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"Dirt Farmers" Make Money Selling Soil
Larry Mills and his wife Rhonda are dirt farmers. For the past six years, they have been selling topsoil from their farm, using a remodeled 50,000 bu. grain bin to store it.
    "I didn't like pulling tarps over topsoil in the rain," says Larry Mills. "If we didn't use the bin for this, we would have sold it for scrap. We can store about 3,500 cu. yards inside the bin and in an old 55 by 100-ft. Quonset."
Surrounded by residential developers, they long ago accepted the fact that their farm would be developed for housing at some point. To prepare for that day they are mining sand, gravel and topsoil with the goal of improving the eventual marketability of their land.
"When the sand and gravel are gone, we will have a low banked lake of about 50 acres leaving about 100 acres of developable land around it," explains Mills.
To harvest the topsoil from the area to be quarried, they start with an old chisel plow. It rips up the topsoil so it dries quickly. Scrapers carry it into a pile where conveyers move it into the bin. Modifications to the bin make loading and removal easy.
"We cut a 20 by 20-ft. hole in one side and framed it with some heavy steel trusses as a doorway," recalls Mills. "Then we used the steel we cut out of the side to make a form inside the bin and filled the 5-in. gap with concrete to act as a bumper."
Mills fabricated a 20 by 8-ft. steel door and mounted it on a set of rails. It slides up and down with the help of a loader, but can be pinned in place at any of several heights. One is 5 ft. from the floor, allowing a small skid steer loader to enter and remove dirt. The bin is filled to about the 12-ft. depth, or about 1,400 yards. Along with the dirt stockpiled in the Quonset building, it puts Mills in good shape for early spring sales.
"This was the first year we came close to selling out," says Mills. "After five weeks of rain, we only had about 30 yards left."
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Maple Valley Farms, Inc., 4022 St. Rt. 303, Mantua, Ohio 44255 (ph 330 297-7579; rockyrider@adelphia.net).

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2006 - Volume #30, Issue #4