Dan Webster gets a kick out of growing the Dakotas' other beans -- dry edible beans. They're the beans used in chilies, soups and pork and beans.
It's kind of nice to be growing a crop that is used directly for human food," says the Penn, N.D., farmer and president of the Northarvest Bean Growers Association, a trade group made up of North Dakota and Minnesota dry bean growers.
Of course, Webster also likes the fact that he's been able to make a profit on dry beans most years. According to North Dakota State University Extension Service's annual crop budgets, dry beans have been among the most profitable crops to grow.
Webster likes the added diversity dry beans bring to his grain farm, too. Dry beans have their own price cycles; they usually do better in cooler, drier seasons than soybeans; and they spread out the planting and harvesting workloads. Dry beans are good for the land, too. A legume, dry beans fix some of their own nitrogen and leave the soil mellow. Wheat and corn often yield more when following dry beans than other crops, Webster says.
There are more half dozen small market crops like dry beans in the Dakotas, says Frayne Olson, North Dakota State University Extension agricultural economist, who has been studying price trends and contract issues. Malting barley, sunflowers, field peas, lentils and lentils are a few of them.
"They pose unique risk and production challenges," he says, "but some years they can offer some solid returns."
Read more in the August issue of Dakota Farmer. It's available online at www.dakotafarmer.com. Click on magazine online.