Grain to glass

On a Monday afternoon in January, Van Hawxby is feeding the rum.

The yeast needs to eat, so he’s adding just a little bit of diammonium phosphate to the sugar wash. In a few more days, the mixture of dark brown cane sugar, yeast and water will be distilled and barreled. After six months, it will be ready for drinking as rum.

“But we’re here to talk about whiskey,” Hawxby said as he dumped in the remainder of the yeast nutrients and the vat started to bubble.

Almost four years ago, Hawxby and his wife, Lisa, founded DogMaster Distillery in Columbia, Mo., with two products—vodka and unaged whiskey. Since then, they’ve added two more business partners, Dan and Stephanie Batliner, and several more products. Now, they also produce aged whiskey, bourbon and both light and dark rum.

Hawxby sources corn, wheat and oats from the local MFA Agri Services in Columbia to make his whiskeys and bourbons. He said he does so for a couple of reasons.

“It’s convenient for me,” Hawxby said. “I can just call the guys at MFA and say, ‘Hey, I need a load of grain.’ I know that within five days the order will be ready for pickup without any additional shipping costs. Plus, we want to support Missouri farmers and agriculture. Eventually, we’d like to get to the point where we’re contracting with farmers to grow particular grains for us. We’re not there yet, but when we get our grains from MFA, we know that it’s typically from a farm within a 50-mile radius.”

A self-described Oklahoma farm boy, Hawxby grew up on a small hobby operation during his father’s tenure as agriculture professor at Oklahoma State University.

“It was a farm to feed four boys,” Hawxby said. “Both my parents were farm kids from Nebraska, so agriculture runs pretty deep in our family. We didn’t have row crops or cattle, but we had our projects for 4-H and FFA. We had show cattle, and I raised turkeys.”

Later, Hawxby’s father took a position for the University of Missouri Extension in St. Joseph, Mo. That’s where Hawxby met his wife, who is from Agency, Mo.

“My father was always preaching added value, added value,” Hawxby said. “How can farmers add value to their products? Well, they can do that by selling their grains at a premium to a local distillery.”

Hawxby said the idea for his business was formulated seven years ago when he was introduced to the craft-distilling industry.

“I had always wanted to be self-employed,” Hawxby said. “I wanted to build a business of my own. I didn’t really know what that was or what it would look like, but I knew I wanted it to be a business where I was creating something that was consumable—something that people use over and over again. I thought, ‘If I could grow a loyal, local clientele and expand organically, how cool would that be?’”

Hawxby isn’t the only one to have that thought. Craft distilleries have been popping up across the country, in towns both large and small. There are more than 20 in Missouri alone in rural areas such as New Haven, Purdy, Walnut Shade and Higbee, just to name a few. According to a 2015 white paper published by American Distilling Institute Research Economist Michael Kinstlick, the number of entrants to the market has doubled every three years and is estimated to reach 2,000 by 2020.

“When I first opened up, there were about 500 small working distilleries in the United States,” Hawxby said. “Now there are probably 1,300.”

Before he started working on his products, Hawxby had to devise a business plan and get licenses and permits in place. It’s illegal to distill liquor without the proper paperwork. It then took a couple of months of experimentation to get his recipes right. He called on distillers near and far for instruction.

“People in this industry are very friendly,” Hawxby said. “They’ve realized that the more people are out there doing this, the more we grow our collective market share. We help each other. I put together a couple of week-long internships at distilleries across the country. I just asked them if I could come in, be a free laborer and ask a bunch of stupid questions. People were really open to it.”

In July 2014, DogMaster Distillery opened its doors to the public. The name comes from an inside joke between Hawxby and some college friends. The gist of it, he explained, is that the “DogMaster” sets off on his own path.

“We would harass the person that didn’t want to hang out with the guys because they had to study or wanted to go on a date,” Hawxby said. “It’s the DogMaster who does their own thing, marches to the beat of their own drum.”

Hawxby’s whiskey grain bill, which is the industry term for the mix of ingredients used to make the wort, is made up of 40 percent corn, 15 percent oats, 20 percent wheat and 25 percent malted barley. The wort is the liquid extracted from the cooking process, also called mashing.

“For whiskey, we take 750 pounds of that grain blend and 250 gallons of water,” Hawxby said. “Then basically, we cook the grain into an oatmeal-like consistency. That converts the starches in the grains into fermentable sugars. Once we have this fermentable, sweet, corn sugar liquid, we strain that off the grain and add our yeast.”

The yeast eats the sugar and converts it into ethyl alcohol. Once the yeast is added, fermentation typically takes around five days, Hawxby said. At this point, the alcohol content of the wort is that of a beer or wine. From that point, he pumps the liquid into a 200-gallon still. Alcohol has a lower boiling point than water, he explained, so when the pot of the still is heated, the alcohol vapor rises through the columns at different temperatures. It then passes through a coil where it condenses back into liquid form.

“The first part of the still run is what we call the heads,” Hawxby said. “It’s lower-grade alcohols—methyl alcohol and ethyl acetate. We reserve that and use it for disinfecting the tanks. Then we have the hearts, which is the good stuff. That’s the ethyl alcohol and the good whiskey we keep. The last part of run is called the tails. The tails have some fusel oils, which are the things that will give whiskey some off-putting odors and flavors, but there is still some good alcohol in there, so we reserve those, too. We’ll put those in with the next batch to distill down again.”

The process for bourbon is similar to whiskey, but the grain bill is different. Bourbon must also meet a list of additional criteria. Legally, bourbon:

  • Must be produced in the United States
  • Made from a grain mixture that is at least 51 percent corn
  • Distilled to no more than 160 proof
  • Aged in new, charred oak barrels
  • Entered into the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof
  • Bottled at 80 proof or more, like other whiskeys

So, all bourbons are whiskey, but not all whiskeys are bourbon, Hawxby explained. Bourbons are a uniquely American spirit.

Fermentation takes anywhere from three to five days. Hawxby calls the production a fusion of nature, science, artistry and craftsmanship.

After the process is complete, the whiskey is bound for the bottle or the barrel, depending on its destiny. Hawxby sources his barrels from Robert Berendzen of Barrel 53 Cooperage in Higbee, Mo. The barrel is where the whiskey or bourbon gets a lot of its flavor and color.

“Our distillery is very much a Missouri operation,” Hawxby said. “We get our grains locally and our barrels locally. It’s part of our brand and part of our story.”

As the craft distillation industry has entered a renaissance, Berendzen is a bit of a renaissance man himself. In addition to the cooperage, he also owns and operates a distillery, stave mill and farm where he grows grains and raises horses, cattle, goats, chickens, elk and a single turkey. He’s put his own twist on the “grain to glass” notion.

“We call it forest to glass,” Berendzen said. “Missouri white oak is sought after all over the world for the flavors, the sugars and the caramels it gives off, and we have a good supply of it here.”

In 2012, Berendzen started Midwest Stave Exchange, also based out of Higbee and right across the road from Barrel 53 Cooperage. He works with multiple logging companies to sustainably source the white oaks.

“We buy our logs from the loggers, but there are programs where if you remove a tree, you plant three more seedlings,” he said. “Most of these logs come from somewhere in a 60-mile radius around Higbee.”

Once he began making staves, Berendzen said the cooperage and distilling became the next logical step. He is one of three master barrel craftsmen in the area. In 2013, Berendzen established Barrel 53 Cooperage and two years later, he started Woodsmen Distilling. Now, he employs more than 30 workers in the small town of fewer than 600 people and sends both staves and barrels all across the country and the world.

“I’ve been farming and around farming all my life,” Berendzen said. “But my father-in-law also owned a saw mill for 30 years. The stave mill was our first thought, then when this grew so much that we needed another mill, that was our second thought. The idea for the cooperage and distillery came at the same time shortly thereafter.”

At the stave mill, logs are cut to size, and then a process known as quarter-sawing is used to ensure the barrels will be liquid tight. Each log is hand-sawed at an angle into four quarters and rotated to ensure the wood grain lays flat. This process is what sets a stave mill apart from a saw mill, Berendzen explained.

“It’s a very important part of our process,” he said. “If we didn’t quarter-saw these logs, all the liquid would leak out of the barrel.”

Completed staves are graded for quality and put into two different piles. If there was an imperfection in part of the tree, those staves are set aside and used for kindling during the charring process. Barrel-worthy staves are stacked on a pallet for curing.

“Once our staves have been made, we allow them to mature for three to six months,” Berendzen said. “When the wood is ready, the staves are then kiln-dried to 15 percent moisture and sent down the road to our cooperage.”

At the cooperage, the staves go through a cup planer to round the surface slightly prior to assembly. Then they are hooped together to form a loose barrel shape and run through a steam tunnel for about 30 minutes. Steaming is necessary to pull the top staves of the barrel together, Berendzen said. Without it, the staves would break under the pressure. Finally, they go into another tunnel for drying, and then the char is added.

Charring the barrel changes the compounds of the wood. The staves release cellulose, which allows the wood to form a bond. The carbon layer acts as a filtration system for the alcohol as it seeps into the wood of the barrel. But maybe most importantly, charring releases the hemicellulose found in the oak, which breaks down the sugars in the wood.

Berendzen’s rackhouse sits a little over half full with roughly 150 barrels of assorted bourbons, whiskeys and ryes at varying stages of aging. The structure isn’t heated or cooled and has no method for temperature control.

“Most people don’t realize, but 60 percent of your flavor comes from the wood,” Berendzen said. “You want that expansion and contraction of the alcohol seeping in and out of the stave. It gets its color, its caramel, its sugars—all of that—from the wood.”

Neither Berendzen nor Hawxby is done expanding his business. Berendzen’s daughter is in the process of designing an event venue that will also make room for an additional still, and Hawxby is making the DogMaster label known in the wholesale market. His whiskeys and spirits can be found in retail stores across Missouri.

Meanwhile, 50 miles from Higbee and 20 miles from Columbia, Bruce Shryock is growing the wheat that could one day make its way into DogMaster’s bottles. Shryock plants anywhere from 500-600 acres of wheat every year on his Auxvasse, Mo., farm. Much of his wheat is grown for seed, he said, but he has also marketed it to the local flour mill and other outlets such as MFA’s Columbia elevator.

“Sometimes farmers don’t think about where our crop will end up, but I think it’s important people know what we do, what we grow and what it’s used for,” Shryock said. “We’ve tried to impart that on our kids and grandkids.”

The wheat is short this time of year, and the field is muddy, but that doesn’t stop Shryock’s 3-year-old grandson, Ledd Robert Foster, from trudging through it. His grandfather turns to the youngster and asks, “Ledd, what does wheat make?” Ledd innocently responds, “Cereal.”

Cereal and whiskey, among other things. That’s what wheat makes.

Visit DogMasterDistillery.com and Barrel53Cooperage.com for more information.  Both sites have great videos illustrating what they do.

More photos coming Here soon.

CLICK HERE to view the story as printed in our Flip Book: http://mfa.uberflip.com/i/947232-march-2018-todays-farmer-magazine/15?m4=

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Strengthen your lending relationship

With farm debt and bankruptcies continuing to grow—a trend that will likely persist during 2018—we asked two financial experts from MFA country to explain how declining farm income has affected our region and what producers can do to strengthen their relationships with lenders going forward.

“The tightening farm economy has led to an erosion in the working capital that farmers built in past years,” said Jason Mott, corporate credit manager for MFA Incorporated. “We are seeing higher delinquency rates and lower credit bureau scores. As a result, MFA has been forced to take a closer look at requests for credit than we did a few years ago.”

Kevin Gabbert, vice president of commercial lending for FCS Financial, part of the Farm Credit System, says his organization experienced an increase in problem loans in early 2016 following the 2015 production cycle.

“However, the number of operations feeling financial stress at FCS Financial has leveled off in the past 12 to 18 months,” Gabbert said. “Good yields helped offset lower prices for crop producers. Overall, demand for new capital financing of equipment, buildings and real estate has been more muted over the past two to three years.”

Mott and Gabbert provided these seven suggestions:

1. Improve debt management

Gabbert: Focus on building adequate working capital. This provides a cushion for adversity and positions you to respond to opportunities. Often, producers make purchases that result in a working capital shortfall. Working capital needs vary by enterprise type, but should typically be at least 20 percent of your annual operating income.

Mott: Lenders base decisions on how borrowers meet the “5 Cs” of credit: character, capacity, capital, collateral and conditions. I encourage farmers to assess their financial conditions before making borrowing decisions. Don’t make a long-term decision based on short-term circumstances. Don’t base a 25-year decision to purchase land or a six-year decision to buy a new combine on just last year’s earnings. Use a three- to five-year average of previous years’ income and expenses to formulate cash flow. Maintain a current ratio (current assets divided by current liabilities) of at least 1.25:1—this gives you enough liquid assets to pay short-term obligations. We like to see debt-to-worth (total debt obligations divided by net worth) of no less than 1:1. 

2. Consider supplier financing

Mott: Farmers increasingly seek this type of financing. MFA maintains relationships with lenders who finance inputs, including John Deere Financial, ProPartners Financial and Rabobank. 

3. Keep good records

Mott: Good records are vital to a lender when evaluating credit. Providing more detailed records on the front end leads to fewer questions on the back end and speeds up decisions. 

Gabbert: We are working with customers to improve their financial reporting and have partnered with the University of Missouri Adult Ag Educators to assist producers in generating more complete and accurate financial reports. Records must be up-to-date to be useful in making real-time decisions. The particular app or program is not as important as the commitment to spend the time and effort to generate timely and accurate information.

4. Work with financial experts  

Gabbert: We have seen a rise in the use of financial professionals, and we especially encourage this for customers with complex operations. Tax, accounting and other professionals provide another set of eyes to help identify areas that need attention. With tighter profit margins, improved financial reporting can help you obtain financing.

Mott: Develop a close relationship with an accountant, and don’t be afraid to ask for an opinion before making a large purchase. Many farmers still keep their own records and pay bills, but an accountant usually prepares tax returns and, in some cases, financial statements. Providing income and expense records to the accountant before year-end leads to better tax decisions.

5. Negotiate with landlords

Gabbert: While there has been some moderation in rental rates, it has been limited. We encourage customers to look at each farm individually and understand how it contributes to the entire operation’s profitability. Variable rental-rate plans may help the producer if farm income remains low and give the landlord the opportunity to share profits if prices elevate again.   

6. Communicate frequently with lenders

Mott: Communicate when changes occur to allow for loan modifications or extensions when needed. I am more willing to work with a borrower who communicates with me. There is no such thing as too much communication, especially in stressful financial times.

Gabbert: Keep an open line of communication with your lender regardless of the economic environment. Share periodic financial reports, and updated production, marketing and operating plans.

7. Manage risk

Gabbert: Develop a written risk management plan that includes both price- and date-driven targets to sell a portion of your production. Recently, opportunities to price at profitable levels have been few and far between. A written plan drives the discipline needed to execute a strategy when opportunities occur.

Mott: Knowing a farmer has a commodities contract and crop insurance in place can be valuable when we’re deciding whether to approve a loan request.

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Born to run

The search for the right partner had been long and frustrating, but McKenna Golliher knew right away that Larry was the one.

Sure, he was a little older, a little too thin. But the horse had potential, and 16-year-old McKenna fell in love. Her parents, Randy and Veronica, gave the pair their full blessing.

“They really clicked,” Veronica said. “Before we found Larry, we’d been looking quite a while for a barrel horse that would be both fast and safe for McKenna. He already knew the patterns, and the first time she rode him, he just wrapped around the barrels. He really likes to run.”

“I was a little scared because he was so much faster than my old horse, but it was so much fun!” McKenna said. “We’d tried out a couple of other horses, too, but I picked him.”

Neglect by previous owners had left Larry undernourished, but the Gollihers began working to improve his body condition as soon as they brought him home to their Stoutland, Mo., farm this past August. Within a month, McKenna was riding the 14-year-old thoroughbred-quarter horse cross in rodeos.

“When we got him, you could see his ribs,” Randy said. “His back and hips were dipped down, and he didn’t have any top line muscle. It’s amazing the difference in what he looks like now.”

Randy, an employee of MFA affiliate Farmers Produce Exchange #139 in Lebanon, Mo., started Larry on MFA’s Legends Show & Pleasure feed along with rice bran. The horse began to thrive. But in December, the Gollihers were asked to be part of an introductory group to try out MFA’s new premium horse feed, Exceltra. Results have been outstanding, Randy said.

“The acceptability of the Exceltra has been great,” he said. “Larry never hesitated when we made the switch. He’s maintained his weight, and it gives him good energy. Plus, he’s had no digestion problems whatsoever. I’ve been able to drop the rice bran supplement because he’s getting everything he needs.”

This new feed formulation is a breakthrough in equine nutrition, said Janice Spears, MFA equine sales and companion pet specialist. Exceltra is designed for horses of all ages, with enhanced levels of carbohydrates for growing, showing and working equine. The pelleted feed is beet pulp-based and contains low levels of sugars and starches to assist metabolic disorders and excitable horses.

“Beet pulp is a good fiber source, and it encourages horses to drink more water,” Janice explained. “That’s good for overall digestion because horses have such a small stomach. They need that fiber to break down more quickly and start moving through their system.”

What truly sets Exceltra apart, however, is the inclusion of MFA Shield Technology: cutting-edge, research-proven additives to enhance equine health and performance. Shield is an innovative concept in equine nutrition that helps keep horses free from antibiotics with an all-natural blend of botanical extracts and synbiotics, Janice said.

“No other horse feed has this kind of technology,” she said. “We are so limited in what kind of medications we can give horses, especially in their feed, because we don’t know what their consumption level will be. Shield gives horse owners an opportunity to boost immune health without medications.”

Shield Technology has been shown to improve immune function, feed efficiency, reproduction and foal health, Janice said. It’s also available in MFA’s new Suprema feed, designed for the needs of older horses.

“We’ve had such good results with Shield Technology for other species, it was a natural fit to incorporate it into our equine feeds as well,” she said. “It’s working on cattle, it’s working on dogs, it’s working on goats and sheep and rabbits. And now, it’s working on horses.”

Having a strong immune system is critical for competitive rodeo horses such as Larry that experience the strain of travel, strenuous activity and exposure to other animals, Randy said.

“There’s peace of mind knowing Shield Technology is in this feed, because hauling him around exposes him to a lot of things,” Randy said. “His overall health is excellent, and I think we’ve got him turned on the right track.”

McKenna, a sophomore at Camdenton High School, participates in the Missouri High School Rodeo Association and has 10 events coming up this spring. Her 18-year-old brother, Garrett, also competes in saddle bronc and bull-riding events. Barrel-racing is McKenna’s specialty, and she aspires to learn pole-bending. Turns out Larry’s got skills in that sport, too.

“I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember, and I love everything about it,” she said. “I especially love barrel-racing—the thrill of it. My goal is to just keep getting faster and better and hopefully make the nationals someday.”

Due to changes in suppliers, the Legends line is expected to eventually be phased out and replaced by Exceltra and Suprema premium feeds, which are now available at most MFA and AGChoice locations. MFA’s Easykeeper feed will continue to be a mainstay equine nutrition product. For more information, visit https://mfa-inc.com/equine

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Mor to the story


John Pat Samson has been producing soybean seedstock for so long, he doesn’t worry about the beginning or ending of its story. For more than 25 years, he’s focused on the middle chapters—growing and harvesting—not the seed’s origin or final destination.

“I’m so used to this, I don’t really think about the fact that these beans will be growing on someone else’s farm one day,” Samson said as he harvested a field of MorSoy 3922 seed this past fall near Marshall, Mo. “I just try to raise the best crop I can, keep everything clean, control the weeds and do a good job of combining the beans. That’s what I’m concerned about.”

He’s not alone. Most farmers don’t contemplate the complex process of seed production as they get ready to plant each spring. They may not realize that seed’s journey begins long before it reaches their farm—from genetic selection, field testing and evaluation to production, harvesting, conditioning, packaging and delivery—not to mention stringent quality control procedures every step of the way.

When it comes to MFA’s own proprietary brands of seed, there’s even more to the story. That’s because MorCorn hybrids and MorSoy varieties are tailor-made for growers in MFA’s trade territory and backed by the support and expertise of a highly trained agronomy staff. Plus, that seed is delivered along with all the products, technology and services needed for today’s row-crop production.

“The overarching premise in our MorCorn and MorSoy lineups is to have best-in-class products that can compete in the marketplace while performing very well in our geography,” said Steve Fleming, MFA Incorporated Seed Division director. “We have a customized approach. Our replicated trial system touches every part of our trade area, so we are really dialed in to the different soils and environments and are able to give growers products that fit their farms.”

The seed saga begins during the fall and winter, when Fleming, MorCorn and MorSoy product managers and agronomy personnel meet with the nation’s largest genetic providers to select hybrids and varieties that have potential to perform in our region. In the spring, those selections are planted as experimentals in replicated trials across MFA’s trade territory and evaluated throughout the growing season. At the end of the season, these plots are harvested with specialized equipment to scientifically measure yield and other characteristics. The accumulated data is used to base decisions on whether a particular hybrid or variety is worthy of joining the product line.

Nearly 40 soybean varieties and 37 corn hybrids were tested in 2017, Fleming said. Out of those, typically only 10 percent advance to the seed production stage. The products that make the cut are grown one season for sales the next. In other words, the seed being produced in 2018 won’t be ready for growers to purchase until the spring of 2019.

“We’re looking to find hybrids and varieties that make a total package for the farmer,” said Tommy Lee, MorSoy product manager. “We have our workhorses and our racehorses and everything in between. We don’t just try to sell one or two products. It’s a portfolio. That helps a grower spread his risk.”

In his previous role as salesman for MFA Agri Services’ LaBelle group, Lee said he’s seen the popularity of both brands grow among producers. Since the MorSoy and MorCorn lines were launched, they’ve built a solid reputation for quality across MFA territory, and market share continues to increase.

“It really comes down to performance,” Lee said. “We’ll run with anybody. MFA brings a full approach to the farm, not only seed but also chemicals, fertilizer and other inputs the farmer needs. When you can bring the whole spectrum to cover that farm, it sets us apart from other seed companies. Nobody else is doing that.”

This time of year, Fleming and the MFA Seed Division staff are focused on getting seed orders to MFA locations prior to the spring planting rush. After that, their priority is putting together seed production plans and working with the MFA agronomy team to design replicated trials.

“Once that’s done, we get to the fun part—getting to see the new experimentals in the field and comparing them to what’s in our current lineup,” said Adam Noellsch, MorCorn product manager. “It’s pretty neat to watch the product growing in the plots and evaluating what it’s doing throughout the season.”

MFA works with leading seed production companies in the Midwest to produce the varieties and hybrids that will be offered in the MorSoy and MorCorn product lines. All of MFA’s soybean seed is grown in Missouri, while corn is produced here and in surrounding states.

Once MFA’s seed staff decides how much of a particular product they want to sell the following year, the production companies contract with a hand-selected group of farmers to grow and harvest those orders. It takes a special kind of grower to produce seed, said Steve Blalock, president of Mid-State Seed, where many of MFA’s MorSoy varieties are conditioned and packaged. MFA Incorporated is part owner of this operation based in Marshall, Mo., as well as Cache River Valley Seed in Cash, Ark. MFA also has a longstanding relationship with Bullard Seed Co. in Ashland, Mo.

Seed production requires that all the equipment used to plant and harvest the crop is thoroughly cleaned so there’s no cross-contamination of varieties or traits. Once the seedstock is planted, the production companies take responsibility for scouting the fields during the growing season to make sure the crop is meeting expectations. Weeds, insects and disease must be controlled, and harvest must be completed in a timely manner to ensure quality.

The extra effort is rewarded with a premium price, Blalock said. Mid-State works with growers in Missouri to produce between 45,000 and 55,000 acres of soybean seedstock each year.

“There’s a lot to it,” said Samson, who grew 1,200 acres of seed beans for Mid-State in 2017. “You have to keep everything separate. You have to keep everything clean. You have to flush your combine and grain cart. It takes more time and effort, but the premium makes it worth my while. Plus, I know I have a place to go with my beans, and I don’t have to pay for storage.”

For MorCorn seed, the process is a bit more complicated, explains Steve Grenier, field production manager in southern Iowa. Seedstock fields must be planted and detasseled according to precise instructions, ensuring the right arrangement and ratio of female and male plants to create the desired hybrids. Throughout the season, field specialists monitor the corn for issues that could jeopardize seed quality. Unlike soybeans, which are harvested just like grain, corn seed is harvested by the ear with specialized picking equipment.

“We provide our growers with the inbred seed, planting instructions and supervision during the entire planting process,” Greiner said. “It is critical to make sure the planting is completed correctly. If split planting is not done correctly, male or female seed is mixed or in the wrong row, the seed will not be usable because the purity of that hybrid will not meet standards. Planting is the first step in many to provide a quality product.”

That care extends to the conditioning plant. Every truckload of seed—both corn and soybeans—is sampled upon arrival. Those samples are sent to third-party quality control labs to assay such attributes as germination, varietal purity and technological traits. Once the plant gets the go-ahead from MFA to start processing, the seed goes through a series of procedures to clean, sort and package it in bags or mini-bulk containers. Seed is also delivered to farmers in “true bulk” form for loading directly into tenders.

“The conditioning piece of this process is all about taking out the bad stuff and leaving the good stuff,” Fleming said. “We set minimum standards with the processors on corn and soybeans, and it’s up to those folks to work with their growers to ensure that the quality is maintained.”

December, January and February are the busiest processing months, Fleming said. Shipping to stores begins as soon as orders are ready, typically wrapping up by mid-April. During that time, Seed Division personnel also evaluate data from MFA’s replicated trials, making new product selections and starting the story all over again.

“We utilize our agronomy Training Camp at Boonville for testing and education, and then we have a replicated trial in all 11 MFA area sales managers’ territories,” Fleming said. “This work allows us to take the emotion out. A product either performs or it doesn’t. It’s about as unbiased as I know how to make it. We literally let the data speak for itself. We’re not trying to pick favorites. It has to perform.”

One of MFA’s replicated trials can be found each year on the farm of Brent Foreman near Clarence, Mo. The grower, who farms with his son, Jarrell, raises 1,000 acres of soybeans, 600 acres of corn and red Angus cattle. Beyond the test plots, Foreman said he also includes MorCorn and MorSoy products in his personal row-crop portfolio, not only because of their proven performance but also because they’re his cooperative-owned brand.

“I like seeing how the hybrid and variety numbers perform against each other and their competitors, and then I have that firsthand look at the ones I want to plant on my farm,” Foreman said. “I trust the MorCorn and MorSoy brands because they’re designed to work here in our area, and I see that every year on my farm. I had a MorCorn hybrid this year—4319—that was the best corn we planted, averaging well over 200 bushels, and MorSoy 3944 made over 70 bushels. They’re as good or better than anything in the marketplace.”

Every chapter in the story of MorCorn and MorSoy seed contributes to that kind of confidence in the brand, Fleming said.

“Growers want to know that they are buying a high-quality product, and when they purchase a bag of MorCorn or MorSoy, that’s what they can expect,” he said. “We’re giving growers access to a broad range of traits and genetics that they know will perform on their farms. It really is all about giving growers more yield, more expertise and more choice.”

For more information about MorCorn and MorSoy and to contact your area seed expert, visit www.mfaseed.com.

See MorCorn and MorSoy seed production in action through two new videos below.

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