Harvest season is in full swing right now across the state as the grain crops finally dry down. I was fortunate enough to get Wyatt Muse’s take on a few questions about grains and our upcoming Specialty and Organic Grains Training Intensive in between his many hours out in the field. Wyatt will be leading us on an extensive tour of Clarkson Grain’s facility in Cerro Gordo on the second day of our training, which runs from November 3-5. There is still time to register!
You work at Clarkson Grain and also do a lot of your own growing and want to expand your operation with the help of your family. Why are you so passionate about growing grains?
Some of my earliest memories are times spent with my family, on our farm. I am the 4th generation to live where I do and my son marks the 5th. Being raised on a farm greatly increases his chances of being interested in and capable of operating his own farm someday. Even if he doesn’t farm, I trust that the work ethic and lessons learned will benefit him in whatever he decides to do. I think this concept would be the same regardless of what we are raising. It just happens that our soil, climate, and infrastructure is well suited for grain production. Beyond just raising crops, I take great pride in participating in a supply chain that I can see, purchase, and eat on the grocery shelf. This is at the core of what Clarkson Grain is founded on.
Why should people grow specialty and organic grains?
Raising specialty grains offers diversification from the risks of raising a generic commodity. Minimizing extreme price fluctuations is one of the obvious reasons, but it also offers the chance to plant diverse germplasm. The additional management required to grow and segregate specialty crops is financially rewarding because buyers will pay more for a differentiated product. This leads directly into the societal impact: delivering a product that people are asking for & willing to pay for. Beyond that, it can be personally rewarding to have a connection to where your harvest ends up. Often times, a commodity crop disappears into the mix, whereas a specialty crop is raised specifically for a product. Farmers should be proud to know they were part of the supply when seeing a product on the grocery shelf.
What is the next “big thing” in grains, do you think?
Traceability continues to be something that is talked about in the grain market, as well as other food markets. We are able to use technology today to accomplish what was theoretical just a few years ago. People want to know where their food comes from and with smartphone technology, we are able to access almost limitless information while shopping in the grocery store or at a restaurant. Some food products are already including codes that can be scanned to tell the consumer what farm the product came from. This is not as easy with grains since much of it is typically co-mingled, but I can see a time in the near future where this will be more common in foods derived from milled grain products. Something Clarkson Grain did this past year for an export customer is geo-tag our farmer fields within a computer application. The buyer could get online and look at the weather and growing conditions of these fields. The farmer can take notes and make comments about the crop condition that the buyer can read. This grain will be segregated and exported for a specific food use. This satisfies the buyers interest in knowing exactly where that grain originated. It also satisfies the farmers interest in knowing where their production is ending up and also earning a higher return for their management of raising this crop. I believe we will continue to see more programs like this in the future.
What will participants learn at the Clarkson Grain facility? What is the Cerro Gordo facility used for?
The facility is used to clean corn destined for food and feed processors. This facility is corn-only and this is intentional to reduce the risk of contamination with other products. Clarkson owns other facilities that are dedicated to specific grains for this reason. Participants should learn about why quality matters when the product is shipped from the farm. They should also learn about what they can do on their own farm to maximize quality.