Developing a New Flax Market with Iowa Growers

Margaret Smith, Extension Program Specialist, Value-added Agriculture Program
A new, Iowa-based company, BIOWA Nutraceuticals, has partnered with Spectrum Organics, a California-based company, to process and package flaxseed oil for the health food and neutraceutical markets. Spectrum Organics purchased flax from a few Iowa growers in 2004 on the spot market and contracted with organic growers in 2005.
Flax was grown in Iowa before 1950, so the remaining local knowledge about production is limited and grounded in another farming era. Current farmers need information about production practices and protocols and about evaluating potential contracts for this new crop.

To bring together farmers, processors and buyers interested in flax
production to share information and facilitate business development. The ultimate goal is to increase farm income for farmers growing flax and to help with development and profitability of additional business in the flax value chain.
Value-added Agriculture Extension partnered with the Agronomy Department, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Practical Farmers of Iowa. Field research, begun in 2004, has addressed planting and weed control methods and cultivar evaluations for organic production. Post harvest research includes evaluation of oil quality and quality, and seed cleaning and handling methods to meet current market demands. A flax grain production budget has also been developed for the upper Midwest. A Flax Working Group was formed which includes growers, processors, buyers and researchers. This group is designed to serve as a prototype for strengthening value-chains for specialty crops in Iowa. We have facilitated discussions among participating parties to improve the current grain contract, to improve timing and communication among the buyer and growers, and to investigate additional markets for flax grown in the upper Midwest. The entire working group meets once yearly with guidance throughout the year by a steering committee. In addition, eight workshops
A total of 180 people attended flax workshops and an additional 55 attended the three flax field days in the summer of 2005. Two publications have been produced Flax production Guidelines for Iowa ( ) and Weed Management in Flax Production---On-Farm Trials, 2005 ). A draft version of Production Costs for Flax has also been prepared.
Approximately 1,000 acres of organic flax was grown in Iowa in 2006, with an estimated net return of $250/A. This is approximately twice what the growers would net on organic small grains, the alternative in their crop rotations.
I have partnered with faculty in the department of Agronomy, the Bioeconomy Working Group at ISU, and Practical Farmers of Iowa and secured additional funding for agronomic research, investigation of product development for flax residue, and concurrent Extension outreach programs in FY 2006.
August 2006
POW #121

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