There’s a lot that goes into making a multigenerational farm functional, let alone successful. Jay and Stacy Rezac say teamwork and respect are top of the list, and are the lessons they hope to pass on to their children and grandchildren at Rezac Land & Livestock, near Onaga, Kan.
The Rezacs are one of six Kansas couples who will be recognized this September as Master Farmer and Master Farm Homemaker at the Kansas State Fair. They have been farming in formal business agreements with Jay’s parents, Don and Barbara, and his brother Lance Rezac and Lance’s wife, Deb, since 1986; and Jay and Stacy recently have started bringing their children into the business in a formal basis.
With three generations actively farming and a fourth on the way, the couple says it’s important to them to make sure everything is squared away on paper so that both the family and the farm can function at their peak levels.
Trial by fire
Jay Rezac and his brother Lance have been working well together their whole lives. When their father, Don, was elected to the Kansas State House of Representatives, the two young men had to take on more active roles on the family’s diversified farm because their father was in Topeka.
“Lance and I — we were pretty much right out of college, and we have one hired man at that time,” Jay says. “And Dad’s gone. He’s just plain flat gone, because we didn’t have cellphones at the time. So, at noon, you always went into the office because Dad was going to call to see what was going on. But it made us better able to handle the business.”
The young brothers learned how to handle a farm leaning on each other and emphasizing their own specialties.
Jay learned he liked the cattle and managing the hay ground, while Lance preferred to grow the row crops and manage the hogs.
When Jay graduated from Kansas State University in 1986, the partnership was formed among both brothers, their wives and their parents.
Putting it on paper
Jay credits his father’s business sense in helping the family grow the farming operation through the late 1980s and 1990s. Land was becoming available after the farm crisis of the 1980s and by making sure that the farm was set up correctly on paper — originally as Rezac Farms LLP — the family was able to purchase a 1,500-acre ranch in 1988.
“Dad had the foresight to let us boys go to work and grow the operation,” Jay says. “Lance and I have different interests, so we have made good partners.”
The farm is run as one business, and the brothers regularly talk about the big expenses that crop up. But still, there’s autonomy in each other’s specialties.
“Lance doesn’t worry about what bulls I’m buying, and I don’t worry about what varieties of corn he’s planting,” Jay says.
According to the Rezacs, the partnership was switched to a sub-S corporation, called Rezac Land & Livestock, which is the working entity under which the livestock and cropping enterprises do business.
When Don died in 2010, Barbara started gifting her shares of the corporation to the brothers. Today, two of Lance’s children, along with Jay and Stacy’s sons Russell and Matthew, have bought shares of the corporation.
“The way we’ve got it set up, it’s all on shares,” Jay says. “We have buy/sell agreements if something really does happen, and somebody wants out.” The corporation structure also ensures that the farm is protected in case of death of one of the shareholders, so that any heirs are taken care of without putting the entire farm in jeopardy.
Jay and Stacy met at the Pottawatomie County Fair when they were both in high school. The two went to Kansas State University, where Jay graduated with a bachelor’s degree in animal science in 1986, and Stacy graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education in 1987. They married in 1986 and moved to the farm near Onaga to start their family.
Stacy taught first and second grade in the Onaga School District for 28 years, retiring in 2015. Their three children, Jayme, Russell, and Matthew, were active in 4-H and showing livestock. That meant their family time was spent working with livestock and going to shows, but it was also a way to instill values and teamwork in their children, Stacy says, along with a sense of duty to the community.
“You have to be dedicated if you’re going to volunteer,” she says. “You can’t just volunteer and never show up — just like you can’t farm and not show up.” She credits showing livestock and competing in rodeo with instilling in their three children the teamwork and confidence it takes to return to the family farm.
Today, Jayme and her husband, Corey Lundberg, live in Olsburg, Kan., managing the family’s starter yard there and raising their two children. Russell and his wife, Tiffany, are partners in the Rezac Land & Livestock and have two children. And Matthew and his wife, Alexa, are following close in Jay and Stacy’s footprints — they’re not only partners in the Rezac Land & Livestock, but Alexa also teaches second grade in the Onaga School District.
The farm today
Through teamwork and planning, the Rezac farming business has grown to a 4,500-head stocker and backgrounding operation, along with a herd of 900 Angus cows, 2,000 acres of row crops and 400 sows in a farrow-to-finish operation.
Jay says his dad taught him and his brother that a self-sufficient farm can be profitable, so the Rezacs grow all their own feed, with only soybeans and wheat sold. Corn is fed to livestock and “walked off the farm.” Calves are backgrounded by the Rezacs, and ownership is retained through the feedlot to harvest.
Jay and Lance still do the marketing, using the cash, futures and direct markets. And now that the next generation is returning to the farm, transitions are starting to take shape. Russell has taken on the cow herd management, while Matthew is managing the feedlot operation.
“Dad turned the operation over to Lance and me, and now it is time to turn it over to our kids,” Jay says. Stacy says the tricks are communication and leading by doing. That’s how the Rezacs are working to make sure their family farm stays in the family for another generation.
Master Farmer extras
Advice from family: Jay Rezac says one piece of advice that’s stuck with him is, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.” He and Stacy have passed that on to their children and grandchildren. “You know, it’s not other people’s jobs to make you successful. You have to show up, don’t lie, don’t cheat, go and do what’s right, and help other people out,” Jay says.
Family history: Jay’s parents, Don and Barbara Rezac, were named Master Farmer and Master Farm Homemaker in 1996.
Be sure to read about each of the members of the new class of Kansas Master Farmers and Master Farm Homemakers here:
Kevin and Vera Schultz story: Cattle, service to others is Schultz family brand
Kevin and Vera Schultz photo album: Faith, family and Herefords is Schultz brand
Ellis and Rita Yoder story: Yoders grounded in respect for land, community
Ellis and Rita Yoder photo album: Yoder family emphasizes family legacy, farm improvements