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Serving: IN
potato harvesting Tom J. Bechman
POTATOES FOR CHIPS: Ryan Facemire tried a crop new to him this year to diversify his income stream, growing potatoes for Black Gold Farms.

Think outside the box to boost farm income

Various ways to generate income and cut expenses will help farmers survive 2020.

Black Gold Farms’ decision to grow potatoes farther south in Indiana than the company had ventured before was good timing for Ryan Facemire. It allowed him and his dad, Jim, to learn about a new crop and put their investment in irrigation to good use just in time to generate more income than typical commercial corn and soybeans.

The Facemires grew potatoes for the first time in 2020. With more people staying home and snacking, word is that the demand for potato chips is strong. That means the demand for potatoes is healthy, too. Potatoes grown on some 300 acres on Facemire farms this year all went into potato chips.

Diversifying into different crops is just one way to seek alternative income in a year when corn and soybean margins may be slim to nonexistent, except for those lucky enough to harvest very high yields. Indiana is already known for tomatoes and popcorn. But producers like the Facemires are open to venturing into other areas if they hold potential for more income.

Some are investing in hemp, although market availability issues still hang over this potential new opportunity. One thing most people didn’t want to do in a year like 2020 was gamble on an unproven venture that could increase risk.

Other options

Darrell Boone, who writes for Indiana Prairie Farmer occasionally, spent lots of time recently asking younger farmers what they were doing to survive difficult times. He also wanted to know what they saw as opportunities in agriculture today. It’s a series we intend to continue throughout 2020 and into 2021.

In future stories, you will meet young farmers who are diversifying by catering to people getting married, whether they’re growing and providing flowers for weddings or turning farms into facilities to hold wedding receptions. There’s even one young couple who will provide entertainment options like bounce houses for children for various occasions. Now all they must do is figure out how to keep the services they’re offering in line with COVID-19 requirements.

Traffic at many farmers markets all around the state buzzed all summer. More farmers are discovering they can provide local meats and produce for people concerned about where their food comes from.

One farmer is even perfecting the art of raising grass-fed beef. He has discovered you can improve the taste and appeal by the type of forage you graze cattle on as they approach final weight. He reports good demand continuing for this niche product, despite the pandemic.

Boone also learned that many families are relying on one spouse working off the farm. Besides the extra income, the other attraction is insurance coverage for the family.

Indiana Farm Bureau is about to go live with its new insurance options for members who don’t have someone working off the farm and need a more affordable option for insurance coverage. Randy Kron, INFB president, led that charge, which even required persuading the Legislature to change the law. Like Facemire’s discovery of another cash crop for irrigated acres, this new insurance option couldn’t come at a better time for many farm families.

Boone discovered what you already knew. Times are tough, but Hoosier farm people aren’t giving up. They’re just cranking up the ingenuity!

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