Indiana Crop Farming – It’s More Than Fuel and Feed.
In the summer, you don’t have to drive very far to see vast fields of corn and soybeans; the primary, commodity crop here in Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. What you can’t see is which crops are destined for fuel for your car fuel for animals, or fuel for your body.
One type is considered a commodity crop, while others are direct to consumer food products. Commodity crops are corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, or other mass-produced crop that can be stored for long periods of time. Direct to consumer food products are in the food production stream quickly to ensure quality, freshness, and nutrition. As each growing cycle approaches, we evaluate commodity prices and trends as part of our planting plan. In recent years, a big swing in commodity prices has left many farmers questioning if they can add value and increase their margins by growing specialized crops for human consumption that are in higher demand.
The Seasonal Strategy Behind Farming
While it isn’t feasible (or strategically smart) to totally retool to only produce direct to consumer food products, we do manage to diversify by raising specific corn and beans that are in fact, food products.
For one, we raise popcorn. This is a direct to consumer crop that has been quite successful for us in yield and revenue in past years. It would be tempting to grow even more popcorn, but many other farmers have added popcorn to their crop rotation, and despite it’s popularity as a snack food, the supply easily meets the demand and prices aren’t as attractive as they were just a few years ago.
We grow a specific strain of corn known as ‘waxy’ corn, for a company called Ingredion – a main supplier of corn starch to food companies. This crop ends up directly in the food products we all eat. This strain is higher in starch content and is used as a thickening agent in processed food products, everything from soft drinks to soup. As more consumers rely on ready to eat meals and convenience foods, corn starch will continue to be an in-demand product.
We also raise Plenish® beans, a type of soybean that has been hybridized to provide a healthier oil with lower saturated fats and the highest amount of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat available in soy. This oil is desirable for fast food restaurants due to its stability and shelf-life for everything from French fries to baked goods.
All these food-specific crops are grown to the manufacturers specifications, and just like a commodity crop, are subject to yield, moisture, and quality standards. In other words, we still have risk just like we do with commodity crops.
Planting season may still be a couple months away, but we are still busy planning and preparing what we’ll grow this year.
And now you know that some of what we grow may just end up on your dining room table.