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Martin Yahner and brother joined their skills to double their farm's productivity in 10 years.

John Vogel, Editor, American Agriculturist

August 10, 2016

3 Min Read

Martin Yahner will quickly tell you that brother Rick is just as responsible for Yahner Brothers Farms’ amazing growth — perhaps even more so. His brother’s mechanical skills and creativity allowed Martin to pursue off-the-farm ag leadership and advocacy roles.

The two are partners in Yahner Brothers Farms at Patton, Pa. They bought the business from their father, Gerald, in 1996.

Martin is general manager of their 2,550-acre Cambria County operation that produces grain and forage crops, finishes 400 head of feeder steers annually, and markets freezer beef. He handles the financial and marketing side of the business.

Rick handles the business’s maintenance side, plus getting new feeder cattle started in their satellite facility. His machine shop innovations and designs greatly improved the farm’s efficiencies for hauling grain, silage and fertilizer products stretching out 19 miles.

The farm’s cropland acreage has doubled since 1996. Their on-farm grain storage has grown from 40,000 bushels to 150,000 bushels, also since 1996 — built primarily by themselves with new and used bins. “We continue adding grain storage capacity,” says Martin, “to be able to capture the ‘carry’ in the markets.”

Purchasing a second sidehill combine — again, used — doubled their harvesting capacity. Adding a new continuous-flow grain dryer also doubled their grain-drying efficiency and capacity.

Use of on-farm variety test plots has helped select 89- to 90-day corn hybrids that match 99-day corn for this Allegheny Ridge farm — with lower drying costs. Part of their corn acreage is chopped for beef steer rations; the rest is sold as cash grain, along with oats, wheat and soybeans, plus hay and straw.

Yahner Brothers Farms imports trailer-loads of black and black whiteface yearlings from the Virginias that are quality-assured, highly probable to grade Choice or Prime, and earn Certified Angus Beef premiums. Fed under roof and following detailed ration protocols, trailer-loads of finished steers are picked up at the barn by the processors.

Programs aid improvements
One key to Yahner Farms growth has been using state and federal programs to substantially reduce costs of upgrading machinery and adopting best management practices. Via the state’s Resource Enhancement and Protection Program, they purchased over a five-year period a 26-foot-wide folding no-till grain drill, a 12-row no-till corn planter and a 24-row no-till soybean planter. The Rural Energy for America (REAP) tax credits were 50% of total cost, “and now we can plant twice the acres per day with less labor,” he adds.

Conservation district and Chesapeake Bay Program cost-sharing grants put half-acre roofs over their beef barns at 50% of total cost. A USDA Renewable Energy Assistance Program grant shaved 25% of the cost off their new grain dryer — “and allowed us to dry twice the bushels per day with better grain quality,” notes Yahner.

New air reel attachments for their flex-head soybean and wheat headers allow faster ground speeds and less cutterbar losses. Yahner calculated that if they saved 1.5 bushels per acre of $10 beans, “they paid for themselves in the first year.”

Off-the-farm civic involvement
Martin was instrumental in getting a 30-megawatt wind farm built on the Alleghany Ridge. He has had leadership roles in Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and American Farm Bureau Federation. He’s currently on PFB’s executive committee, Friends of Agriculture Foundation board and national legislative committee, and chairs PFB’s wildlife damage control committee. He also serves on AFBF’s energy committee.


About the Author(s)

John Vogel

Editor, American Agriculturist

For more than 38 years, John Vogel has been a Farm Progress editor writing for farmers from the Dakota prairies to the Eastern shores. Since 1985, he's been the editor of American Agriculturist – successor of three other Northeast magazines.

Raised on a grain and beef farm, he double-majored in Animal Science and Ag Journalism at Iowa State. His passion for helping farmers and farm management skills led to his family farm's first 209-bushel corn yield average in 1989.

John's personal and professional missions are an integral part of American Agriculturist's mission: To anticipate and explore tomorrow's farming needs and encourage positive change to keep family, profit and pride in farming.

John co-founded Pennsylvania Farm Link, a non-profit dedicated to helping young farmers start farming. It was responsible for creating three innovative state-supported low-interest loan programs and two "Farms for the Future" conferences.

His publications have received countless awards, including the 2000 Folio "Gold Award" for editorial excellence, the 2001 and 2008 National Association of Ag Journalists' Mackiewicz Award, several American Agricultural Editors' "Oscars" plus many ag media awards from the New York State Agricultural Society.

Vogel is a three-time winner of the Northeast Farm Communicators' Farm Communicator of the Year award. He's a National 4-H Foundation Distinguished Alumni and an honorary member of Alpha Zeta, and board member of Christian Farmers Outreach.

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