By Craig Sterrett, LaSalle News-Tribune
So you think farmers around here don't diversify?
Jeff Bassett of rural Oglesby, Ill., certainly does.
The 1997 La Salle-Peru Township High School graduate received a visit early this month from big bus carrying a small group of Brazilian farmers and showed them just a little of what he does. Granted, they mostly wanted to see the corn and soybean operation, how he ships them to market and how profitable they are.
He said he raises 2,000 acres of corn and 1,000 acres of soybeans on fields in five area counties, which is a big operation and a typical Illinois Valley ratio of corn to beans.
However, he does a lot more than that.
He also has an alfalfa and hay business and is getting ready for his fifth cutting of hay for the year. He raises laying hens as well as frying chickens and turkeys for meat in crate-free, non-crowded, poultry-friendly pens. And, he grows sunflowers, sells bagged oats and this fall will plant winter wheat.
On the side, he clears snow and mows, and until 2011. He worked full-time at Advantage Logistics while also farming full time until a few years ago. While at that grocery warehouse, he put his welding skills to use to make a prototype and invent a restraint arm to prevent truck doors from breaking free and injuring people. Supervalu patented the safety device, but his name is on the patent, too.
The visitors from southern Brazil were in the Midwest for the Farm Progress Show, and translator Diego Schlosser set up the meeting with Bassett through New Holland implement dealer Cash Reichling from R Equipment, near Troy Grove. They mainly wanted to know the intricacies of and Bassett's strategies for chemical applications and shipping, but Bassett made sure he also told them how he diversifies his corn and soybean crops.
He said he does a lot of "segregation" of traditional and genetically-modified crops, keeping them far apart and storing them in bins on completely separate properties.
He gets a premium on prices for the non-GMO crops, and the Brazilian group wanted to know exact percentages for how large those premiums should be based on current and higher pre-contracted prices.
One of his most valuable crops right now grows southwest of Oglesby.
Japan prizes his food-grade soybeans, called clear hilum.
"A soybean has a black spur on it, and these don't have that so they don't discolor tofu," Bassett said.
He's under contract to grow them. Japanese investors have sent people to his fields to check on their progress.
Not many farmers grow the beans, but the buyers want one barge full of them. Bassett said he's not growing nearly enough on 460 acres to fill a barge. When he harvests them, he'll put them all in a clean bin, segregated from any other beans, and "cool" and dry them before taking them to the terminal.