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High school student enters custom silage business

Justin Hunt is working on three farm enterprises to become self-employed.

April 11, 2023

3 Min Read
Justin Hunt standing in front of John Deere chopper in barn
BUILD A BUSINESS: Justin Hunt is looking forward to a summer of chopping silage across Missouri. The 18-year-old from Cowgill, Mo., is paying his parents back for the purchase of this John Deere chopper last year. It is all part of Hunt’s goal to be self-employed by his early 20s. Courtesy of Justin Hunt

by Olivia Loges

It’s not often you get excused from a high school language arts class to bid on a silage truck in the middle of the day, but budding ag entrepreneur Justin Hunt grabbed the pass and jumped online.

Hunt, a senior at Polo High School in Missouri, is building a custom silage business from the ground up.

Frustrated over trying to find people to chop silage for the family farm, Hunt saw the perfect opportunity to satisfy a need and bring extra income to the farm. His idea sprang to mind after his parents, Josh and Melinda Hunt, purchased a John Deere 6850 self-propelled, 6-row chopper last summer.

Realizing many other farmers in the area were in the same dilemma, the 18-year-old wondered if the chopper could turn into a moneymaking venture. So, he asked his mom and dad if they should start a custom silage business.

Already managing a full-time lawn care business and a herd of 400 cows, his parents were too busy. “They said, no thanks, but you can if you want,” Justin recalls. So, he did.

Financial needs for young farmers

To keep startup costs low, Josh and Melinda allow their son to pay toward ownership of the newly purchased chopper. They support the endeavor, Justin says, and knew there would be more financial investments he had to make in the future.

A custom silage business requires more than one piece of equipment.

Just two weeks after his 18th birthday, Justin received approval for his first loan. That is when he started searching online for a silage truck. Like many others, he experienced the stress of not only bidding, but also bidding wars. The truck had to fit within his financial plan.

Unfortunately, the one he left the language arts class to win sold well over his budget.

Learn as you go

While there is the anxiety around an online auction or even simply purchasing such a large financial investment, Justin feels it’s prepared him for what is to come. He knows there will be bumps in the road — including operating all the equipment.

The Cowgill, Mo., teenager may need a few lessons from his dad on operating the chopper — he’s never run one before — driving a tractor is more his style. Still, Justin says he is excited to learn and get started.

He will need to be a quick study, as a few local farmers already expressed interest in the custom silage service — Circle H Custom Chopping.

Expand business enterprises

In addition to this new business, Justin continues to grow other ventures.

He is expanding a personal cow herd, which he’s already paid for half of the herd. In addition, Justin is taking on more responsibility with the farm, managing a piece of land working toward full ownership.

He is focused on becoming fully self-employed. The goal is within the next 5-10 years to buy a farm near his parents and continue growing all his businesses. Justin says he’s looking forward to “having a massive silage business,” and one day looking back to add, “I built this.”

When Justin is not driving a tractor, feeding hay or signing loans for new equipment, he enjoys being involved at his high school. He plays on the school’s baseball team, serves as the Polo FFA chapter’s first vice president and competes on contest teams. He says he applies the knowledge from each of these activities to his farm and uses those lessons in real life.

To contact Justin, call 816-826-8911.

Loges writes from Higginsville, Mo.

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