Yep, I'm going to attempt to grow some faba beans.
Don't know much about them? Neither do I...but I am about to learn. And hopefully it's a good learning experience. I decide to try faba beans primarily because they fix more nitrogen in the soil than other pulses such as peas or lentils. In fact, they could fix up to 20% more. That's why I'm pursuing this. If I can break even on faba bean production, the payoff could come through reducing fertilizer input costs for my other crops.
I've started by talking with a neighboring farmer 20 miles away who raised them last year. As far as I can tell, he's the first and only farmer on the Hi-Line to raise them. He shared quite a bit of information with me and I'm thankful for his support and guidance.
I'm going to start off small...just 50 acres. I'm doing that for a couple of reasons. First, there's not much known about how suitable they are for the climate and soil conditions on the Hi-Line. Secondly, because there is no production history in Montana, I can't obtain insurance on the crop through commercial sources or through the FSA NAP (Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program). Lastly, I am not sure how faba beans will fit into the FSA's ARC program, so I have to plant them on non-base acres.
I am purchasing the beans through United Pulse in North Dakota. Their supplier is in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and will deliver them to my farm. I also signed a pre-production contract with United Pulse for approximately 1/3 of my expected yield. I can sell the remaining yield through other buyers as long as I give United Pulse the opportunity to match the price.
So, I'm excited! I'll keep you updated on the faba beans as the year progresses and as I learn my lessons.