"A farmer has to be an optimist, otherwise he wouldn't still be a farmer" Will Rodgers
According to the the latest Iowa State University Costs of Crop Production for 2017 report it costs about $4.10 to produce a bushel of corn in Iowa. At the current selling price of roughly $3.50 per bushel the farmer is losing about 60 cents on each one they produce. While the cost per acre has been as high as $830 per acre it means that growing 200 acres of corn will cost about $150,000 to plant this year. Consequently that farmer is on track to lose about $35,000 during 2017. Unfortunately the numbers for soybeans and hay are similarly bleak.
Farmers are getting crushed by falling commodity prices on one side and rising input prices on the other. It's not rocket science: something has to change if farmers are to survive. Right now growing commodity crops looks like a going out of business strategy so it is not hard to see why Industrial Hemp is attracting so many new farmers willing to risk it all to try a more profitable crop. However, most farmers don't know what they are getting into. There is no business I know of where rules change constantly, the processing infrastructure is still hypothetical and each State gets to set their own regulations. On top of all that you still have to compete against a black market where rules are just inconveniences and you'll have to find a buyer through a broker "who knows a guy, who knows a guy who needs some flower..." Maybe Will Rodgers was right; farmers must be optimists.
For over two years Chimney Rock Farms has been helping farmers make the transition to hemp. As an Organic farm for over a decade we too were getting hammered by falling food prices and rising costs, especially labor. While the commodity farmer pays one person to drive a tractor at about $13 an hour the transitioning hemp farmer is faced with much higher labor costs to transplant, tend and harvest each plant. Understanding how to manage these costs are critical to success of any farmer entering this business as we figure out how to scale this industry.
Since our mission is to research and develop new methods and technologies to help small and midsize farmers become profitable, hemp was a natural transition crop for us as well. While we know industrial farming is necessary to "feed the world" what isn't well known is that commodity grain and beans are mainly a source of calories the world needs not necessarily the nutrition it must also have. For that fruits and vegetable farming will need to move closer to where people actually live for our agricultural system to become truly sustainable over the long run. We believe it will be necessary to re-localize much of our food system, including animal production, and to do that we are going to need a lot more farmers. If those farmers enter agriculture through hemp then we will have accomplished our mission.
Learning by doing: cloning and seed propagation
We have held numerous full-day training sessions for farmers and their lead growers to learn how the hemp business actually works; how hemp can be grown profitably if costs are managed carefully, market niches are well defined and the right choices on the genetics and technology are made. We have had very positive results and feedback from farmers and growers receiving our consulting sessions and are always asked for more in depth coverage around business issues such as regulatory compliance and market development and general guidance on how to get started.
Beginning 2017 we will be conducting two conferences at the farm. A Spring conference devoted mainly to plant breeding, genetics, propagation and field planting which will also cover go-to-market market strategies as well as hemp law as it continues to evolve. The Fall conference will cover seasonal topics such as State reporting,, harvesting, drying and processing. We will look at the whole supply chain to determine who is really making money and how to align a successful business model.
To make your reservation go to our contact page here.