Young farmers share their answers to four concerns about where their operation is today and where agriculture is headed:
Matthew and Jacob Chapman, Springport, Ind. These brothers raise corn, soybeans, wheat and contract hogs, plus conduct a trucking enterprise and other nonfarm businesses. They answered these questions together.
Concerns: Personal and ag? We’re trying to be profitable. And while we appreciate the gesture, we hate working for Uncle Sam, and that feeling of having to go in and sign up in order to get government help. Should the government pay us for interfering with free trade deals we’d worked on for years? Relying on the government is not a good business plan.
Adjustments due to COVID-19 and low prices? It was hard for us to adjust. We plan ahead, and by the time COVID hit, 2020 was pretty much set in stone. Inputs were bought, and some marketing was done. For us, it’s mostly a matter of tightening up — don’t spend it if you don’t need to, and try to look outside the box for new ideas.
Personal plans for 2021? We might plant a little more wheat, but right now, nothing’s a shining star as far as being profitable. We plan our acres so that we can basically store all of what we raise, to give us a bigger window for marketing.
Ag opportunities in 2021? Inputs will be cheaper if you’re cautious and patient. Try to have some conversations with your landlords, if they have any flexibility. Some guys who were thinking about retirement before may be really considering it now. Those are the type of landlords we strive to find — guys who’ve been there, done that, understand the struggles, know every inch of the farm, want somebody who’s going to love it like he did — and who can be a mentor and partner in helping his farm be the best it can be.
ATTENTION TO DETAIL: Jenna and Scott Burton, Rochester, Ind., are paying more attention to details, especially related to dollars and cents, in 2020. They’re pictured with their children McKinley, Ellison and Harrison.
Scott Burton and wife, Jenna, Rochester, Ind. They raise corn, soybeans, hay and beef cattle, plus custom-spread chicken litter and do custom corn and soybean chores.
Concerns: Personal and ag? In our operation, we know what it takes to break even, and with today’s prices, we’re not there. Labor is a concern. We struggle to find good, part-time help. We need to find a full-time employee, but finding a good, energetic one is a hard thing these days.
Adjustments due to COVID-19 and low prices? With prices being so low since COVID, we’re doing everything we can to cross the t’s and dot the i’s, to do the best we can do this year, more so than any. We still butcher our own beef, and we may feed out a few calves to sell direct to consumers.
Personal plans for 2021? Continued growth — we would like to pick up more farm ground, if possible. We try to do the best job we can and get the best yields we can. Down the road, we hope to build another grain bin to give us more marketing flexibility.
Ag opportunities in 2021? I think there’s going to be ground changing hands or coming up for rent in the future, which will give farmers like us a chance to grow. With cheap interest rates, that makes possibly buying some ground more doable.
Boone writes from Wabash, Ind.