Farm Progress

Commodity producers may want to get outside their comfort zone to grow profits.

Maria Cox, Blogger

November 1, 2016

2 Min Read

I did something this month that farmers don’t do - take a day off during harvest.

What could possibly compel me to leave the field on a sunny harvest day? It was the St. Louis Meet the Buyers event sponsored by Illinois and Missouri Farm Bureaus. The event was an opportunity for growers and buyers to meet and discuss business opportunities.

I enjoyed the talks about selling farm products through a wholesale distributor, how to market to retailers, and selling straight from the farm to a restaurant. Farmers spoke on the challenges of selling to different buyers and what it takes to do business. I most enjoyed the talk given by a regional distributor about how he works with farmers to provide local food to the restaurant industry.

Whenever I attend a meeting, my goal is leave with one piece of information I can use to benefit our business. My ah-ha moment happened when I spoke with the regional distributor at the afternoon one-on-one session with buyers. I observed farmers giving samples and brochures to vendors, in an attempt to find homes for what they produce. I took a different approach with the distributor. I explained how I was part of a 6th generation family farm that raises grain, livestock, and hay. I then explained that we are looking for opportunities to grow more profitable crops. I asked him if there was anything he wanted us to grow. His mouth dropped open and he had a surprised look, and then told me he can’t get enough of certain crops every year. We discussed what we could grow for him, prices, and how that relationship would work. I took that information back to my dad and we are now discussing setting aside acreage for crops to meet the distributor’s need.

As commercial farmers, we are in the business of producing stuff and selling it in bulk at the market price. That’s not a bad thing; we have price transparency and always know where we can sell our commodities. But, we need to understand there are other market needs we could meet by producing different crops in the same soil. These markets are different from selling to the local elevator and sale barn, but these markets do exist. The idea of doing something different can be downright uncomfortable to us commercial farmers. It’s important we keep open minds and explore what buyers need.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.

About the Author(s)

Maria Cox


Maria Cox is a sixth generation grain, livestock, and hay farmer from White Hall, Ill.  She has been farming with her family since 2012, and also has experience in grain marketing and crop insurance.  She holds a M.S. in Agricultural Economics from Purdue University and a B.S. in Agribusiness from the University of Illinois. You can find her online at and twitter @mariacoxfarm.

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