Mercer Landmark in Rockford Brings Seed Treatment Plant to the Village

by Sheila Baltzell
Mercer Landmark, Inc. has another new venture going on in the village of Rockford. After the success of the soybean extrusion plant started three years ago, the locally farmer owned co-op has expanded into the seed treatment industry and built a state-of the art facility. Completely automated, it is the only one of its kind in the State of Ohio. Director of Agronomy, Dan Dowling said, “Mercer Landmark sells the end product of seed for other companies. In that way we are retailers of seed. And, now we have the unique ability to condition the seed ourselves, handle the marketing and logistics, purchase (contract) the crop back to the Rockford extrusion plant, and market the end product of soy meal and soybean oil. It is a vertically integrated, go-to market strategy for our locally owned cooperative.

Dan Dowling, the new Director of Agronomy, explained that the new plant is centralized to Landmark’s 10 agronomy retail locations for purchasing seed to plant in fields. The northern most location is Payne, Ohio with New Weston as the furthest south.

The seed treatment revolution has become popular and more scientific in the last 5 years, although farmers have been treating their fields for better yields for many years.

The new machine uses an atomizing process that tumbles the soybean seeds while misting on three biological products at once: 1) inoculants help grow more nodules on the plant root which in turn makes more of its own naturally occurring nitrogen for quick starts and long term healthier plants; 2) fungicides (prevent soil born diseases); and 3) insecticides. Dan said, “Farming is now more efficient because, through research, we understand how to grow healthier, higher yielding crops at a more efficient pace.” He continued, “The seeds are genetically enhanced, but it is necessary to feed the world. It is predicted that the world’s population will double by the year 2050. Market trends indicate that to produce enough food, plants that are yielding 150 bushels of corn per acre will have to produce 300 bushels by then.

Currently the operation is preparing soybeans for spring planting for the growing area in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. They also condition and treat wheat seed for fall planting in these same market areas as well.

Pictures Below are of the seed treatment plant.

The seed tumbler

An old scale but still used occasionally

The system for sending seed to the seed treatment machine

A computer runs it all

Seed waiting for spring planting

Restocking a Winterkill Pond

Bill Lynch, OSU Extension Pond Management Specialists

This was one of those winters across Ohio that caused a significant number of winter fish kills. This was particularly true across central Ohio where thick ice developed prior to the three major snowstorms in early February. All that snow on top of the ice reduced sunlight penetration to zero and oxygen levels declined steadily. In Union county where I live, most ponds did not become ice free until mid-March. In some ponds, owners found their fish floating or lying dead along the bottom. For those pond owners who experienced a kill, they now need to develop a strategy to restock their pond. 

The first activity is to determine whether it was a total fish kill or just a partial kill. How to tell? The pond owner (and friends) should try and catch some fish, particularly bluegills. If hours of fishing in April do not yield a fish, then a total kill was more likely and the pond will need a complete restocking. If only a few bluegills are caught and no bass are caught or seen, then a partial kill occurred. Also, try and remember the species and sizes that you saw dead. If all species and sizes were evident, then a total kill is the likely scenario. If only one species is dead or only larger fish were evident, a partial kill may have occurred. Why is this important? If some bluegills survived, the pond owner probably need not stock them. They produce large numbers of fry in just a few years and bluegills will easily rebound. A partial kill often only needs to have bass, catfish, and grass carp (if used) restocked. Thus, it is important to have some insight into the magnitude of the winter fish kill. 

For any stocking that may be needed, be sure to obtain OSU Extension’s factsheet Fish Species Selection for Pond Stocking which can be obtained at The factsheet provides considerable detail on which fish species work best in ponds, how many to stock, and when to stock them. A short summary is in order. Only four recreational species work well in ponds and small lakes: largemouth bass, bluegill sunfish, redear sunfish, and channel catfish. Other fish species could cause considerable fish community problems if stocked. When to restock is a very important consideration. When fish are transported in oxygenated bags or large tanks, they experience stress. The amount of stress is far less in colder water than in warm water, and thus, optimum times to stock is when water temperatures are less than 60 F and preferably around 50 F. That means spring or fall stocking, not summer! Also, stress is quickly increased if the temperature differential between the pond and transport water differs by more than 5 F. The more equal the water temperatures, the less stress the fish will experience. 

In a pond that experienced a total fish kill, an alternative stocking strategy might be considered. Fathead minnows can be stocked in the spring and be allowed to spawn naturally. This will build up huge numbers of small fathead minnows. Game fish stocking then occurs in the following fall. The large amount of minnow prey greatly enhances survival and growth of the stocked bass, bluegills, and catfish. As the minnows decline, bluegill spawning increases and small bluegill then become the predominate prey for the bass.




Mercer Landmark Soybean Extrusion Plant Going International
by Sheila Baltzell

After 2 years in production at the Rockford plant, Mercer Soy is perking right along, extruding locally grown soybeans into oil and meal.  The oil is being sold in the human market, and the soy meal is a feed supplement for livestock – meaning it is part of a combination of grains, vitamins, minerals, etc to provide food for livestock grown locally. But that is not all.

Scott Boulis, general manager of Mercer Landmark in Rockford, John Wenning, Landmark’s feed salesman and nutritionist, and consultant, Ed Burtch of Burtch Seed, Rockford, recently returned from a 10 day trip to Seoul South Korea and Manila, Philippines where they met with Mayette Ramos, Philippino president of FFF Nutrition, a sales agent for various livestock feed mills in the Philippines. Her company represents Mercer Soy.  In Seoul, South Korea, the group met with Mr. Cho (Aaron) with the ILJU Trading Company, LTD, who is the sales agent for several livestock feed mills in that country. Scott Boulis mentioned that Mercer Landmark has never directly exported before, but, they expect their export volume to make up 20% of total production when finalized. Click Here for the Rest of the Story and Great Pictures on the trip

ABM Teams with Thomas Edison to Promote T-22 for Wheat

Van Wert, Ohio—Advanced Biological Marketing (ABM), an agricultural leader in the Van Wert area and consumers from Thomas Edison Adult Center teamed together to produce marketing materials to promote T-22 for Wheat.

This marketing promotion consists of a printed plastic flower pot, top soil, a small amount of wheat treated with T-22, instructions and promotional literature placed in a box. All items are carefully measured and assembled by Thomas Edison consumers (clients) and will be sent nationwide to Seed Dealers encouraging them to try the T-22 product.

Carla Frank, Production Scheduler for Thomas Edison Adult Center is excited about working with ABM, “We’re always looking for jobs like this for our consumers. This is exactly the type of job we can do and want to do. It’s really a nice fit, assembling the necessary items, and preparing boxes for mailing.”

 “Being able to work with Thomas Edison has my attention. It’s important to be involved with our local community. ABM is pleased to have Thomas Edison working on this project and they’re doing a great job,” said Dan Custis, President of ABM.

 ABM identifies, develops, and markets specialty biological products for agricultural and agricultural related industries. Their T-22 promotion highlights how it is different from traditional fungicides in that it grows season long with the root system.

Thomas Edison Adult Center actively pursues quality programs, services, and supports that will assist adults in achieving their greatest potential. 



Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet
Bagworm And Its Control

Bagworms . . . ugh.  They have become a real headache the past couple of years!

We are fast approaching the time that branch death of the most susceptible plants (e.g. arborvitae) can result from bagworm feeding. Fortunately, a foliar application of one of several insecticides may stop them from producing more damage. However, don't wait till late in the growing season to manage the bagworm, because even the traditional insecticides lose their effectiveness against large bagworms. For homeowners, conventional insecticides such as Sevin and malathion provide satisfactory results if used.

One additional note to make at this time is that conifers are not the only plants that these pests feed on. Conifers are just the plants that can be easily killed by the bagworm feeding. Bagworms can feed and thrive on a long list of deciduous trees and shrubs including sycamore, crabapple and honeylocust trees. These trees may not be killed by the bagworm; however, the caterpillars can make them look very bad. The infested trees can also act as a reservoir for bagworms to spread throughout the landscape in future seasons.  Read the OSU Factsheet on bagworms for more detail on this pesky pest:


Mercer Landmark Soybean Extrusion Plant Opens in Rockford
Open House Held

The long-awaited soybean extrusion plant in Rockford is open and ready for production, according to Scott Boulis, Mercer Landmark manager in Rockford. A well-attended open house on Saturday, September 15 provided the community an opportunity to see the new facility and hear all about Rockford’s newest business venture.

Running from 10 am to 2 pm, the tours were conducted by the employees of the Mercer Landmark plant in Rockford, with Scott Boulis doing 20 minute talks with question and answer times provided.

Scott explained that the Mercer Landmark Soybean Extrusion Plant is a dry extrusion, mechanical oil extraction plant, one of the simplest types to operate and maintain.  Once the plant is in full operation, it will run 5 days per week, 16 hours per day with 293 bushels run through the machine per hour for a total of 1, 218,800 bushels a year.   In terms of pounds, that equates to 17,580 beans per hour for a total of 73,132,800 lbs. per year.

Scott also mentioned that the plant will make 14,575 lbs of expressed soybean meal per hour equaling  30,316 ton per year as well as 9,343,000 lbs of oil per year (1,204,000 gallons).  Scott mentioned that
Cargill and Bunge, by comparison, deal in volumes much larger than Rockford. But Mercer Landmark's advantage will be in the ability to switch back and forth from pressing low lin beans to conventional beans as requested.

The horsepower connected to operate the new plant will be 1,483 generated by electricity and propane from Landmark. 

The InstaPro Company out of DesMoines Iowa made this extruder/press, and Scott says that Landmark’s is the largest around and there are no others like it in the state of Ohio. He personally visited ½ dozen of these operations around Indiana, Arkansas and Iowa. Most are small farm operations.

A green hammermill will pulverize the beans before they are loaded into the extruder. The heat generated will be 315 degrees as they are pushed through a hole the size of a pencil.  An explosive-type reaction takes place as the meal is pressed.  There are stainless steel components here.

The temperature of the meal paste must then be reduced to 240 degrees to put it into the next press which Scott explained is like a cider press.  The oil comes out of a slotted area and runs down a chute to be loaded into waiting tankers.

As the temperature reduces, a mild-grade steel auger is then used to create a meal cake @170 degrees of the remaining meal. There is a lump-breaker in this process, too, as fans pulling outside air will be used to cool the meal. There are 10 lbs of oil in a bushel of beans. Seven pounds of oil will be removed, so a meal cake will have 3 lbs. of oil till left in it.

The high protein meal produced is ready to have other nutrients added to it and much of their meal will go into dairy feed. It will be sold locally at Landmark’s Celina, New Weston, Chickasaw and St. Henry branches and direct shipped to the farms.

Special beans called Vistive will be used most of the time. However, Scott mentioned that the beauty of the equipment they bought will allow them to switch to other beans as well. They have a low-lin bean which will be pressed for a health food company in North Carolina once a week.  He pointed out that no chemicals are added, and the first pressing is likened to the first pressing of olive oil.  The beans are sorted from low to high lin and stored in grain bins.  The North Carolina products should soon be available on the market, and Landmark will likely sell those products locally in the future.

The oil will travel to refineries to be further prepared for the consumer. The gums are removed and so is the color.  Scott said that they built the plant with extra square footage so that a refinery could be added at some point if they want to do so. Otherwise, it will serve as warehouse space. There are no local oil sales at this time. Tankers will ship out-of-state mostly.

They new facility will employ 3 people on the day shift. Two will be in the plant and the 3rd will be cleaning and loading beans. It is a highly-automated process with all controls being right in the equipment itself. All machines face each other to keep better track of temperature and pressures. There are no central controls, and it takes fewer people to run theeverything. 

Scott was asked about noise and smell associated with the plant. The large structure is well-insulated and will absorb the sound, although employees will be required to where protective earplugs. Heat will be generated during this process, too.  The smell is cooked out of the product with virtually no smell after the cool-down. Keeping the area clean will be a priority, too. Said, Scott, “ We want to be a good neighbor.”

The dollar  investment for Landmark was 3 million on this project with grant monies coming from local and federal government sources as well as a loan from the revolving Mercer County Loan Fund. Besides InstaPro, Mercer County Electric from Ft. Recovery and Kraner Construction from Ohio City were the building contractors.

The pictures below show expressed soy meal mechanically extruded and pressed and a decanter of commodity soybean oil. It is not refined and has an orange cast to it.

Over 300 people attend the open house where refreshments were served.  At left are the Landmark team in Rockford - Scott Bowen, Alice Provci, Dennis Schwieterman, Denise Myers, Scott Boulis, Robert Dailey and Wayne Bollenbacher.








Runs on Mercer Landmark Propane

Questions and Answers

Employees gave tours

Extruding Process

Air cooling

Behind the scenes


Refreshments in the

Soybean storage

Extruded soymeal and
un-refined soybean oil

While in progress
in Winter 2007
. . . .


Mercer Landmark Announces Open House and Tours of the New Soybean Extrusion Plant
Scott Boulis, Mercer Landmark Manager of the Rockford Branch, announces that their newly built Soybean Extrusion Plant in downtown Rockford will be open on Saturday, September 15 for an Open House and Guided Tours of the new facility. The 10 am to 2 pm event is open to the general public, and everyone is invited. Local branch employee Alice Provci stated that there are 182 growers of the Vistive Soybeans that will provide the raw material for the extrusion process. Growers range from as far north as Convoy, Middle Point and Elgin to New Weston in the south. The Parkway-area farmers number 25. Training on the equipment, by Instant Pro Machinery, for the new employees,  will begin the week after the open house and full operation is expected that week.
Mercer Landmark Soybean Extrusion Plant Construction is moving right along in downtown Rockford.
It's Lambing Time on the Knapke Farm
The Steve and Deb (Hayes) Knapke Family, near Mercer, is a busy place this Spring with the annual lamb birthing event January through March.

The family including, sons and daughter, Dustin, Danny, and  Dee-Dee, have raised Suffolk sheep (white bodies; black heads) for over 25 years. The breed is beautiful, and the family has 115 baby lambs (250 total head of sheep) at present count. Suffolks are a breed native to the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridge and Essex in southeastern England. The Suffolk breed was formed when Southdowns were crossed with Norfolk. A heartier, meatier breed was created. Flocks produce a high percentage of twins.

Born all with all black wool, at eight days old, each bleating 15-22 lb. bundle begins to turn white except for their legs and faces which remain black as adults.  Knapke's prize-winning sheep are a meat breed (mutton) and prized for their wool. Shearing comes once a year in December. Steve and Deb Knapke are 4-H advisors for the Shepherd's Choice 4-H Club in Mercer County. Their children prepare the yearlings to be shown at county and state fairs and contests, where they regularly win ribbons.

Steve explained that they cannot keep all of the new lambs. They keep the bloodline true through the males. They are always building a group that is uniform.  When they reach market weight of 120-140 lbs, they are sold. The Knapkes keep the best ewes, sell some of their stock to 4-H families for projects or to raise, and they sell the others at market. Some sheep have been sold and shipped overseas to Israel where breeders in that country are trying to create a heartier variety. Steve explained that there is a quarantine of 30 days on the 5-6 month old sheep going out of the country. They ship via airplane to John F. Kennedy Airport and live at the stockyard there for the duration of the 30 days.

Lambs are sometimes bottle fed and later eat pellets. The adult sheep eat corn. The Knapke's grow and bale their own hay, but buy corn and straw.

Mercer Landmark's Vistive Soybean Extrusion Plant Going Up

The Mercer Landmark‘s Vistive Soybean Extrusion plant is in the process of being built by Kraner Excavating of Ohio City. According to Alice Provci at Mercer Landmark, “the steel is at the lot, the footers have been dug, and the goal is to have the foundation poured this week. For December, we have had unseasonably warm weather which allows for outdoor projects to get done." There is no anticipated date of completion of the plant. 

Rockford's Grain Elevator, Owned by Mercer Landmark, Gets a Fresh Coat of Paint the Week of October 30th
New Soybean Extrusion Plant Coming in the area behind the elevator.


Mercer Landmark Approved for $250,000 Revolving Loan for Soybean Extrusion Plant in Rockford
The Mercer County Commissioners have approved a $250,000 loan to Mercer Landmark to help fund the building of a brand new $3 million project in Rockford. Mercer Landmark plans to build a new soybean extrusion plant (16,000 square feet) at the Main Street site of the demolition of the old fertilizer plant and stave silos. The money was approved from the Mercer County's revolving loan fund in late October 2006. The money is approved conditional upon Mercer Landmark securing a a loan with the Federal Small Business Administration in the amount of $1 million.

The plant will create 10 new jobs and use Vistive soybeans, a Monsanto trademark, grown locally.

submitted by Kirby Stetler
Judy, my wife, had me go get our kerosene heater so my 31 years as an insurance agent/safety inspector forces me to remind you to be extra careful with items like:
If you are using a wood stove, burn only dried out (seasoned wood).  Also be sure your stovepipe is tight and safe and that your chimney is getting a good draft (sometimes birds like to build nests in mine) 
Also, the black tarry substance might be in your chimney.  It's called creosote and if it ignites, your stove pipe will glow red hot and if you see a chimney fire from the outside, you will never forget it.  Flames ROAR 20 feet above the house.  I have seen many people lose everything by not keeping their chimney clean.
If you are using a space heater or kerosene heater, WATCH OUT for carbon monoxide building up and killing you.  You can not smell it.  This is usually not a problem in OLD Drafty houses like mine, but if you are using the space heater in a closed room or have a newer "tightly built" home, Please be careful.
Watch out for small children who I have seen burned terribly by playing and forgetting about the kerosene heater and falling into it.
NEVER store kerosene in a RED gas container... it should always be BLUE.  I have seen many homes destroyed and some persons lose their lives by mistakenly pouring gasoline into their heating device.
NEVER mix gasoline and kerosene; I knew someone who lost his home to a fire that way.
Never take a nap or go to sleep with the heater on.  Unfortunately I have seen some never wake up, either by carbon monoxide buildup or the heater malfunctioning while they were asleep.
Make sure your smoke and fire alarms have fresh batteries.  I have gone into so many homes in my inspection part of my career and looked up and seen a detector with no battery, or an old dead battery.  A great idea is to change your batteries on your birthday every year.
Thank you for reminding us on these safety matters, Kirby!



In Honor of Our Great Farming Community:

Traffic in Farm Country
by Ethel Pontsler   
 Trucks, wagons, tractors, pulling a load
 travel unhurried down old country roads .
outside my window their world is alive;
those drivers just kids when they learned how to drive.
A weed sprayer spider-like, Star Wars invention?
high wheels and small cab and hoses that flow; 
unwelcomed weeds gone, that is the intention;
corn planted weeks ago, now free to grow.
All sorts of machinery - a non-farmer puzzle,
In bright John Deere colors, and driven with pride 
slowed to a crawl, gotta wait for an opening, 
You can't pass them ever, they're all double wide.


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