All of our grain is grown by our local farming community, who we rely upon. Our growers have been raising grains for generations. They are excellent stewards of the land and take great pride in the crops they raise.
Billy Dawson (photo above/right side) was a highly-regarded farmer and Co-Founder of Bays Best Feed. Sadly, Billy passed away in 2017. Here is an article written about the evolution of Bays Best and the founding principles that still go into our products today.
Here in Heathsville, Va., producer Billy Dawson has for three decades produced corn, sunflowers, barley and wheat—and where he tends to his Bay’s Best Feed production facility. But his production doesn’t flow into typical commodity markets.
About 10 years ago, Dawson walked into a local country store, happened to take a look at a bag of whole cracked corn and saw it was from Pennsylvania. An interesting bit of information, he noted, despite the fact that right outside the retail establishment’s doors were acres and acres of corn fields. It didn’t make much sense to Dawson, who decided it was high time he started direct marketing locally. “I was tired of taking my grain to market, dumping it in a hole and never getting any feedback,” he says. All his dedication to raising the “best” really didn’t seem to matter in the commodities market.
QUALITY IS APPRECIATED. Dawson decided to try his hand at value-added agriculture. He continued to raise conventional row crops on his 1,200-acre farm but gradually opened a local direct market in cracked corn.
Pretty soon, word got around about his production, and Rick Wasmund, owner of Copper Fox Distillery, in Sperryville, Va., contacted Dawson and asked if he could produce an especially clean barley for making whiskey.
Today, Bays Best Feed sells to over 25 malt houses and distilleries. We direct-sell 100% of our barley, 80% of our corn, all of our sunflower seeds and 20% of our wheat.
Raising Malt-Quality Grain:
Growing grain for malt is a lot different than growing it for animal feed or even normal food-grade consumption. Billy Dawson offers three practical tips to would-be growers of malt-quality corn, wheat, rye and barley:
GRAIN NEEDS TO BE UNIFORM. “You can’t demand a premium for anything if you don’t have a high-quality product,” Dawson says. “Think more about quality than yield. You can have a terrible yield but still make up for it on quality.”
YOUR CUSTOMERS ARE SACRED. In a market like this, you will need to communicate with your buyers closely and regularly. Find a good business partner who knows how to work with customers if you don’t.
TAKE YOUR TIME. “Your customer’s success is your success,” Dawson says. “Taking time can be hard for a normal farmer.”