Phil Knox – Rural communities and Dryland cropping systems
Today we started our trek back east into Kansas where we stopped at AgSun Farms. While we were there we talked about rural communities and dryland cropping systems. Under the AgSun umbrella there is a dryland cropping system along with a feedlot, elevator and corn flaking business. In the feedlot there are 2500 head of cattle and they have 10,000 acres of cropland. All their cropland is devoted to feeding their feedlot and their rotation consists of 2 years of corn and then 2 years of wheat. At the elevator there is enough storage in their bins for 1.5 million bushels and they process 2 million bushels of corn per year through the flaking process and 70 truckloads a week are shipped out to different facilities, a majority of them being dairy farms.
In the last 7 – 8 years AgSun has not had good yields but this year was pretty good as there was decent rainfall compared to previous years. There will probably be an increase in yield this year, which will actually not be that good, as corn prices have fallen. There are a lot of new production of corn and wheat and China has been supplementing their own corn for about $9 a bushel, which means fewer exports for the US to China.
For young people starting out in the business there are a lot of barriers to entry as there used to be a lot of subsidies, but those have since stopped. They also used to be a farm size limit in effect of 12,000 acres in order to receive government funding as well, but that is also no longer the case. Community involvement is a big part of everyone’s lives in this small town. Some AgSun employees have even held local political positions such as being mayor.
The theme for the day was about dryland farming in rural communities and how involved farmers are within their community. My learning points for the day were about how farming in Kansas is much more risky than farming in other areas. My second learning point is that soft white wheat is the main wheat grown here, which is different from my region in Ontario. My third learning point is about finding that niche market for your area. This is important because it is such a small community that there are not many niche markets around, so you need to be careful with what you choose and how you plan to market. My initial assessment of the visit was confusing as I was not entirely sure what this company did and what we were suppose to be learning. Upon realizing what their job was, it was really interesting to learn about the corn flaking and then how the acreage and beef feedlot fit into that niche market.