Grain elevators dot the landscape across central and western Kansas, but one agriculture company has unveiled a program to keep grain on farms.
Indigo Agriculture announced Thursday that it is launching an on-farm storage program, with the aim of facilitating a direct farmer-to-buyer marketplace. Representatives from Indigo said keeping grain on the farm can save money, make grain more marketable and more.
“There are a couple key advantages to on-farm storage,” Indigo Head of Food and Fiber Ben Allen said. “One is that harvest is the most expensive time to move grain -- transport costs are increased because of high demand -- and the second is that quality can be directly measured and matched to what buyers are looking for.”
Allen said grain taken to an elevator is mixed in with other grain, making the quality measure into an average.
“We’re also seeing a rise in the country of people wanting to know exactly where their food comes from, how it was handled and who it was handled by,” Allen said. “On-farm storage and being directly connected to buyers through our system provides farmers a way into that market.”
Through the program, Indigo contracts with farmers to monitor and store grain on-site. Indigo purchases grain at the end of harvest, and markets it directly to buyers. Farmers taking part in the program agree to use seed treated with Indigo’s microbial technology, as well as sell their harvest to Indigo for five years.
Farms currently without on-farm storage can also be set up with a grain bagging system through Indigo, which the farm pays for over the five years at zero percent interest. The bagging system is only available to farms farming at least 1,000 acres -- about 19.1 percent of all Kansas farms according to the 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture.
“Through our contracting program we also provide agronomy services for each contracted acre,” Allen said. “Farmers may use whatever services they like, but ours is part of the package deal to dial up yield and quality over the life of our contract.”
Indigo has been in business four years, but just started contract production in 2017. On-farm storage, however, isn’t new in Kansas. Stanton County Farmer and Kansas Farm Bureau 9th District Director Jim Sipes has his farm at nearly 100 percent on-site storage.
“We’ve been doing on-farm storage basically all my life, because we sell our wheat as a value-added product,” Sipes said. “Now we do the same with other crops as a way to squeeze every cent out of the crop to keep the farm vital.”
On-farm storage has gained popularity -- at least in western Kansas -- for the last few years, Sipes said. He said it keeps him out of lines at the elevator.
“That’s been a big issue out here,” he said. “I’ve heard of people running four combines in fields and having to shut two down because their trucks were stuck in line at the elevator.”
Indigo hopes to spur on-farm storage across the nation, and could find some success in Kansas. While on-farm storage takes business away from elevators, Sipes said he doesn’t think there will be much of an effect.
“I’ve filled grain bags -- there’s a lot of labor involved -- and we’re in a bit of a labor shortage right now,” he said. “So on-farm storage isn’t going to work for all farms, because they may bring in crews to handle their harvest or not have the labor force to do it.”
Chance Hoener’s agriculture roots started on farms and ranches in Southeast Kansas. Now he covers Kansas agriculture as the Kansas Agland editor. Email him with news, photos and other information at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (620) 694-5700, ext. 320.