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Neighbors Help Man Launch non-GMO Production

Mention genetically modified organism (GMO) crops and there’s no doubt questions, debates, and eyebrows will be raised. However, one Michigan farmer believes non-GMO crops are the perfect fit for his crop production. 

“I am currently growing open-pollinated corn for seed. This year, I will start soybeans, barley, and rye,” says Scott Dudek. “Having higher-dollar crops and focusing on niche markets will allow me to gain a quicker foothold leading to full-time farming.” 

Dudek has farming ingrained in his roots even though he didn’t farm on his own until three years ago. He grew up on a farm near Richmond, Michigan, helping his dad until he attended college to earn an agricultural degree. Then, he worked out of state for over 10 years. Before Dudek decided to move back to Michigan, his father retired from farming, rented his land to a neighbor, and passed away. 

Moving home and buying the 25-acre home farm allowed Dudek to begin his specialized career in producing non-GMO varieties of crops – completely from scratch. 

Several neighboring farmers jumped in to lend a hand, equipment, or a piece of advice, which helped Dudek get his feet on the ground. One neighbor and close family friend, Jim Domagalski, went the extra mile for Dudek.

Domagalski’s farm and Dudek’s homeplace are less than 2 miles apart. In the past, Dudek’s father and Domagalski helped each other when needed. That helping hand was extended to the younger Dudek without question. 

“Jim and my dad worked together while I was growing up,” Dudek remembers. “When I moved back and wanted to start farming on my own, Jim offered to custom-plant for me.” 

With Domagalski’s help, Dudek started small with a ½-acre test plot his first year. Using those open-pollinated corn seeds and his father’s old John Deere 3020 tractor, he planted 9 acres the following year. 

Although he has expanded enough to rent 75 acres of rolling ground on top of his home farmland, his college education and recommendations from several neighbors helped Dudek discover ways to keep his input costs low and his land sustainable. 

“I am profitable. In fact, bankers tell me my costs of production are almost half of what most are,” he says.

Two factors play a key role in his enthusiasm for this niche market:

• The solid premiums on the open-pollinated corn since it has higher protein for poultry and hogs.

• The upward trend in non-GMO variety premiums. 

Once he realized the significance of planting open-pollinated seed corn in his operation, he elected to take his seed business, Dudek Seeds, up another tier in the market. 

“I’m beginning to sell open-pollinated seed corn for 2014. Orders and interest are surprisingly great,” he says. “I’m also receiving interest in seed sales for the company seeds I sell.”

Who inspired you to start farming?

Nominate that person for the My Mentor, My Legacy award sponsored by Nationwide Agribusiness Insurance. 

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