Whether it’s thinking outside the box, the barrel or the bag, farmers are sowing seeds of innovation that are adding to their to their bottom lines and enhancing wildlife.
Washington County farmer Rod Richardson, with his sons David and Walt, markets corn as deer feed to local stores in the area.
“A local Ace Hardware store owner called me up one day and asked if he could buy a ton of corn from me in 50-pound bags,” Richardson said. “Later, I asked a local Exxon station store owner if she would be interested, so I took her a ton of corn every week. Soon it went to two tons a week, and sometimes during winter it’s about a ton a day.”
This year, the Richardsons estimate half of their 360 acres of corn will be sold to local stores in Washington, Clarke and Mobile counties.
“It’s good to have more than one market for your corn,” Walt said. “It’s kept us growing corn during years when other commodities were a better price. We wanted to keep our customers, so we kept growing corn.”
Walt said the family is committed to growing the business—so much so they bought a new, mechanized bagging system to replace the hand-filling method.
Similar to his Washington County counterparts, Lee County farmer Garrett Dixon’s side business started by accident, too. After getting a late start on harvest, Dixon stored his wheat in grain bins after the markets closed and began selling 55-gallon drums of wheat to dove hunters.
“I had to look at the profit opportunity,” he said. “I would get more for the grain in Montgomery, but it would cost me more to haul it there, whereas I had everything I needed on the farm to sell to hunters. I created a higher profit margin by doing that.”
In addition to increasing profits, David Richardson said he enjoys interacting with customers by explaining agriculture.
”I like dealing with the people,” he said. “We meet a lot of people and have met a lot of folks just through selling corn. They love to talk farming with us, and I think that shows a lot of people have an interest in agriculture and wildlife.”
Alabama Farmers Federation’s Rick Oates said wildlife is often overlooked as a resource. Alabama hunters contributed $1.8 billion to the state’s economy in 2013, according to a state survey, and that didn’t include almost $11 million in hunting license fees.
“Whether you’re seeking a trophy buck, an awesome photo of a gobbler or you want to mark off one more rare bird on your Audubon Bird List, Alabama’s 23 million acres of woods offer a great opportunity for adventure,” said Oates, director of the Federation’s wildlife and forestry divisions.
Oates said before feeding wildlife, hunters and other nature lovers should check Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources regulations. For information, visit OutdoorAlabama.com.