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Todd Naber: Distributing the Grain

Todd Naber owns and operates a wholesale grain distribution business in Melfort,
Saskatchewan, a prairie town in Saskatchewan’s great North East. Naber Wholesale
Grains buys lentils, peas, canary seed, canola, fla seed and oat products, and processes
the! on its own on"site processing facility.
#s Todd Naber knows, grain has been an integral part of Saskatchewan’s econo!y, and
the $anadian econo!y, for !ore than a century. The culture surrounding its culti%ation
has beco!e part of the fabric of Saskatchewan life. &istorically, grain has been stored in
grain ele%ators as it awaits distribution to the !arketplace. 'intage grain ele%ators are
still seen throughout the west, in both Saskatchewan and south into the (nited States.
While these grain ele%ators %ary in appearance, they all ha%e certain features in
co!!on, and are belo%ed features of the landscape that ha%e co!e to known as )*rairie
Sentinels.+
To understand the purpose and the for! of grain ele%ators is to understand the grain
econo!y which for!ed the basis of prairie settle!ent. ,n order for a new settle!ent to
establish itself and thri%e, there had to be an efficient !eans of producing and !arketing
its grain to world !arkets. That re-uired a syste! to asse!ble and store grain fro! its
source at the far!, and !o%e it forward to port position for ship!ent o%erseas. The
syste! thus began at the far!, where horse and wagon, and later trucks, hauled the
grain to the wider syste!s of distribution, leading to roads, railway, and the grain
ele%ator.
The earliest for! of grain storage was the flat warehouses built alongside the rail line
which recei%ed the grain, which usually arri%ed in sacks. # typical flat warehouse !ight
hold about four thousand bushels. .ins would be located on each side of a central alley
that ga%e access to loading and unloading the bins. This was a difficult and grueling /ob,
achie%ed by sho%eling grain into hand carts, and fro! there into wooden rail bo cars.
,t took an entire day to load a bo car this way0 this syste! was too slow and was %ery
labor"intensi%e. The proble! was sol%ed with the in%ention of the %ertical leg by which
grain could be ele%ated and stored in %ertical bins. This led to the distincti%e, high
narrow shape co!!on to grain ele%ators.
The ele%ator had its origins in .uffalo, New 1ork. ,t was successful, and the design
-uickly spread across the great plains of North #!erica and into the $anadian prairies.