Family Farm Taps Beer Success
ALAMOSA, Colo. (DTN) — When selling the farm looked like the only responsible option remaining, salvation came where plenty may look, but few ever find it.
For the Cody farm in southern Colorado, help came in a bottle of beer.
It was 16 years ago and the Cody family had already tried pinching pennies. They’d already shuttered the dairy and given up a heartbreaking amount of land, slicing their fourth-generation operation in the San Luis Valley from 2,000 acres owned and leased to just 300, the last chunk centered on Pappy Ray Cody’s original Great Depression-era homestead.
For much of its time, the farm had been focused on growing high-quality malting barley for Coors Brewing Company and Anheuser Busch. It was an arrangement that funded the family for decades, but by 2005, it simply was no longer sustainable.
After 80 years, the time had nearly come to sell what remained of the Cody farm.
“Our family farm was being threatened like everyone else’s,” said Jason Cody, one of three brothers from the fourth generation of Codys who are involved in the family business. “We didn’t know how long we could hold on, so we started trying to find a different way. We had to.”
The diminishing value of those beer contracts proved to be part of the problem. But beer itself — that proved to be the answer.
They took their barley and learned the process of making malt themselves, then took their business from alcohol’s largest companies to some of the smallest, embracing local ingredients and a farm-to-glass approach at every step.
It was a gamble and it saved the farm.
A BIG BET
The Cody family has been making its living in the high-altitude San Luis Valley for nearly 100 years, since Pappy Ray put his stakes down outside Alamosa, Colorado, during a New Deal farm resettlement program in the 1930s. He had taken the federal government up on an offer of 40 acres, where he mostly planted forage crops; a house, where he planted a pine tree on either side of the front door; and a chicken shed.
His son, Bob Cody, got the family into beer, signing contracts with the country’s big breweries and growing the operation to one of the largest in the region. Things began to sour into the 1990s, however, and by the time Bob died in 2004, the farm seemed to be near its end. Wayne Cody, the third generation, was still working, but his sons had all left the area to attend college and pursue careers.
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