SIDNEY, Ill. (WCIA) — When you buy a bag of chips at the store, you’re probably just focusing on your next snack and not so much how they were made. But, what if you knew that every time you eat Fritos, Doritos or Tostitos, the corn might be coming right from your backyard?
There’s been a strong connection between Central Illinois and Frito-Lay for the past 40 years. Sidney’s corn processing plant opened in 1983 and plays a big role in making some of your favorite snacks.
“If you’re buying Frito Lay corn, you’re probably buying corn that we produced,” Marty Wilson, a farmer in Sidney, explained. “800 acres goes to Frito-Lay.”
Wilson isn’t the only one playing a role in making sure the chips have the right ingredients to hit the shelves. So is Kathy Schindler, another farmer in Sidney.
“It’s white corn and yellow corn. It goes into the plant in Sidney,” she said.
After they both spend their days harvesting, their truck makes the quick five-mile drive to Frito-Lay’s corn processing plant. It’s one of only two in the nation.
“One’s in Nebraska and we’re here. We take care of pretty much the eastern half of the United States and they take care of the western half,” Hank Lewis, a maintenance mechanic, said.
Chuck Schmitz, the grain operations director in Sidney, said they bring in grain from 125 local farmers all located within a 60-mile radius of the facility.
Once the corn’s quality is checked, the trucks head to the dump pits.
“We’ll unload the trucks, the trucks hold about 1,000 bushels or about 50,000 pounds of corn,” Schmitz explained.
After the farmers drop off the corn, it heads into underground tunnels, to wet silos and into corn driers. It’s lifted up to the top and then goes into the center of the drier. From there, hot air is pulled through the grain to dry it. Then, it makes its way to long-term storage and is shipped out to manufactures.
“Every product you pull off the store around here is going to be corn that’s pulled through this facility so it’s pretty exciting,” Schmitz described. “There’s some great ownership of not only the employees that work here but also the farms around here. They’re pretty proud to say their product might be in one of these bags you pick up at the local store shelf.”
Schindler is one of those proud farmers.
“I feel honored to be a farm girl,” she said. “I am honored to be a Frito Lay grower.”
So, even though you may be munching on chips from a big-name organization, you’re still supporting local at the same time. Schmitz said a lot of the corn used to be sourced out of Texas until 1999; but he’s happy to see the change and sourcing from the soils surrounding the facility.