Value-Added Agriculture

When Chris Kummer's grandfather ran the 90-acre family farm in the early 1900s, it was the 8 acres of apples, pears, peaches and grapes -- and the wine and cider they'd make from them -- that provided the most income.

It's not much different than what's happening today as farmers look for ways to create new opportunities for profit, he told attendees at the 2019 DTN/Progressive Farmer Ag Summit. A common way to add value is to join someone else's value chain.

Kummer has spent the better part of the last decade pursuing an arguably more challenging endeavor: raising chia seed. When he first began growing chia commercially in 2013, the tiny seed was headed to superfood fame for its protein, fiber and omega-3 fatty acid profile. Food manufacturers couldn't get enough, but they had to buy it from South America.

Kummer and his company, Heartland Chia, spent the next several years getting pesticide approvals, a USDA crop code, figuring out production systems, etc., all while trying to build a market that could compete with cheap South American imports.

The company now sells 50-pound bags of chia seed to food manufacturers as well as a consumer-branded product in grocery stores. "The main thing is to understand your market. Look at the risks and opportunities that are involved," he says. It may be your passion, but it still has to make a profit.

He suggests getting your ideas on paper, creating an information-based business plan, reading all you can and spending a little money on consultants before you go and spend a lot of money on something that might not work.

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