DEAR NEW FARM:
I live in northern New York State, where a soybean dryer has recently
been installed, from my understanding, by a company out of Canada.
My questions are: What type of equipment is needed for this type
of farming, and; How many tons per acre will soybeans produce? Are
there any grants or help one can receive to get started?
We asked New York organic grain farmers
Klaas and Mary-Howell Martens for their input on this one. Mary-Howell
responded with these thoughts:
I'm assuming that you are either talking about the AgPro soybean
expeller in Malone or the ProSoya soymilk plant in Heuvelton.
Both are processing organic soybeans into food products and are
looking for more New York organic soybean production.
Soybeans vary quite a lot by type in yield potential. The shorter-season
varieties, which would grow best in the North Country, have a
lower yield potential than longer-season types, and the feed-type
soybeans (‘black hilum’) are higher yielding than
the food-grade types (‘white hilum’). But generally,
under good conditions, we average about 45-50 bu/acre with feed
grade and 30-35 bu/acre with food grade. Soybeans weigh 60 pounds/bu.
You will need to talk to the processors to learn what varieties
they most want. Probably AgPro could use any type of organic soybeans,
but ProSoya may just want the food-grade types (because the black
hilums can discolor soymilk and tofu). We operate a feed mill
in Penn Yan and also purchase organic soybeans for feed, paying
In order to grow organic soybeans, you will need a corn planter,
an early season harrow or other weeder, a cultivator and a combine.
Using combines that are also used on conventional soybeans is
quite risky because most of the New York conventional soy crop
is Roundup Ready GMO types, and it is very difficult to clean
out a combine sufficiently to prevent contamination of the organic
beans. Some people do drill their soybeans with a grain drill,
but unless the soil is in good condition and relatively free of
weed problems, weeds can be very difficult to control in drilled
You might want to look at our three weed control articles on
the New Farm website to get more of an idea of what is involved
in organic weed control.
1: The basics of effective tillage techniques
2: Blind cultivation
3 of 3: In-row cultivation
Weeds will be your biggest problem, and you will not be able
to use any herbicides, so instead you will have to control weeds
with soil fertility management, crop rotation, and mechanical
techniques. You may also want to look at some of our
other articles on the New Farm website for a broader view
of what is involved in organic row-crop production.
You will also need to become organically certified because you
cannot sell any crop as "organic" unless it is "certified
organic.” In New York, the certifier most crop farmers work
with is NOFA-NY (http://nofany.org).
Their phone number is 607-724-9851. Their deadline for 2005 certification
application was March 25, but you may still be able to work something
out if you call them. The other common certifier in the North
Country is OCPP out of Canada (www.ocpro-certcanada.com).
Please note that only fields that are three years away from last
prohibited material (pesticides, synthetic fertilizer, GMOs) will
qualify for organic certification. In order to complete organic
certification, a trained inspector will visit your farm each year
and carefully examine your fields and your records.
I don't know of any actual grants available to assist farmers
converting to organic practices for the three years of transition.
New York State does have a program to reimburse most of the actual
organic certification costs (which run about $300 to 400 for most
farms), and NRCS (www.nrcs.usda.gov)
has grant programs to help cover conservation improvement projects
like drainage, pasture improvement, and wetland protection, but
the other costs of organic transition are generally borne by the
Hope this helps!
Paul Hepperly, research director at The
Rodale Institute, adds:
As an alternative to selling organic soybeans to a middleman,
a small operation could concentrate on producing soybeans for
organic tofu or other soybean products. This would make sense
if your resource base in acreage is small and you had the ability
to set up a small processing plant.
The logistics of tofu or soybean processing are more complicated
but have greater potential returns than selling to a processor.
If you were interested in this possibility, developing a good
marketing and business plan would be extremely important.
In terms of organic farming, soybeans are a part of an overall
rotation and should not be considered alone, as the certification
process depends on a rotation and soil conservation plan. Your
plant would also need to comply with organic certification standards
if you decide to go a value-added route.
us with comments, suggestions and questions.