Naber Specialty Grains Ltd. is a wholesale grain distribution business in Melfort, Saskatchewan, a prairie town in Saskatchewan’s great North East. Naber Specialty Grains Ltd. buys lentils, peas, canary seed, canola, flax seed and oat products, and processes them on its own on-site processing facility.
Naber Specialty Grains Ltd. is owned by Melfort resident Todd Naber. He knows that grain has been an integral part of Saskatchewan’s economy, and the Canadian economy, for more than a century. The culture surrounding its cultivation has become part of the fabric of Saskatchewan life. Historically, grain has been stored in grain elevators as it awaits distribution to the marketplace. Vintage grain elevators are still seen throughout the west, in both Saskatchewan and south into the United States. While these grain elevators vary in appearance, they all have certain features in common, and are beloved features of the landscape that have come to known as “Prairie Sentinels.”
To understand the purpose and the form of grain elevators is to understand the grain economy which formed the basis of prairie settlement. In order for a new settlement to establish itself and thrive, there had to be an efficient means of producing and marketing its grain to world markets. That required a system to assemble and store grain from its source at the farm, and move it forward to port position for shipment overseas. The system thus began at the farm, where horse and wagon, and later trucks, hauled the grain to the wider systems of distribution, leading to roads, railway, and the grain elevator.
The earliest form of grain storage was the flat warehouses built alongside the rail line which received the grain, which usually arrived in sacks. A typical flat warehouse might hold about four thousand bushels. Bins would be located on each side of a central alley that gave access to loading and unloading the bins. This was a difficult and grueling job, achieved by shoveling grain into hand carts, and from there into wooden rail box cars.
It took an entire day to load a box car this way: this system was too slow and was very labor-intensive. The problem was solved with the invention of the vertical leg by which grain could be elevated and stored in vertical bins. This led to the distinctive, high narrow shape common to grain elevators. The elevator had its origins in Buffalo, New York. It was successful, and the design quickly spread across the Great Plains of North America and into the Canadian prairies.