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Jeff Nicholas, who farms near Clear Lake, Iowa, doesn't claim to be a hotshot at marketing.

"My first caveat is that I'm not a sophisticated marketer," he says as he checks prices on a laptop computer on his dining room table.

Yet, Nicholas is content with the results of his approach, which includes mainly cash forward contracts with elevators and selling put options on part of his crop.

"I like to sell about a third of my crop before I plant it. I like to sell a third of it when it's growing. And I like to sell a third when the crop is in the bin -- while I sell the next year's crop," he explains.

His sales are front-loaded early in the calendar year, "so it's compressed," he says.

"I'm a very strong believer in the seasonality of markets," he says.

So that first third is sold in early spring (when he’s also clearing out his old crop stored grain). The second third is sold in late spring, and the rest is sold in June and July.

He also typically sells his farm's corn 12 to 15 times a year.

Like most corn and soybean growers, he also puts more energy into marketing corn than soybeans.

"I do not put as much effort into marketing beans," he says. "I know I should, but it always seems corn is the one I pay more attention to. I would say that 90% of the time my soybeans are sold in the cash market only, typically in the spring."

Nicholas farms with his father, Bill. And his son, Andrew, is likely to join the business.

Nicholas's grandfather was the first turkey grower in Iowa to raise the birds in confinement. The building still stands along the highway near Mason City. In the 1970s, with high grain prices, the family got out of turkey production.

Nicholas and his brother, Bill Jr., own some farm machinery together and plant together. But they farm and harvest separately.

Jeff Nicholas, who farms near Clear Lake, Iowa, doesn't claim to be a hotshot at marketing.

Even though Nicholas approaches marketing systematically, he's not rigid about that schedule, especially in a bull market year like the summer of 2008.

So far, Nicholas has not had a put option expire worthless, something many market observers would say is difficult to sustain every year.

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