Farm Horizons, Feb. 2002

Rendering not everyone's idea of a dream job

By Ryan Gueningsman

If you shoot a horse and are going to take it away, you better make sure it's dead first. That is just one thing that Kent (Swanny) Landin of Lester Prairie learned throughout his 23 years of rendering.

Rendering is the removal of dead animals from farms ­ cows, horses, and pigs.

Following in his father's footsteps, Landin became a renderer in 1973, working for Central Biproducts. He is retired from the business now.

"I took the route after my dad. He did it 20-some years too. Right away when I was still in school I'd go along with him and help him out," Landin said.

"I got to like it ­ I mean, sure the smell was bad, but you got to meet so many good farmers," Landin said.

Early in his career, he traveled anywhere from St. Cloud, to Long Prairie, to Redwood Falls, where Central Biproducts headquarters is located.

Central Biproducts has workers in the plant that skin the animals. The worst thing is the smell, Landin said.

Throughout his travels, he has encountered fame on many levels. Winsted's own Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame member Kenny Norman used to accompany Landin on his routes. He also met ex-Minnesota Viking football players Paul Krause and Matt Blair, and former Minnesota Twins owner Calvin Griffith's brother, Jim Robinson.

"Robinson went to the main plant with me, and told me that there was no way he could do what I do," Landin said.

Landin has even been mentioned in a Star Tribune article by Patrick Reusse. Reusse was in the area to do a feature on an unrelated story about the ShadowBrooke Golf Course, and mentioned Landin's rendering service about halfway through the article.

One of his most embarrassing moments came when he had to go to a man's farm to pick up a dead cow.

"I went to the guy's cousin's farm, so it was the wrong farm, and I picked up the wrong cow," Landin said. "That night I got home and the guy called and asked me when I was going to pick up the cow ­ I told him that I did ­ and he told me I picked up at the wrong place."

Another time Landin suffered some embarrassment was when he had to go to a farm, pick up a horse that was crippled, shoot it, and then take it away.

"I guess I must not have shot it very good, because when we got to the next farm and opened the door ­ the horse jumped out and scared the heck out of us," Landin said. "The farmer asked me when I started hauling live animals."

Sometimes, when Landin arrived at these farms, the animals he was to pick up weren't dead yet, so he had to shoot them.

"That was the hard part, having to shoot the animals, especially if there were kids around, and the animal was their pet. But they would be either crippled or old, and somebody had to do it," Landin said.

The area Landin covered was Winsted, Lester Prairie, St. Cloud, New Prague, and everywhere in-between. Landin covered close to 300 miles a day with an average of 10 to 20 pick-ups a day.

Renderers get paid based on how much they bring in. A good day is anywhere from 10,000 to 12,000 pounds, while a bad day is around 4,000 pounds.

"We got paid every two weeks," Landin said. "We worked five to six days a week, sometimes seven if it was really busy, but that didn't happen too often."

"The worst part of the job, besides the smell, was if the roads were bad," Landin said. "Throughout my 23 years, I never had an accident, though."

"It ain't for everybody," said Landin.

Since Landin left his job as a renderer in 1996, he said the one thing he misses is the great farmers he was able to get to know and talk to.

"I had my fun," Landin said. "Then I started at the creamery in Winsted, worked there for about a year and a half until I got laid off."

Unable to get away from the farm business for long, Landin was able to get a job at the Winsted Farmers Elevator.

"Now I deliver feed to all these farmers, and there are all kinds of products we sell. We grind feed ­ I do everything at the elevator, from grinding feed to delivering," Landin said.

The price of animals and grain hasn't been the best lately, Landin said. That caused many of the small farms that he rendered for to go out of business.

"The prices aren't the best, but they'll go up one of these days," Landin said. "So many of the small farms have gone out of business in the past few years. I could drive through the country now, and take for example the road that runs between Winsted and Waverly ­ that used to be all farms. I think there's only one or two left that still milk cows."

"The worst part is I see all these empty barns and it's a pretty bad sight. But, when you work seven days a week, 365 days of the year, and don't get any money for the crop. It just doesn't work," Landin said.

"Now I have a very good boss, and work with great people. I love this job and just hope people keep buying feed from the elevator," Landin said.

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