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Family-owned Mill Provides Producers Outlet To Market Grain For 90 Years

By Dianne Girmus
The Nebraska Signal

The Geneva Milling Co., Inc., consisting of five generations of the Grothe family of Geneva, is an outstanding example of family strength, spirit and determination to succeed. The company has been serving area farmers for 90 years—an era which began in 1929 when brothers John and William Grothe left Saline County, moved to Geneva and purchased the flour mill, at an auction, and the GEMCO (Geneva Milling Co.) brand.
Mike Grothe, 58, the current CEO of the company, said there was a definite reason his great-grandfather and great-uncle moved and started their milling business in Geneva.
“It was one of those big changes in milling history,” Grothe said. “The mill here was run by diesel power and electricity, which replaced the water power they had been accustomed to.”
In the beginning, the Geneva Milling Company was primarily a flour and meal mill and a good deal of the milling was toll or exchange milling. The farmer would bring in his grain and the miller retained a certain percentage of it as a “milling charge.” The farmer then took the balance back home in the form of flour and meal.
In 1932, William left the business, due to the Great Depression, and it was then run by owner John and his son, Charles A. Grothe. By 1941, GEMCO was selling flour, pancake flour, cornmeal, cereals, and various livestock feeds and concentrate.
Charles A. Grothe became the owner in 1945 and retained his position until 1985.
Grothe said another major change happened to the business in 1945.
“A January fire caused the flour mill to be rebuilt as a modern feed mill,” he said. “Many business changes were made during the next 40 years.”
GEMCO upped its storage capacity to 50,000 bushels (from 10,000), it became a molasses wholesaler and a variety of feeds were being milled, including pelted and granulated. By the early 70’s a liquid feed plant was built, the new west elevator was built and the building of the new east elevator began. Steel buildings and bins replaced the old wooden ones,
In 1959, Charles A. Grothe’s son, Charles F. Grothe, returned home, after finishing college, to work with his father. He became the new owner in 1985 and additions to the company continued. A Varco building was constructed, Geneva Grain was purchased and GEMCO became a Kent Feeds dealer.
Mike Grothe came back to Geneva in 1982 and began working at the mill. In 2002, he took over the business from Charles F. Grothe, his father, and also continued upgrading the facility. Old feed storage buildings and loading docks were removed, a new office building was constructed, a 50,000 bushel bin was built in the north elevator, two 300,000 bushel bins were built and a 50,000 bushel cooling bin was built for the north elevator’s dryer.
 In 2010, Mike Grothe’s daughter, Michaela Grothe Carlson, came to work with her father. She is a fifth generation, part-owner of the business.
Grothe said GEMCO has raised its storage capacity from 10,000 bushels to 1.7 million bushels, over a 100 percent increase, due to the constant increase over time.
Other changes include the use of trucks for grain transport versus the railroad cars, making a grain base to be shipped to Europe after World War ll and a direct ship to end users.
Grothe said that in the grain operations, corn and soybeans are the top grains with some wheat, oats and milo. The grains are conditioned, stored and then blended when ready to ship. Feed operations include protein, minerals and vitamins mixed together by customer specification—a custom mix.
A variety of products and services are available at the mill, which include livestock feed and supplies, grain marketing and storage, pet food, livestock and animal supplies, livestock fence, salt and boots.
Grothe said it is important to have the grain mill located here.
“Dollars get imported into Fillmore County, the company provides a market for farmers’ crops and it provides end users with a supply of grain,” Grothe said. “It’s also an advantage to the farmers, as it gives them another marketing choice.”
Grothe said the mill gets customers from all the surrounding counties in the area. GEMCO offers a special service for area youth. They make custom feed available for their fair projects.
Grothe thinks his company is a great business to be a part of. He said, “It’s very enjoyable helping customers prosper in their business and grow.”
There are two other outstanding features of GEMCO, Grothe added.
“The employees are very special,” Grothe said. “And our speed of handling grain is one improvement service provided to customers.”
Grothe said he is pleased with his position in the family business.
“I’ve enjoyed working with family members throughout time. There’s always something new and challenging,” Grothe said. “My goal is to keep going and continue working with good people in the area.”