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He Cashed In With Alternative Crop
When North Dakota State University recommended growing "borage" as an alternative crop, Roger Gussiaas gave it a try. Nearly 20 years later, he's still growing it and selling borage seed to overseas markets where it's pressed for oil used in supplements and cosmetics, lotions and shampoos.
  With blue and purple flowers that last about a month, it's one of the prettiest crops in his Carrington, N. Dak., fields.
  "It's a crop you would only grow if you had a market for it," he says, adding that it's not something producers can sell at the local elevator.
  Borage is suitable for areas with cool nights, and moderate moisture and day temperatures. It needs bees for pollination at least one hive per acre.
  "Beekeepers love borage because it's one of the best producers of high quality honey," Gussiaas says. "Beekeepers welcome the invitation to come to borage fields."
  On fields of 50 to 100 acres, the hives are set on all four corners, but they can also be placed in the middle or on the edges of the field.
  Before planting, Gussiaas uses a pre-emergence herbicide. Later, he follows up with a grass herbicide and an herbicide to kill mustard.
  It's important to plant on clean ground, he says, in order to avoid weed seeds at harvest. Borage is planted at 12 to 15 lbs./per acre in late May/early June in North Dakota. It emerges in 7 to 10 days, and then grows slowly for 2 to 3 weeks.
  When borage starts to bloom, the bees get busy on the flowers that continue to bloom right up until harvest.
  "It's an indeterminate plant so it doesn't all ripen at the same time," Gussiaas says. In North Dakota, harvest is around Sept. 1. The borage is cut with a swather, windrowed, dried and then combined with a pickup header. Yields vary from 100 to 600 lbs. an acre and sell for $1 to $2.50/lb. Seeds are stored in totes or bags.
  "All of our production goes overseas," says Gussiaas, who contracts with North Dakota farmers to grow seed. His main export is flax seed, but there is also demand for borage, which has the highest content of gamma-linolenic acid (Omega 6) in a plant.
  In some markets, borage flowers are sold as food or dried for tea. Many gardeners believe that when borage is planted next to tomato plants, it enhances the tomato flavor.
  "You need to know someone," Gussiaas emphasizes to market the seed. "Go to a processor of some kind for a contract."
  Seed is generally only available through processors and runs $3/lb.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Roger Gussiaas, 6945 5th St. N.E., Carrington, N. Dak. 58421 (ph 701 652-3529; www.healthyoilseeds.com).

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2011 - Volume #35, Issue #4