Rathman says farmer employees make Leavenworth Silage Co. go

Leavenworth Silage Supervisor Jim Rathman of Sleepy Eye stands in front of silage processing equipment at the Sleepy Eye Del Monte Corporation plant.

For more than 30 years, Leavenworth Silage Company has specialized in sweet corn silage sales to stock growers. General Manager Jim Rathman of Sleepy Eye has been instrumental in the firm. He credits the company’s success to its employees, farmers, he says know what to do when things need adjustment.

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Sleepy Eye farmer Jim Rathman had recently sold his dairy cows in the early 1970s when Mathiowetz Construction owner Richard Mathiowetz asked him if he was interested in investing in a new agricultural venture involving the use of Del Monte Corporation sweet corn plant waste.

Sweet corn silage is what it left of sweet corn after the corn is removed from the corn cobs at Del Monte. Mathiowetz’ idea that became Leavenworth Silage Company (LSC) was to create livestock feed from the silage, store it in a large pit east of Leavenworth and sell it to farmers to use for feed.

‘It’s what’s left of the sweet corn including the juice,” Rathman said. “Del Monte is actually glad to get rid of it.”

Del Monte corn processing silage is loaded into a Leavenworth Silage Company truck at the Sleepy Eye plant.

A corn, beans, sugar beets and hog farmer since 1957, Rathman was a good man to be involved in the silage business due to his engineering interest, including building just about anything, and skills including welding.

During the winter months when he wasn’t busy farming, Rathman designed machinery that could be built and used to process the corn silage from the plant and dump it into grain trucks.

Rathman, now an LSC supervisor, said many animals seem to like the taste of the silage, but that it’s best used to feed cattle.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has to approve the silage being sold to each farmer. Rathman coordinates that process.

In addition, Rathman said sweet corn crops have been pretty good over the years most of the time. He said this summer was challenging because all the rainfall caused many farmers to replant and caused corn to mature at different times.

Del Monte corn processing silage is loaded into a Leavenworth Silage Company truck at the Sleepy Eye plant.

“The plant would operate two days on and two off. Then we shut down in early September and plan to start up again in late September for the late-planted corn,” Rathman said.

He recently redesigned a silage processor that includes five choppers, belts, electronic eyes and automatic shut-off and back-up system features. Rathman drew up the plans for the processor that was built in the Del Monte shop during the off season.

Rathman credits the success of the company to the ingenuity and work ethic of the farmers that work with him at the silage processing facility just south of the Del Monte plant in Sleepy Eye.

“Most guys working with me are farmers. They know what to do,” Rathman said. “I couldn’t do this without their help.”

He credited his “wonderful” wife Rosemary for her understanding and tolerance of his work.

His hobbies and interests include water skiing before the sweet corn season begins. Some of his other passions are landscaping and gardening.

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