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6 factors for a successful farm partnership6 factors for a successful farm partnership

Successful partnership requires tight scheduling.

Ron Smith

March 19, 2020

2 Min Read
Grain bins offer marketing and harvest advantages to farm partners Travis Senter II, left, and Ron Holthouse,Ron Smith

Ron Holthouse and Travis Senter II agree that farming in partnership on some 4,500 acres of land improves efficiency.

The co-op arrangement also aids the 6,000 to 7,000 acres each farms on his own near Osceola, Ark. They also agree that six factors make the partnership feasible. Those factors are: Equipment inventory, quality land, irrigation and drainage, self-sufficiency, harvest efficiency, and labor issues. They explain.

1. Timing planting and harvest operations demands adequate equipment on hand and ready to go. "Cotton is the last thing we plant," Holthouse says. "When soils warm up, we can plant quickly after we finish with soybeans." They harvest with three round bale pickers.

2. Quality of the soil makes a difference and the land they farm in partnership offers good production potential. They like a mixture of soils. "We don't want 100 percent black dirt," Holthouse says. "We want some loamy soil."

3. Land-leveling plays an important role in total operations — the land they work together and their separate operations. "It's hard to do a lot of land-leveling on rented acres," Senter says. "But it's part of our irrigation plan. We have three land-leveling units we use across the board." They say if farmers can afford it, they should spend the money to do the best land-level job they can. "The cheap way is always the worst way," Holthouse says.

Related:Partnership improves farm efficiency

4. Self-sufficiency streamlines the operation and saves money, Senter and Holthouse say. A cotton gin, on-farm storage and the ability to buy crop materials in bulk and haul them themselves save time and money. The economy of scale also offers an advantage buying equipment.

5. Harvest efficiency over total acreage and multiple crops — rice, cotton, corn and soybeans — puts a premium on scheduling. Data collected on-the-go from satellite imagery, equipment monitors, and personal observation keep combines and cotton pickers moving without favoring one partner over the other. "We sometimes start planting and harvest separately and then come together to finish up," Senter says.

6. Labor, Holthouse and Senter agree, may be the one factor that continues to baffle them and other farmers. "It's one area where we don't know what to do," Holthouse says. They can't compete on wages with nearby steel mills. "Margins are too tight to afford the labor we need," Travis says. Running modern equipment and performing other farm chores demands workers who understand agriculture technology.

They say two key employees, Lee Malone, farm manager, and Chase Chafin, Holthouse's nephew who manages harvest equipment, are exceptions and critical to the operation. Holthouse and Senter wonder if agriculture will look to robotics in the near future.

Related:You got to 'love to work to grow cotton'

They say taking on the 4,500 acres together allows each to play on individual strengths. Senter's computer skills, for instance, help with scheduling, planning and analyzing data they use to make crop decisions.

Holthouse says he is "more aggressive with harvest. Travis is more aggressive with planting."

Combined, they complement each other to make an efficient farm team.

About the Author(s)

Ron Smith

Editor, Farm Progress

Ron Smith has spent more than 30 years covering Sunbelt agriculture. Ron began his career in agricultural journalism as an Experiment Station and Extension editor at Clemson University, where he earned a Masters Degree in English in 1975. He served as associate editor for Southeast Farm Press from 1978 through 1989. In 1990, Smith helped launch Southern Turf Management Magazine and served as editor. He also helped launch two other regional Turf and Landscape publications and launched and edited Florida Grove and Vegetable Management for the Farm Press Group. Within two years of launch, the turf magazines were well-respected, award-winning publications. Ron has received numerous awards for writing and photography in both agriculture and landscape journalism. He is past president of The Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association and was chosen as the first media representative to the University of Georgia College of Agriculture Advisory Board. He was named Communicator of the Year for the Metropolitan Atlanta Agricultural Communicators Association. Smith also worked in public relations, specializing in media relations for agricultural companies. Ron lives with his wife Pat in Denton, Texas. They have two grown children, Stacey and Nick, and two grandsons, Aaron and Hunter.

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