Neal Baxley, Baxley Farms, LLC, Marion County, SC just planted his second crop of flax for Crailar Technologies after a successful 420 acres in the 2011-12 growing season. Baxley explains why he chose to substitute flax for winter wheat on his farm:
“This land where I planted this flax is not the best wheat land. The soil tends to hold water. We can make some decent wheat on it, but it’s not ideal. I planted wheat where it was best suited and this flax where wheat wasn’t best suited.”
Baxley explains that flax is an easy crop to grow:
“Last year we planted it with the grain drill, we planted it in 7.5” rows. They have some herbicides labeled for pre-emerge, we didn’t use any at the time, and we got a good stand so we really didn’t have a lot in the way of wheat columns so I really didn’t do anything else to it until February when we top dressed it with nitrogen.”
This year, Baxley says the weather was uncooperative when it came time to harvest, but in spite of that, their harvest of straw was good:
“It was about 2.5 tons, and I covered all my costs and made money.”
Baxley explains that giving up lucrative wheat land was an easy decision for several reasons:
“The big advantage of this stuff is we are going to be able to get out earlier that wheat and we were able to put it on soil that wasn’t the best wheat ground. They are putting that plant in the next county, and trying to support us and put jobs in the community.”
And Baxley was able to utilize some idle equipment:
“We had invested in a large square bailer and I had since quit bailing wheat straw, so I was able to use that large square bailer to try something new.”
While this particular land on Baxley’s farm is not irrigated, Baxley feels that irrigation might be the way to go to make flax more profitable:
“It does well with irrigation. In this particular place I don’t think irrigation was that big an issue because I could control the water level in the ditches. I plan to still put some irrigation in and the one thing I can do, is I could plant this crop irrigated and speed up the maturity to get it out the first of May and plant irrigated corn in May. That would be the best return on the money.”
Baxley says Crailar Technologies fulfilled their promises to the producers:
“They did everything they said they were going to do. We had some problems and they made everything right and they did everything to make sure they satisfied the farmer and help us the best they could.
Marion County South Carolina farmer Neal Baxley. Tomorrow, we’ll wrap up our conversation on growing flax in our continuing series on alternative crops.
To see more on this series click here.