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area, usually a local elevator or co-op,” Peeper said. “From there, Sesaco picks up the seed and all production comes to Hobart, Okla., where we have our only processing plant. The seed is cleaned, bagged and sold domestically or exported, all from that facility.”


The state-of-the-art processing facility in Hobart takes all the sesame produced in the United States. It has the largest capacity of any sesame processing plant in the world. The seed is cleaned to 99.9 percent purity and is then ready for consumption.


Domestic and Exportable


According to the American Sesame Growers Association, a majority of the world’s sesame is consumed in Asia and the Middle East. In these regions, its primary use is for cooking oil. Peeper said markets in the U.S. demand a variety of products from the seed beyond oil. “Our main focus is the confectionary market, which uses the whole seed,” Peeper said. “It’s found in pastries, crackers, on top of buns and fi sh.” With the recent surge in health food stores and consumers searching for base ingredients, sesame seed has seen a rise in domestic demand. Some stores sell the seed in bulk. The seed can also be ground into a paste called tahini, which is a main ingredient in hummus. “We are working on breaking into the tahini market, which looks and tastes somewhat like peanut butter,” Peeper said. “There is good value in it and there is a larger market for it than confectionary products.” Peeper said that Sesaco works to sell 50 percent of their sesame domesti- cally and export the other 50 percent to Japan.


Seeds for the Future With the focus currently on increasing the number of farmers growing the crop domestically, the U.S. market could see promising results. Peeper said they are looking to expand into the southeastern part of the United States and hope to hit the million acre mark “as soon as they can get there.”


He added that once farmers start growing the sesame, they tend to stick with it season after season.


“Our customer retention is great once they start the process and the majority of them continue to grow it,” Peeper said. “The drought the last couple years has sure slowed us down but I think our numbers will con- tinue to grow.”


Cook, a farmer from Helena, Okla., is proof of this outlook and he said he will continue tapping sesame as a staple in his rotation. “Sesame seems to be a really promising alternative crop for Oklahoma, especially western Oklahoma and its drier areas,” Cook said. “Only time will tell, but I think it will help when we get back to normal production. When we’re not in this drought cycle, we’ll learn a bit more about it.” Sesame gives producers another option, allowing them some optimism during tough growing seasons.


Improved varieties of sesame seed along with the crop’s drought, disease and insect tolerance appeal to farmers.


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Seeds for Thought


Desert plant grown as a row crop in rotation with cotton, corn, wheat and peanuts


Grown domestically in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas


Contracted, and can be taken to local co-ops, where it will be shipped to Hobart, Okla. There it will be processed at the only sesame processing facility in the United States


The seed is crushed for cooking oil, or into a paste called ta- hini. The whole seed is used as a confectionary on buns, bread, crackers, pastries and fi sh.


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