Posts tagged ‘popcorn’

Popcorn – A Major Speciality Crop

NOTE: No podcast today, just a plain old-fashioned article.

Popcorn flies under the radar in most of Ohio as a specialty crop. It is grown in only a few counties, and typically produced by select growers. The interest in popcorn as a specialty crop is logical: in many years popcorn can offer greater profit potential than field corn, popcorn is far less bulky than field corn, and popcorn is grown under contract. However, there is also a downside to popcorn production. Limited hybrid selection and greater disease susceptibility are major drawbacks for producing popcorn.

Van Wert County is the number one popcorn producing county in Ohio, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, and accounts for over 30% of Ohio’s popcorn acres. The next closest county is Erie, accounting for approximately 10% of Ohio’s popcorn production.

Growing popcorn takes unique management skills, as there is a lot of downtime in popcorn production. Cleaning and adjusting equipment for popcorn harvest requires that an operator plans and manages for downtime. Also, it’s important to note that the wrong attitude can and will get you locked out of the popcorn business. Support for popcorn production is lacking, in the past several years there has been a shift away from Universities supporting popcorn markets. This is mainly due to the highly specialized nature of popcorn and the small number of growers involved in popcorn production. Most of the resources and information for popcorn production comes directly from one of the few popcorn companies that contract production.

Popcorn has long been thought of to be more profitable than dent corn, with the understanding that popcorn is a more management intensive crop. It is not uncommon for popcorn growers to see a 10% advantage in gross revenue from popcorn production compared to dent corn. Typically, expenses are fixed when comparing dent corn to popcorn and that 10% increase in gross revenue can translate in to a 10% increase in profit when compared to dent corn. However, a recent increase in dent corn price may ‘even the playing field’ for dent corn production, and certainly put upward pressure on popcorn contracts.

The long-term future of popcorn production in the United States is difficult to predict. Popcorn consumption by U.S. Consumers has reportedly flattened, and growth possibilities appear to lie in increasing popcorn exports.

As of July, 2008, the largest contractor of popcorn in my area is Weaver Popcorn.

July 17, 2008 at 1:00 pm

National Public Radio — Popcorn Story

National Public Radio aired the popcorn story today on All Things Considered. I had a vested interest in this story, since I worked with Andrea Hsu to arrange the interview with Charles and Dale Profit as well as giving her background information on popcorn and the contact for Weaver Popcorn. It was great to meet Ms. Hsu and Mr. Robert Siegel in person; they are both very nice people. I am amazed at how much work Ms. Hsu and Mr. Siegel put into the story for a 10-minute on-air piece. They spent nearly two hours interviewing the Profits, not to mention the time they spent interviewing the movie theater owner, Will Weaver, and Chris Hurt.

You can hear NPR’s popcorn story here:

My original post on the interview:

July 14, 2008 at 7:59 pm

National Public Radio in Van Wert

On Monday, July 7, 2008, I had the pleasure of participating in an interview between National Public Radio (NPR) and Agracola Farms. This was a great experience!

Andrea Hsu, producer of NPR’s All Things Considered, contacted Ohio State University’s Corn Specialist, Dr. Peter Thomison, in late June asking for some information on popcorn. Dr. Thomison deferred Ms. Hsu to me, primarily because the area I am based (Van Wert County) is the largest popcorn producing area in the state of Ohio, and one of the largest popcorn producing areas in the U.S.

Robert Siegel, senior host of All Things Considered, spent nearly two hours interviewing Charles and Dale Profit. Charles, Dale and Dale’s son Trent co-manage Agracola Farms, Inc. The Profit’s are one of the most progressive, innovative and respected farm families in Ohio, let alone Van Wert County. Charles and Dale have been successfully growing popcorn for two decades, and know a thing or two about the popcorn industry. The interview focused primarily on the economics of raising popcorn from the farmer point of view, and the subsequent effect of the economy on the agriculture industry.

Following the interview with the Profits, Mr. Siegel and Ms. Hsu interviewed the local movie theater owner about popcorn in the movie theater business. On Tuesday, Siegel and Hsu wrapped up their popcorn trip with a tour of Weaver Popcorn in Van Buren, Indiana. Weaver Popcorn is one of two large popcorn contracting companies in Van Wert County (ConAgra being the other) and is known for the Pop Weaver brand of popcorn.

NPR Interview

From l to r: Robert Siegel, Andrea Hsu, Dale Profit (back to camera), and Charles Profit

Dale Profit being interviewed by Robert Siegel with Andrea Hsu producing

Dale Profit (center) being interviewed by Robert Siegel with production by Andrea Hsu. The interview is taking place in a field of Weaver popcorn.

Post interview discussion

The group enjoys some post-interview conversation. Mr. Siegel discussed what it was like to be in Chengdu, China when the earthquake hit in May, 2008.

July 8, 2008 at 1:00 pm


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