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JaySmith2013
Friend

Dying Business

I'm 44 and built up a 2 section farm from scratch over the past 12 years -  My 72 yr old dad helps me out.   While I was building that base up, all the big guys around me grabbed every other acre available including all the rentable land.     

 

So I kind of sit here stuck now.   My parents say its probably a dying business because I can't expand or even get enough for any of my young kids to enter the business one day if they want.   On top of that, my dad is in good health but won't last forever.

 

I guess my only choice is to diversify into something else, but not livestock cause my animal skills are lacking.   I gave some thought to starting a greenhouse but thats a tough business I hear with returns less than grain farming.

 

I am curious if there are any other producers in a similar position and what you did or are doing?

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11 Replies
sw363535
Honored Advisor

Re: Dying Business

It took my dad 20 years to buy his first 160 and a lifetime to get 4 bought.  He got tired of night work in town at low pay and borrowed enough to buy a used combine.  Custom harvesting was his first idea.  6 yrs later the harvest customers were his start for renting some ground.  Renting became his way to grow. ----------- point is ---------- don't judge with too much finallity.  Things change much more rapidly than we think ------- and the path is never lit as well as we would like.  Two sections is a great start.  Took us two generations to get there.  ------- 

 

I disagree with your parents ------ not a dying business but an ever changing one.    The big guys have always been there in our area------ and the road in to this business has always a test and a slow grind.

 

Dad ----------- Cherish every day ------- Think about what makes you both smile and go there as often as possible.

 

And Welcome aboard------- that first post is a good one

 

Shaggy98
Senior Advisor

Re: Dying Business

Don't get discouraged Jay.  I too am a small producer of nearly the same acreage as you.  Never give up as long as you are willing and able.  SW is correct in saying enjoy every minute with your dad.  Mine passed a little over a year ago and farming just isn't the same without him.  Take care and come back often, lots of good info on this site mixed in with a little humor from time to time.  Usually makes that first cup of coffee taste all that much better.

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Kay/NC
Honored Advisor

Re: Dying Business

Jay, we were about where you are, only 30 years ago.  Landhog neighbor with deep pockets, no chance to pick up any crumb with him around.  We did a good economic analysis with the Extension economist in our area, and he sent us towards hogs at tha ttime.  That is how we ended up as essentially hog farmers and not much else today. 

 

Not the same opportunities there as there once were, and I would not recommend anyone going into contract growing at this juncture...the Chinese have muddied our waters for the forseeable future. 

 

Greenhouses are very energy intensive, and those costs are only going up.  Our daughter does a good small haying business, but it works because we have the manure for fertilizer, pumped as lagoon effluent, so there's irrigation, too.  So much depends upon what you already have, and where you are located, both for production and marketing reasons. 

 

I think the next few years are going to be rough, in terms of a downturn.  That may open up some chances for you, or it may make you say enough is enough.  Niche marketing is such a persponality-driven game, and new food safety regs for stuff like produce are going to shut a lot of doors there, I think. 

 

Our daughter makes a bit of money on horses, riding lessons, boarding and training.  We have a niece who boards retired horse out of the northeast, in Va, where it is cheaper and the climate is milder.  A piece of that action is sweet. 

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buckfarmer
Senior Contributor

Re: Dying Business

My parents beat a similar message into me from a young age. I kind of resent them for it. Dad sure enjoys bragging to the neighbors about my success and has been supportive as I have built my operation. Just wish there was more of a opportunity provided to me.
My advise is to keep plugging away. As other people see your success opportunity will present it's self. I think it was Yogi that said "if opportunity isn't knocking build a door."
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Jim Meade / Iowa City
Senior Advisor

Re: Dying Business

Custom farming and niche markets have been mentioned.  Repairs and maintenance might be something to considered, although the demand is highest when you need to be in the field as well.  Around here, many need a tiling contractor.

Making the most out of your own land is something you can control.  Tiling if you have the money and need.  Do your own repairs and maintenance.  Do your own soil samples and send them in.  Learn how to emply precision agriculture well (and maybe even help some neighbors with theirs).

 

 

hardnox604008
Advisor

Re: Dying Business

Not that your or my opinion will change anything but I'd suggest speaking against subsidizing size.

 

The 10,000 acre operator probably gets 10X the subsidy you do.

 

Why is it that any "fairer" than not?

 

Given the choice of 0 subsidies or continuing to subsidize size I think it is better for the smaller operator to just end it all. Better would be a fairly stringent cap, in my view.

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hardnox604008
Advisor

Re: Dying Business

BTW, worse things than enjoying what you do and having some worth to leave to your kids in as wise a fashion as you can.

 

I don't spend any time feeling like a failure becasue I'm not setting any of my kids up in farming.

 

That doesn't always work anyway.

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Kay/NC
Honored Advisor

Re: Dying Business

You know, one of the neatest legacy plans I ever saw was a man who planted holly trees on some of his land. They weren't much in his lifetime, but his grandchildren made a lot of money selling the greenery at Christmas.

I also know a family that has a cut your own tree farm. Takes mowing and pruning, which the boys did a lot as teenagers. One of them was griping about the job once, when I explained a bit of the economics and the trees' value, which was essentially what sent them all to college. They had a half-million dollars' worth of trees on a few acres at $25 apiece.

Lots of this depends upon where you are. Agritourism can take place on much less than two sections. Just a thought.

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Husker-J
Senior Contributor

Re: Dying Business

Similar situation, so we went into livestock, as we had grass available close by, at reasonable rates.  I have probably less row-crop land than about anyone on this board (my last farm program payment was $702, but that was after the sequester cut it down 8% or whatever Smiley Very Happy

Anyway, we are surviving by keeping costs down (2 years ago I bought a combine and grain head for $4750 total, put about 2 weeks worth of afternoons in labor and $700 in parts, and went the last 2 years with the biggest breakdown being a popped hydraulic hose) doing as much of my own repairs as I can, and waiting for an opportunity.   With farmers aging, there will be people retiring here and there every year or two.  If I'm lucky, maybe I can find another landlord who prizes extra care given to their land over the top $$ in rent.   Maybe something similar may work for you.   With livestock, it might not be all that hard, even if you don't have a knack for it right now, or maybe it isn't right for you.   However, if you own 2 sections of your own, I can't see it being a 'dying' farm, as much as a springboard for something better.

Is there an older, well established farmer, that needs some help?   Maybe you could find a way to 'partner' with him, helping him in the peak season, and him helping you, maybe by running his newer machinery on your acres in exchange for labor.   There are all sorts of opportunities there, but these days opporunity doesn't knock at your door so much as you have to go out hunting for it.