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Networking Helped Build Organic Grain Sales
William Hale had his first customer before he ever planted a kernel of Bloody Butcher heirloom corn. An area artisanal baker wanted an heirloom dent corn to bake with and contacted Hale.
  “I was approached because I’ve been involved with an organic farming organization,” says Hale. “We looked at different varieties and selected Bloody Butcher. The first year I grew only half an acre or so for him to try. The baker really liked it.”
  Since then, Hale has added other customers and expanded product offerings. He grows 2 types of heirloom popcorn for sale locally and as seed through several seed companies. Like his Bloody Butcher, both are organic, open-pollinated varieties. Hale sells his seed through Fedco and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.
  Hale treats his product with care, using a picker to harvest. Then he hand selects ears from the wagon to shell for customers. “I farm with real inexpensive machinery,” he says. “I have an old picker and an old F2 Gleaner combine.”
  Hale also grows hulless oats and Wrens Abruzzi, an heirloom rye adapted for forage use in the early 20th century. It grows 8 to 10 ft. high with heavy tillering. As with the corn, Hale has selected the rye because there was a market for it.
  “It has very desirable milling qualities,” says Hale. “Millers are crazy for locally produced organic grains.”
  Although he has 25 acres that are organically certified, Hale only plants about half that each year. The remainder is planted to cover crops.
  Hale stresses the importance for anyone wanting to do niche marketing of organic products to get involved in the local or state organic organizations. It not only gives him a support system for questions he might have, it also leads to customers like his miller.
  Hale continues to work closely with his miller to provide the corn he wants. When the dark red Bloody Butcher seed produced some yellowish ears, Hale began selecting and breeding them as well.
  “Originally, the yellow off-type was about 5 percent of the ears produced,” says Hale. “My miller likes it too, so I’ve been selecting and getting more yellow with each generation.”
  One grain that Hale grew this past year was not at the request of a customer. When he received a shipment he hadn’t ordered of white, food grade organic milo, he planted it anyway. While he didn’t have a market lined up, he knew a market existed.
  “I haven’t tried marketing it yet, but I am looking for someone interested in a non-gluten milling grain,” says Hale.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, William Hale, 249 Baker’s Branch Lane, Louisa, Va. 23093 (ph 434 981-6286 or 540 894-5238; wnhale@ntelos.net).

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2016 - Volume #40, Issue #1