2013 - Volume #37, Issue #2, Page #09[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Seed Grower Specializes In Highway BeautificationInstead of bushels/acre, Delbert Winterfeld measures his crop in pounds/acre. For more than half a century, he has focused on niche crops such as native flowers and grasses. Itís not for everyone, he says, but consumer interest is growing and so is his business, Cedera Seed Inc., in Swan Valley, Idaho. In addition to growing specialty crops, he has the only conditioner in Eastern Idaho to process seeds to sell retail and wholesale from his on-farm business.
The Lewis flax and Penstemon flowers seen along highway medians in that region likely came from seed he grew. The Penstemon seeds are also found in mixes to attract pollinators. Other seeds, such as Delar Small Burnet, blend into wildlife food mixes popular with landowners with CRP ground as well as landscapers and homeowners. Winterfeld worked with the U.S. Forest Service to establish Deustus, a white wildflower that thrives in volcanic soil in hot, dry climates.
He started out in the business with his father in the 1950ís, growing seed potatoes, brome grass and Vernal alfalfa for dryland crops. After his father died in 1963, Winterfeld started focusing on brome and other grass seed. By the 1980ís, he had expanded into a variety of native grass and flower seed crops.
With a growing demand for native plants, the Idaho farmer works closely with the NRCS (National Resources Conservation Service) to produce seeds suitable for the region, which averages 16 to 18 in. rainfall/year. Even less rain recently has added to the challenge of growing the crops on dryland. But the biggest challenge is weed control and finding licensed herbicides that wonít kill the flowers and grasses, too. Winterfeld grows 20 acres of flowers and sometimes weed control comes down to old-fashioned hoeing.
He also grows 20 acres of forbs, such as Sainfoin, which is popular with cattlemen to improve livestock forage.
It takes two years to establish grass and flower seed crops. Flowers are planted in the fall, and grasses are planted in the spring. Some of the varieties are combined as they are cut. Others are swathed to allow the seeds to mature and dry before being combined.
Flower seed production lasts a few years before the ground must be rotated with peas to add nitrogen. Some grass seed crops are rotated after just two years of production.
ďItís unconventional (farming) and itís risky, because many of our users have CRP land, and as commodity prices rise, CRP acreage is falling,Ē Winterfeld says.
Still, there are many farmers with CRP land, and thereís interest in the seeds he processes beyond Idaho into Montana, North Dakota, New Mexico and other places with similar growing conditions. Plus, plants that attract pollinators are in demand.
Winterfeld installed his seed conditioner in 2000 so he can process his own crops instead of hauling them 150 miles to be processed. He has more than 30 varieties of flower and grass seeds available to sell in small and large quantities, wholesale and retail.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Cedera Seed Inc., 114 State Highway 31, P.O. Box 97, Swan Valley, Idaho 83449 (ph 208 483-3683; www.yourseedsupplier.com).
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