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Wheat Grown As High-Value Crop
Gary Schafer and his partner, Rick Murison, both of Latah, Washington, are wheat growers who've figured out how to add extra value to their crop.
  The pair grows durum wheat for the floral industry. They've been doing it for close to 15 years, and they say the business has expanded enormously in the last couple of years. In 2005, they plan to grow 40 acres of the specialty wheat.
  "Wreaths and dried flower arrangements are very popular. The demand for floral wheat and oats keeps growing," Schafer says. "We deal with one wholesaler, and they tell us in advance of seeding what varieties they want that year."
  The partners grow three types of wheat: blond, beardless and black bearded. They are tight-lipped, however, about the specific varieties.
  Conventional seeding equipment is used. They begin their "first" harvest between late June and early July, using a walk-behind Japanese rice binder with a 1-ft. wide header. They "green harvest" durum wheat just before the stalks ripen. The bundles are later hung up to air dry.  
  The second harvest is a "dry" harvest of white bearded wheat, done just before the kernels mature in late July to early August. This time, they use two restored 40's era grain binders one with an 8-ft. header, and one with a 10-ft. header. With these units, they harvested close to 200,000 lbs. of wheat last year.
  Once the bundles are collected, they are stored inside a dark, tin-roofed shed, where the sun's heat helps dries them. Schafer and Murison pull out wild oats and other weeds by hand that escape their spray program. The men then pack the dried bundles in cardboard boxes.
  The partners sell their floral grains by the pound and say that top quality is absolutely essential in this business.
  The men were reluctant to share information about pricing and their wholesale arrangements.
  Contact: Gary Schafer, South 42108 Bourne Rd., Latah, Wash. 99018.

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2005 - Volume #29, Issue #2