There’s been an enhanced focus on the agriculture industry in recent months; it seems appropriate to take a look at what makes up a successful operation.
Ref, The Progressive Farmer: “Manchester Farms primarily grows corn, soybeans and wheat now, but it’s seen a lot of changes since it was founded in 1858.” The farming operation has a rich history of being an early adopter of technology; and each generation made decisions that shaped the farm into the operation it is today. In recent years, Tim’s contribution has been growing popcorn and focusing on seed production. And, Caleb is working to build on that legacy by specializing in identity-preserved crops. He says, “I want every bushel this farm raises to get a premium on it.” That includes popcorn and seed beans, but also non-GMO and organic production, as well as 66 acres of malting barley that was planted this year. Caleb continues, “As the consumer has demanded more transparency in the market, we’ve found more opportunities to make a profit. If the market is demanding a non-GMO crop or identity-preserved crop, I’ll be glad to give it to them.” He sees this as the key to keeping the farm in business for the long term. Caleb says that “rather than growing more volume in terms of acres, I’d rather have a larger profit margin on each bushel of production. Specialty grains are going to be my niche and enable us to continue to be profitable and sustainable.” Some of those plans had to be put on the shelf for a while, so that this Spring’s weather conditions could be dealt with. “We were so delayed by the weather that when we finally got in the fields in June, we had humongous weeds that we couldn’t control with some treated products,” Caleb reflects. He called his seed supplier for an overnight delivery of Enlist soybeans seed and they were able to kill weeds and plant in close succession. Less than 10% of the farm went unplanted this year; they wrapped up on June 29th with more acres of soybeans than the farm had ever grown. Caleb summarizes with, “I’m learning that you’ve got to be able to adapt as part of risk management – I’m not sure I’m great at it yet, but I’m working on it.” That seems a concise summary of what farming is all about these days.