Bill Radermacher, Newly retired manager, ADM Edible Bean Specialties, Inc, Casselton, ND
March 30, 2007
I grew up on a farm near Casselton, we had everything on the farm back then; chickens, milk cows, feeder cattle, well, we didnt have sheep. But with five brothers and five sisters, it was easy to do it all.
When I got out of the service in 63, I came back home and went to work for Branick Manufacturing, which is in the tire business. I got married in 65, and the next year started with Otter Tail Power. In the fall of 1974 we were putting up power lines to a new plant being built on the east side of town. One day I was talking with Dick Carley, who was president of Casselton State Bank, where I did my business. I asked what was going up out there. Theyre building a bean plant, he said. You know whos doing it? Tell him I might be interested in running it for him, I replied. I always wanted to get back into the ag business somehow.
I met with Grant Kuhn in the lounge of Englishs Bar, and he wrote down everything he wanted me to do on a place mat. I still have the place mat. He offered me the job of managing the plant, and thats how I got started in the bean business.
I was the first employee of Dakota Bean Company. Grant was out of Lansing, MI, and started Lakeland Bean in Olivia, Minn. And then two more plants in Casselton and Appleton, Minn. He sold Lakeland and Dakota Bean to Agri Sales in 1984. He passed away in the late 80s. It was Grant Kuhn who introduced navies here. As far as contracting and growing a large amount of navy acreage, it was Grant and myself that promoted the thing in North Dakota.
That first harvest in 74 was a nightmare. There was a frost Labor Day weekend, probably the most devastating frost in the 33 years Ive been here. There was about 12,000 acres. The beans came in early and the plant in Casselton wasnt finished yet. We took in about 150,000 bags in three weeks, trucking them to the plant in Olivia. We had as many as 15 semis on the road a day, because the beans were coming in so fast.
We were bought by ADM in 1998. It was a big plus. Employees are happy, the farmers are happy, they appreciate dealing with a rock solid company. In Casselton we receive navies and pintos, the navies go off to other plants, and we process pintos, about 300,000 to 350,000 bags per year. We used to do a lot of business with HJ Heinz. A big customer for us today is Bush, we have a good working relationship with them.
Navies need a lot of patience, a lot of TLC. Theyre tough to raise. But weve had navy growers with us since Ive been here, and they have done well.
The biggest change these days is the emphasis on quality. Quality assurance in what goes in the bag, what consumers want, and what end users are now requesting, everything is magnified. With quality such a factor now, I think well start to see people either get out of the white bean business, or get equipment that does a better job of maintaining quality.
Those first few years price was in the low $50s/cwt. I think we saw as high as 52 cents around 74 or 75. It got as low as $9 or $10, and up to $30 or $40. Most of the time the price has been in the high teens, and the guys have been fine with that, except this year. Now they all want $25.
I was a big watcher of Seinfeld. (Radermacher has a portrait of Kramer on his office wall). I think Ive seen every episode five or six times. Ive had people walk in here who dont know who Kramer is and ask whos that? Ill tellem hes my dad, and leave it at that.
What am I going to do when I retire? Stuff. Thats what I tell people, stuff. When I want to, and where I want to.
Ill miss the people most. Just being here and seeing the customers and employees. After 33 years, its going to be hard on the 30th of March to leave and not come back.
Radermacher, a past president of the North Central Bean Dealers Association, serving on the board for 16 years, retires April 1. by Tracy Sayler