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Taking an alternate route into farming

Taking an alternate route into farming
Specialty crop allows young family to start farming in an unconventional way.

They say there's more than one way to skin a cat. But Jared Cordes, of Roann in Wabash County, is proving there's also more than one way for a young family to break into farming in today's challenging economic environment.

Related: Specialty Crop Growers and Livestock Owners Concerned About Spray Drift

After earning an agronomy degree from the University of Wisconsin, where he was a scholarship track and cross country runner, Cordes worked for a bank and a seed company for a few years. But in time, Cordes got the itch to go into farming, and faced an all-too-familiar roadblock.

Blackberry man: To get back to the farm, Jared Cordes staked his future on blackberries.

"With corn and soybean prices headed toward record highs, and cash rents right on their heels, land to rent was realistically neither available nor affordable," says the soft-spoken Cordes.

Then in 2011, Cordes' dad Kevin came home from the Farm Progress Show with an idea. There, he'd visited a booth for Trellis Growing Systems from Fort Wayne. Utilizing a new technology which features rotating trellises, the system makes it possible to commercially grow blackberries farther north than had previously been possible. The system was touted as a way to make marginal land profitable with a high-value crop.

After visiting with TGS founder Richard Barnes, attending a few conferences, and doing some serious pencil pushing and soul searching, Cordes decided to take the plunge. Using one of Kevin's old dairy pastures, Jared planted about 10 acres of blackberries in 2013.

While the plants – called "canes" – are expected to mature in four or five years, and last 20 to 25, the first year produces no fruit. In 2014, there was a limited amount of fruit, but not enough to break even. Cordes hoped that 2015 would be the year that his blackberries would put him into the black for good.

At this juncture, Cordes says he's on track to pay back the investment, and is reaping rewards of raising his family in rural Indiana on a farm. However, there are challenges.

Check the website tomorrow to find out what happened to his first potentially good blackberry crop this year.

Boone writes from Wabash

TAGS: Soybeans
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