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Estevan to Weyburn, SK 56 mile

I woke at the normal time of 4:50, which gives me an hour to prepare for the day’s ride. When I looked at my phone for messages, it showed 3:52 a.m. without realizing it, I had biked into another time zone (Mountain).

To give an indication of how flat southern Saskatchewan is, my total ascent today in 56 miles was 59 feet (and most of that was going through a creek drainage on the north side of Estevan).

The tallest structures dotting the vast Plains are the oil well pump heads and there are many. I counted 17 in one square mile. They sit amoungst spring wheat and durum emerging in last year’s canola stubble with beef cattle grazing non-cropped ground.

A friend grew up near Weyburn, and her father invested in a grain terminal that is likely the largest in Saskatchewan and likely one of the tallest structures in the Province (excluding towers). As a courtesy to my friend, and personal curiosity, I biked an additional two miles into the terminal. Like all good agri-businesses during spring planting, they were open to receive grain and deliver fertilizer on Sunday. That is service by dedicated servants!

One segment of my career was marketing manager of a new grain terminal. January 1, 1983 I started there with not even the first grain storage tank operational. Within six months we were the largest grain terminal in South Dakota. As an economist, I was hired to do trend analysis and project a twenty year feasibility to determine if we could gather enough sunflowers to use the storage for an oilseed crushing plant. It took 15 months buying grain and sunflowers from up to 200 miles to realize we could purchase all the sunflowers from that area, and it would only meet half the projected processing capacity. Working with 52 commercial truckers and shipping hundreds of carloads of grain created a functional grain terminal still operating 35 years latter using the initial storage facility. Fortunately, I projected correctly. The oilseed crushing plans were halted to many farmers’ disappointment. That decision saved investors tens of millions of dollars, but because it was located in the right place, it benefited area farmers much more. My two-year contract ended early, but it provided a lifetime of business experience.

Opportunities are always available to spend money. Fortunately, my friend’s father seen an opportunity years ago to benefit his farm and  the following two (or more) generations of farmers in southern Saskatchewan.

Long term efficiency, opportunity costs, and return on investment are not easy to analyze or justify. Just like my 3000 mile trip “Pierre-to-the-Pole” is hard to justify economically, but satisfaction is very seldom only economic.

Take a few moments as you are driving by any business and appreciate guts and determination it took to dream, invest, and do while others benefit from the service. My friend should feel very proud of her father (and others like him) who stepped up years ago for the sake of others.

The photo attached shows my bicycle as a speck next to an efficient grain terminal benefiting Saskatchewan farmers and the world’s consumers who enjoy eating without a hint of what it takes year-in and year-out to feed them. As Aesop might have said: “Never complain with your mouth full.”