The History of The Equity – Leading The Way
In 1919, a group of forward thinking farmers saw that by joining together in a group, the group would have greater buying power than each farmer had individually. The original charter of Effingham Equity Cooperative Union Exchange listed 53 members.
The Cooperative Incorporated
The group incorporated in 1921 with 56 stockholders. The first Board of Directors consisted of John Diehl, William. Wagner, Henry Fuesting, Joseph Vahling and William Soltwedel. The manager was John Mueller, who was paid a salary of $100 per month. The first stock, issued at $100 per share par value, entitled the holder to be a full member eligible for refunds. Refunds earned were applied toward the purchase of stock for new members. Today, The Equity stock costs $25 with a Board approved application.
Effingham Equity began by using the Pennsylvania (now CSX) rail siding across from the old Pevely Dairy (now Dairy Farmers of America) as a base of operations. A warehouse was built to store the products brought in by rail, such as corn, coal, hay, and feed ingredients.
The cooperative grew slowly through the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s at this location. During the 1940s, the serious need for a grain elevator in the Effingham area became apparent, to expand the local market for wheat and corn. Siemer Milling in Teutopolis and Melzer’s Mill in Effingham provided the only local markets for wheat and corn. Soybeans became a cash crop in the 1940s, so local facilities were needed to handle the soybeans and the growing yield of corn.
The Company Expands
In 1949, money was raised for a 16,000-bushel metal-clad grain elevator with a scale, warehouse, hammermill, and feed mixer located north of Effingham on the Illinois Central (now Canadian National) Railroad. After a hard struggle and a lot of effort by the board of directors and a handful of staunch supporters, the dream became a reality. This facility became the core of the present-day Effingham location.
A series of expansions to the Effingham location began in the 1950s. In 1963, the Equity began a different kind of expansion with the purchase of a grain elevator at Stewardson. Various other facilities were acquired over the years. Today, there are 18 locations covering an area of south-central Illinois that encompasses 20,000 square miles.