Marion.
During Adams’ tenure, the co-op has added elevators in Canton and Canada. The head office was moved from 109 W. Grand Ave. to 135 North Main St., both in Hillsboro.
Twenty-five years ago, cooperatives concerned themselves with local conditions, such as drought in western Kansas. Now, in the information age, global conditions affect the market on a daily basis.
“It makes things more complicated,” Adams said. “It used to be that grain prices would change by two or three cents in one day, but now they can change by 40 to 60 cents in a day or week.”
The co-op continues to expand its services. It is building a series of bulk tanks in the industrial park at Hillsboro to provide bulk seed for its members.
Adams said his degree in accounting and his two-year experience as an auditor were good training for becoming a manager. He likes the challenge of “putting all the pieces together and keeping them together.”
He said the success of the business is directly tied to the success of its farmer owners. The biggest headache is when harvests are small. He recalled the early years of the 21st century as hard years.
“When the farmers are having a tough time, we’re having a tough time,” he said.
Adams said the past three or four years have been good years. The year 2010, ending Aug. 31, was exceptional. The co-op received record earnings and returned more than $350,000 in cash patronage to its members. It also paid out $150,000 in deferred patronage from 1992, 1993, and part of 1994.
According to Adams, he has had a good working relationship with the board of directors. He said 24 directors have come and gone during his 25-year tenure.
He spends most of his time in his office or attending meetings. He looks forward to wheat harvest when he works the scales and interacts casually with farmers. He also visits the other elevator locations from time to time. These activities provide a change of pace.
He said the cooperative is big but small enough for its members and employees to be like a family.
“Overall, it’s been a great 25 years,” he said. “It’s been a great place to raise our family.”
He and his wife, Marie, have been married 36 years. They have three married children — Kyle, Kara, and Kane — who graduated from Hillsboro High School. They also have seven grandchildren.
Adams sees himself remaining as general manager for the indefinite future.
“As long as the job is challenging, I’ll stay,” he said. “It looks today like there are a lot of exciting challenges ahead.”
Last modified Dec. 30, 2010