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Berglund

Buying Ingredients from Local Farms

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Hi all,

I am starting distillery in Minnesota and hope to be up and running by the summer of 2018. I am wondering how distilleries are working with local farms and what it looks like to purchase raw grains from them. Specifically, I am wondering: 

1. Are most of you working with one farm or several?

2. How often are you able to purchase grain from them and are there any seasonal restrictions, particularly in Minnesota? 

3. What kind of prices are you getting per pound? I'm interested in using raw wheat, corn, and barley.

4. What other considerations should I be making that I am missing?

I know this is a truly beginner question, so I appreciate any advice you have to offer. 

Thank you!

 

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47 minutes ago, Berglund said:

1. Are most of you working with one farm or several?

We work with two main local farmers to provide us with what we need. One is a family friend who is planting things per our request. 

48 minutes ago, Berglund said:

2. How often are you able to purchase grain from them and are there any seasonal restrictions, particularly in Minnesota? 

Since these farms are close, I used to go over with my pickup and fill up a buckhorn box at a time at the farms from the bins. One farmer installed a few smaller used bins to store rye and wheat in for us. The other has a leg (bucket elevator system) connected to his bins so I had to coordinate with him to pick it up. So for us they allowed us to get smaller batches at a time, year round. However, I've found most farmers don't have a lot of storage around us for things like rye and wheat, and try to get it all sold shortly after the harvest. For this reason we installed a silo onsite to increase our storage abilities beyond boxes and bags. It is really going to depend on the farmer you are working with, we offer our main farmers a slight premium over market rates because of our hassles.

53 minutes ago, Berglund said:

3. What kind of prices are you getting per pound? I'm interested in using raw wheat, corn, and barley.

Around here prices are per bushel, typically with standard sizes, not adjusted per test weight. Corn (56 pounds) is currently around $3.50, we pay our farmer $4 cleaned and delivered. Rye (54 pounds) is $8 to $10, we pay $11 for cleaned and delivered. Wheat (60 pounds) goes for around $4, we pay $5 clean and delivered. I got raw barley once from a buddy (48 pounds) for $10 delivered. Local markets are going to make big swings in the prices.

57 minutes ago, Berglund said:

4. What other considerations should I be making that I am missing?

Seed cleaning; you will want clean grain, so finding farmers who can clean it for you is best. If you talk to farmers who deal in seed, they will be more likely to clean it, and possibly bag it (bulk or 50 pounds) for you. This all depends a lot on your local market.

Know their year, when things get planted, when they get harvested, that way you know when they want their bins empty or when they will have more, but most importantly when is a good time to call and ask about things or ask them to deliver.

Work with your farmers, their margins are razor thin, (if they even exist) and hours are long. We never debate asking price and we work around there schedule. It is a lot simpler to just grow corn and beans and send it off to an elevator or ethanol plant by the semi than deal with growing things for small distillers who are buying 40 or 50 bushels at a time.

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Berglund,

My input being in NW Minnesota/NE North Dakota:

1. It's going to depend on the area you are in and how large of a production you plan on having. I'm using just one farmer, but that's because he's a friend and rents our farm land so the relationship was already in place. Start trying to build relationships with the local farmer(s).

2. Most farmers have grain bins they store in so you'd be able to purchase from year round on the condition that they don't mind storing it for you and they know ahead of time how much you need. A lot of farmers are contracted with grain elevators for a specified amount, they can't sell the grain twice so if they don't have enough you're out of luck.

3. We've got a gentlemen's agreement with our farmer that we'll pay the commodity price, plus additives if it's below a certain protein% and a reduction if they are over.

4. Like I mentioned above, storage is going to be one. If the farmer is going to hold it in their bin and transport it for you you'll have to take that into consideration. But if you buy and have hopper bins at your distillery that can store what you'd need that's preferred so you're not depending on the farmer to get the grain when you need it.

feel free to message me if you want to talk about it more. Depending on the region your in I could possibly help with getting you in touch with some farmers.

 

Tyler

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52 minutes ago, Tom Lenerz said:

Seed cleaning; you will want clean grain, so finding farmers who can clean it for you is best.

Cleanliness is very important! Any kind of weed seeds or other cellulose materials will cause no end of grief.

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Moisture content is also very important.  The moisture content required for harvesting corn is not dry enough for long term storage - we have our farmer dry our corn so that it will not spoil during the summer months.

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47 minutes ago, Huffy2k said:

Moisture content is also very important.  The moisture content required for harvesting corn is not dry enough for long term storage - we have our farmer dry our corn so that it will not spoil during the summer months.

Yes this is something easy to run into, and it can affect how hard it is on your mill as well.

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