Posted on November 7, 2023
Capital Sand Company was incorporated in Jefferson City, Mo., on August 8, 1973. On August 9, 2023, the company celebrated its 50th anniversary with luncheons for employees at all of its plants and a ribbon cutting with the Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce.
In the past 50 years, CSC went from a single location to multiple locations in multiple states, employing 2,000 people, and has grown into the largest sand producer on the Missouri River.
CSC was started in 1973 by Mike Farmer. After graduating from college at the University of Missouri, he worked for about a year in another industry. Then his father, Elliott Farmer Sr., told him that Jefferson City needed another sand supplier. Elliott Sr. was in the ready-mix concrete and asphalt business and had an ownership interest in Farmer’s Concrete, Cole County Industries, Jefferson Asphalt in Jefferson City and Eldon Concrete.
Purchasing its own dredge equipment in 1974 was an early milestone in Capital Sand’s growth
Over the years, Elliott Sr. advised Mike and his brother, Elliott (Bud) Farmer Jr., in business decisions. Mike purchased a loader and a set of scales and had a neighboring sand company, Callaway County Sand, dredge sand for him to sell. Bud was a partner with him in CSC but did not initially work in the company.
In 2023, seven family members from three generations work in the businesses through Farmer Holding Company, owned by Mike and Bud Farmer.
Like CSC’s growth over these past 50 years, Farmer Holding Company has evolved from a single sand operation to being vertically integrated with sand and gravel, limestone quarries, ready-mix concrete plants, asphalt plants and laydown crews, bridge construction, excavation, frac sand operations and terminals and real estate investments.
Employees Are Key
Operations manager Jason Branstetter started with CSC in 1997 and has been with the company for 26 years. In his time at CSC, he has watched the company grow and expand. “When I started with them, CSC had six sand plants, three dredges and four towing vessels on the Missouri River; one sand and gravel plant and dredge on the Osage River; and the Jefferson City River Terminal, which consists of a Portland Cement terminal and a linehaul towboat,” he told The Waterways Journal.
Branstetter’s primary mentor was Ray Bohlken, a long-time manager of CSC. “I worked for him about 19 years until he retired,” Branstetter said. “Tim Gibler and Greg Braun, who have worked for CSC several years more than me, have taught me many things over the years regarding how our equipment, dredges and boats function.”
“A key part of the growth of CSC is our employees,” Branstetter said. “In the early days, our equipment was used and required constant maintenance. Our employees put in the effort, hard work and a lot of hours to keep things operational so we could provide sand and gravel to our customers. In 2023, we are fortunate to have newer and better-quality equipment, but our employees’ work ethic and knowledge are still key to the day-to-day operations and the growth of CSC.”
River Fleet Grows
In 1974, when CSC bought Jefferson City Sand Company, it acquired its first river equipment, consisting of a dredge, barges and the mv. Anna Marie, which the company stopped using in 1982.
“Early key successes were purchasing our own dredge, towboat and river equipment, then hiring quality employees who had knowledge in the industry,” Branstetter said. “As the business grew, we were to purchase more new equipment.”
Ready-mix concrete and asphalt companies were early customers. Today, CSC sells products to industries including golf courses, sports field projects, landfills and drainage projects.
“Over the years the fleet has seen many changes as towboats and dredges have come and gone,” Branstetter said. In 1979, CSC purchased the mv. Marge I new from Serodino; the company still operates it today. CSC’s most recent boat purchase was in 2023, when it purchased a used 900 hp. towboat with a shallow draft to use on the Missouri River due to the low water conditions. After the 2011 flood, CSC worked as a subcontractor to Newt Marine for several years, during which it provided a towboat and barges to move rock for dike repairs from Sioux City to central Missouri.
“We built new dredges in 2017 and 2020 that replaced two of our older dredges,” Branstetter said. Currently CSC operates five towboats in the sand operations and one towboat for Jefferson City River Terminal, ranging in size from 900 hp. to 3,600 hp.
The COVID-19 outbreak had minimal effects on the company’s business. “We were classified as an essential business, and we did not slow down during COVID,” Branstetter said. “Sales continued at a normal level. We implemented procedures to keep our employees safe and to minimize contact.”
In 2023, CSC has seven sand plants, three dredges and five towing vessels on the Missouri River (at Washington, Jefferson City, Rocheport, Boonville, Glasgow, Lexington and Missouri City); one sand and gravel plant and dredge on the Osage River; and the Jefferson City River Terminal.
CSC is constructing two new cement silos that will provide 6,000 tons of storage.
“This is a great improvement from the current two silos that hold 1,500 tons that were built in the 1980s,” Branstetter said. The company’s holdings include two inland pit sand and gravel locations in the Kansas City area and one sand and gravel plant near Harrisburg, Ark. Sand and gravel are excavated from the Crowley’s Ridge deposit.
While CSC did not directly do any work related to the dike repairs after the 2019 flood, its sister company, Capital Quarries, has supplied riprap in the central Missouri area, and that material has been loaded on barges from Capital Sand property. Capital Quarries has supplied 280,000 tons of rock to date for dike repairs, with another 400,000 tons to go. Due to low water in the Missouri River over the past three years, CSC has completed two emergency dredging contracts for the Corps of Engineers in 2020 near Mile 130 and in 2021 near Mile 185 at the Interstate 70 bridge.
Building The Future
As CSC looks to the future and lays the groundwork for another 50 years of growth, the labor shortage is a challenge for it, just as in other industries. “My greatest concern is finding the skilled employees that we need to operate our plants and river equipment over the next few years,” Branstetter said. “We are continuously looking for new avenues to advertise our job openings, especially when it comes to boat pilots. For boat pilots, we have advertised in The Waterways Journal, and this year we started utilizing RiverWorks Discovery. We also participate in technical school career fairs and Build My Future events for high school students as recruitment tools.”
Three years ago, the company started Capital Academy, a six-week-long academy for recent high school graduates who have made the decision to go straight into the work force. The academy teaches them the introductory skills to operate some heavy equipment and construction labor skills, and they receive OSHA 10 and MSHA New Miner training.