Flint Hills grain merchandiser ‘Rolls with the Punches’

On March 16, Alan Movall started a new job as a grain merchandiser at Flint Hills Resources’ Arthur ethanol plant. Three days later, he was sent home.
Although he had just been hired, Movall was one of several Flint Hills employees asked to work remotely from the plant, a precaution taken by many companies during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Flint Hills shifted its non-production workforce to work from home as much as possible, providing employees the necessary conferencing and computer technology to allow for the transition. About half of the plant’s nearly 50 employees were affected, including Movall.
“It wasn’t the easiest way to start a new job, but we all adapted and kept working,” said Movall. “My colleagues definitely helped with my learning curve. I had all of the support and access to information I needed to do my job well.”
As a grain merchandiser, Movall’s role involves serving hundreds of Flint Hills’ farmer-customers in the radius around the Arthur ethanol plant. He speaks with them about their business needs and provides market information every day.
Flint Hills Arthur purchases more than 40 million bushels of corn from area farmers each year to produce more than 120 million gallons of ethanol – even during a worldwide pandemic.
It helps that he came to his job with an understanding of farmers’ needs. A farmer himself, Movall farms 850 acres near Schaller. In total, he has farmed for 12 years in the region.
Movall also serves as a school board member of the Schaller-Crestland School District, giving him another point of view to understand what local customers and citizens find important.
Movall is married to wife Jennifer, with two sons. Grant is a sophomore at Ridge View High School in Holstein and Alex is beginning his first year at the University of Iowa.
In his new job, Movall said one of the benefits is that he gets to interact with farmers while still farming his own land.
“My experience allows me to know what everyone needs and how everyone thinks, on both sides of the transaction,” Movall said. “Farming is all about having good information and adapting to unexpected situations. Really, starting a new job by working from home is no different. Just have to roll with the punches.”
In late July, Movall and other Flint Hills employees slowly started returning to the plant, with COVID-19 safety precautions in place. While he’s glad to have time in the office, he misses some of the benefits from working from home. In his spare time, Movall and his family raise show pigs for 4-H and he’s polishing his barbecue pit master skills.
“It was pretty great to be able to check the smoker between calls,” Movall said.
Flint Hills Resources is an industry leader in refining, chemicals and biofuels and ingredients, with operations primarily in the Midwest and Texas.  Based in Wichita, Kan., the company has more than 4,000 employees and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Industries, Inc.
Flint Hills Resources operates six ethanol plants, located in Arthur, Fairbank, Iowa Falls, Menlo and Shell Rock and Fairmont, Neb.
The plants have a combined annual capacity of over 725 million gallons of ethanol, over 1.5 million tons of distillers grains and over 125,000 tons of NexPro® high-protein ingredient for animal feed.