With majestic Mount McLoughlin, the Table Rocks' skyward thrust and the ramparts of two mountain ranges, the Rogue Valley has more than its share of awe-inspiring heights.

With majestic Mount McLoughlin, the Table Rocks' skyward thrust and the ramparts of two mountain ranges, the Rogue Valley has more than its share of awe-inspiring heights.

Man-made structures simply can't compete with nature's architecture. So it's no wonder the region's tallest building exists for function, not form.

The Grange Co-op grain elevator looms 135 feet above the city of Central Point and prominently protrudes from the landscape along Interstate 5. No mere landmark, it's a monument to the Rogue Valley's longtime reliance on agriculture and, since 1947, a cornerstone of Grange operations.

"We take care of it, and thank goodness it lasts," says Grange general manager Barry Robino.

The original elevator burned in a massive 1961 fire but was rebuilt a year later on the same site, virtually to the same specifications. It remains the only feed plant in Southern Oregon and shows no signs of slowing down.

Containing 35 commodity bins that hold about 2,000 tons of corn, wheat, oats, barley, beet pulp and soybean meal, the elevator enables the Grange to make "almost an infinite number of different feeds" for livestock, says Robino. Many of the mixtures are distributed through the Grange's seven retail stores in Jackson, Josephine and Klamath counties.

Grange feed is mixed and shipped daily, traveling as far north as Canby and as far south as Ferndale, Calif.

As often as it can, the Grange purchases commodity grain — wheat, oats and barley — from farmers in the Rogue Valley and Klamath Basin. Shipments are unloaded from rail cars that run behind the elevator and from trucks arriving on Front and Pine streets.

Although a mechanized system of buckets fills the bins, elevator employees have to check their levels from the upper floors of the building.

That means several times daily, someone climbs into a counterweighted metal cage and manually hoists it up through the building's three stories, mainly consisting of metal tubes and machinery. Brian Wilkerson, manager of Grange feed operations, likens the exertion to doing pull-ups.

"Our production supervisor does it many, many, many times a day," he says.

The reward for such hard work is glimpsing through windows and service doors an unparalleled valley vista.

"It's a long way up there," says Wilkerson. "You can see, like, forever."

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or email slemon@mailtribune.com.