Jay Hawley Farm owners Sue and Jay Hawley accept a plaque during the Indiana Farm Management Tour. The family’s operation was one of five farms that hosted hundreds of individuals over the two-day tour.
Jay Hawley Farm owners Sue and Jay Hawley accept a plaque during the Indiana Farm Management Tour. The family’s operation was one of five farms that hosted hundreds of individuals over the two-day tour.

KIRKLIN, Ind. — To the ordinary eye, Jay Hawley Farms may appear just as a grain and hog farm, but a closer look will show that owners Jay and Sue Hawley work to add value to every agricultural operation on their farm.

The Hawleys took part in the recent Indiana Farm Management Tour, where dozens of Hoosier farmers and agriculture industry representatives stopped by the operation to learn the secrets behind the couple’s success.

One of the main lessons that Jay Hawley shared with the tour participants was how he has tried to find a way to add value to all of the products — whether they are crops or livestock — on his farm.

He noted that he and his wife add value to their corn by selling it as food-grade corn. That decision came about, Hawley recalled, after talking with a seed corn dealer, who commented that the farm already was using three varieties that Cargill uses for food-grade corn.

Hawley said that since they already were growing it and were happy with previous yield results, the family decided about six years ago to start growing food-grade corn to be shipped to Cargill in Indianapolis.

While the operation, has been able to add value to its crop through working with Cargill over the past several years, Hawley noted that when they first made the decision to grow for the company, quite a few changes had to be made so the new venture would be successful, as well as be compliant with all the regulations for producing food-grade corn.

Right off the bat, the family had to make adjustments by purchasing a semi for hauling the grain because it previously did not have one.

“Semis are expensive to keep running,” Hawley said, adding that transportation has been the biggest change since finding a way to add value to the family’s corn.

On top of the cost of a new semi, he noted that he also had to deal with learning how to handle the route for hauling the food-grade corn to Cargill, which included driving right through the middle of the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus.

“It’s not that bad after you get used to it and learn to do it,” he said.

Today, the farm only grows food-grade corn because Hawley doesn’t want to have to deal with cleaning the equipment every time he switches to either planting or harvesting a different variety.

They family also adds value to its beans by producing soybean seed. Hawley noted that the premium is very good, and he sometimes can get $1.50 to $1.60 a bushel over the market price.

“We used to haul them to Westfield to be cleaned and delivered, but now we have to take them all the way to New Castle,” he said.

He added that growing seed beans is a little more labor-intensive than producing food-grade corn because the family has to clean out the drill when switching between different varieties.

On the livestock side of the farm, Hawley and his wife had about 250 sows on their farrow-to-feeder hog operation and were either looking for a way to grow or sell all the feeder hogs.

He noted that if a producer’s pigs are not on contract, it is very difficult to get them sold when they are ready for market.

“People are not going to buy them unless they are going to make money,” he said, which led eight years ago to the birth of Grandpa Jay’s Pork.

Hawley noted that there was a lot of trial and error in the beginning, as the couple started selling frozen pork at farmers markets. After a few years and completing the proper paperwork with county and state health departments, they have been able to serve already-prepared pork burgers.

Sue Hawley mentioned that attending the farmers markets allows the couple to talk with consumers and see what kinds of products they are wanting to buy.

She added that there are a lot of myths about how food is grown, and farmers markets help consumers to meet and know the farmer that is producing the product they are feeding to their family.