1985 - Volume #9, Issue #3, Page #20[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Alternative Farming Keeps Farmer on His Feet
He chose an alternative method of farming and an alternative crop in hopes of finding, among other things, an alternative to the financial ruin many other farmers are experiencing.
However, Rosno is not what many people think of as an alternative/organic farmer. He doesn't have long hair, wear beads or live in a tepee.
"People, when they hear organic, they think Šoh my gosh, one of those guys.' It can really turn a lot of people off," he said.
Rosno, who has been farming since 1952, simply became concerned about nutrition, health and dumping chemicals on his neighbors downstream. He also became concerned about keeping his family farm afloat financially in an increasingly difficult economic climate.
Alternative agriculture is helping Rosno accomplish all of his goals.
Rosno's crop is high lysine corn. It is higher than normal corn in most amino acids, especially lysine.
According to Rosno, it is also more digestible. "Normal corn is about 70% digestible. This is probably 90-95% digestible and the rest is fiber," Rosno said.
When high lysine corn was first discovered in Colombia, South America, it was seen by some as an excellent method for boosting nutrition in cattle, Rosno said. "At that time there wasn't the interest in human nutrition that there is now, so they went with the livestock."
Tests at the University of Nebraska have shown high lysine corn yields are nearly equal to those of regular corn hybrids, but have a much higher food value. Rosno's own son has found his lambs gain faster when fed the corn and that dairy cattle "really soup up" on it.
Still, Rosno said, there wasn't widespread acceptance of the corn, primarily because it was new. "There is a stubborn attitude on the part of many farmers who feel they must use the same products as their ancestors and their children should use them too."
Eventually all but a couple of seed corn companiis gave up research on high lysine corn and carried only one or two token hybrids.
But Rosno persevered. If farmers who used the corn for feeding stock have good results with it, it ought to be good for humans too, he reasoned. "It seemed just stupid to be feeding the livestock better than the people."
So Rosno developed his own method to process the corn for humans.
With a tiny grinding operation in a former dairy barn, he now hand packages high lysine corn meal for shipment to health food distributors on the East Coast.
He credits the high lysine corn meal operation with keeping his farming operation solvent: "I guess if it wasn't for the corn meal we'd be broke."
The work is not easy and Rosno and his wife, Deloris, perform almost all of it themselves.
But there is money in it. "If the reward is there financially you do a lot of things," Rosno said.
He declined to say how much the small business earned during the past year, but noted it was more than he made farming.
Before Rosno began selling the high lysine corn for human consumption, he had already made one change in his farming operation that was necessary for that market.
"All our stuff goes to health food stores and they demand organically grown," he explained. This is the eighth year that his crops were grown without the use of chemical pesticides or fertilizers.
Initially, concern about his family's health caused a conversion to organic farming. Rosno said he was concerned because so little was known about the long-term effects of chemical use.
The effect that buying chemicals had on his farm finances bothered Rosno too, he said.
Rosno noted that without chemicals, his yields are about two bushels per acre less than they would be with chemicals. His costs are also less ¨ by about $30 per acre. As long as corn prices don't hit $15 a bushel, something not likely in the forseeable future, Rosno feels he is saving money and a lot of it.
He also feels better about farming: "Now when you farm like this you don't have to worry about poisoning somebody downstream."
Rosno decided to switch to a sy
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