By Connor Lynch
MAXVILLE — Maxville-area farmer Roger Penner grew up in Western Ontario, on a crop farm where his parents grew, among other things, edible beans. When he moved to Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry in 2007 to start farming and running his crane business, it wasn’t much of a jump to get back into beans.
Penner grows adzuki beans, a small red bean popular in Asia, particularly Japan, as an ingredient in desserts, including ice cream. They’re a labour-of-love kind of a crop, he said, and his buyer, Hensall Co-op (of which he’s a member), is looking for more growers in Eastern Ontario. They already have around a dozen, he said.
There’s one main draw to adzukis: The price. They fetch as much as triple the price per tonne as soybeans (around $1,200/tonne compared to soybeans at $400/tonne).
What’s the catch? There’s a few. For one thing, you have to spray the field. A lot. There’s a burndown prior to cultivation, the field needs a herbicide spray just before planting and another one once they’re poking out of the ground, about three weeks later. That final spray is the big one, Penner said. “If you don’t time that right, it’s the last trick in the bag. No recourse.”
If you’re growing IP (Identity Preserved) soybeans, forget about adzukis, or at least about sharing fields. Otherwise, there will be some adzukis in the soybean load and it’ll be rejected, Penner said.
The next hurdle comes at harvest. Hensall Co-op is one of only a few buyers of adzukis in Ontario. If you haven’t any storage, like Penner, that can mean a bit of fancy footwork at harvest time. He recommends using a hopper bin to store them, if you have one.
Really fertile soil will yield over a tonne of beans per acre, Penner said. Even decent soil can get as high as 1,500 lb./acre, he said. “That’s still almost $900/acre with just an average crop.” Soybeans tend to yield around 1.6 tonnes/acre.
Adzukis can be a pain. But for Penner, a smaller-acreage farmer who also runs a crane business and custom-feeds hogs, it’s a value-added crop. That’s how you have to see it, he said, or else you won’t stick with it. “If you view it as an inconvenience, you won’t succeed.”
Hensall Co-op origination manager Wade Bickell said there’s a few other key factors to a successful crop: Making the right herbicide choice, a topic that deserves its own article, he said; and have a sharp flex head on your harvester and an air reel to move the beans in.
Hensall Co-op looking for adzuki bean growers in Eastern Ontario
By Connor Lynch