Prairie Skyscrapers
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Photo by Marva Mosshart,
Protection, Kansas

Photo by Duane Reif,
Great Bend Co-op, Boyd Elevator

What are Prairie Skyscrapers?

Prairie Skyscrapers are Kansas grain elevators. In most areas of Kansas, you can see at least one elevator off in the distance. Every town has at least one and, in some cases, the elevator is still standing (and may even still be used) even if the town has been abandoned.

Grain elevators were built when very few Kansas farmers could build enough storage at their farms to store their entire wheat crop. In the early days of Kansas, each farmer hauled his wheat to town with a horse and wagon. Most Kansas towns, and grain elevators, were not very far apart.

Grain elevators were built alongside railroad tracks, as were most Kansas towns. The wheat from area farms was collected at the grain elevator and then shipped by rail car to flour mills.

In recent years, more and more Kansas wheat has been shipped by semi-trucks from the local grain elevators to larger elevators, flour mills, or to ports. Two-thirds of the wheat grown in Kansas is exported to other countries. Kansas ranks 1st among the 50 states in flour-milling capacity so much of the remaining one-third of the Kansas wheat crop is milled into flour in the state of Kansas.