The 2017 class of Master Farmers includes Denny Bell, Terre Haute; John and Kristi Kretzmeier, Fowler; Larry Holscher, Vincennes; Stan Poe, Franklin; and Honorary Master Farmer Lonnie Mason, Extension ag educator in Jefferson County.
When innovative people in agriculture sit down together, smart ideas surface. That was the case when Jim Mintert, Purdue University Extension ag economist and director of the Center for Commercial Agriculture, facilitated a panel discussion among the 2017 Master Farmers.
Mintert: What are one or two keys to being successful as an entrepreneur?
Holscher: You try to adapt to what is going on in the community. It’s very competitive. We had three sons who wanted to farm. How can you bring family members into the operation? How can you grow?
We try to be as efficient as possible, innovative and one step ahead of technology. That means you’re ready to change in a hurry, if necessary. One thing we’ve done to help our young guys catch on in farming is invest in a turkey operation where we raise turkeys in our facilities on contract.
Bell: At one time I developed and sold software for farmers. We wrote an early version of yield-mapping software, and went to trade shows trying to sell it to farmers. One reason it worked for me is because I believe you have to be a farmer to know a farmer. You have to know your customer, and you just can’t do the same thing everybody else is doing.
Later, we became interested in tiling our own ground, and then built and sold tile plows. You need to be innovative. For example, if you buy a tile plow, then you can go to your landlord and tell him you will tile his ground. In return, you want a 10-year contract.
Poe: We raise 500 ewes. We’re in a minor species, especially in this state. So you have to be efficient. We have 54 lambing pens in the lambing barn. That’s 54 buckets of water to keep fresh. You would spend all day watering. So we put our heads together and built our own water system with PVC pipe and ingenuity, so we don’t have to devote someone to emptying and filling those buckets all day long.
Kristi Kretzmeier: One of my jobs is doing the office work on our farm operation. I quickly learned that I needed an accounting system I could count on. I sought out a computer program that would help me do that, and I’ve been at it for 22 years. It makes figuring taxes easy and helps us make better decisions.
John Kretzmeier: You have to be efficient, especially if you start out farming from scratch, as we did. We don’t have any grain storage on our farm. Instead, we have everything custom-hauled out of the field. We still do marketing, but we just don’t store the grain here. It’s kept us out of investing in large grain facilities, and we feel like it’s the best solution for us.
Mason: The face of farming has changed in my area during my career. We once had 300 farmers raising tobacco; now there are maybe 20. The trend is similar with dairy. It’s changed family interaction. Families don’t spend as much time together as they did. I hope they can correct that part.