This weekend, I had another meeting in Kansas City for AFA. This trip focused on conference prep, but as always, personal develop. With that, we conducted a lunch visit with UMB Bank. I have become more adapt to reading the financial articles on LinkedIn and the occasional Wall Street Journal. But when talking with businessmen and futuristic economists like Peter DeSilva and Mike Hagedorn, they brought in a whole new perspective about the agriculture industry.
|AFA Student Advisory Team at UMB Bank.|
Sometimes, you need to think like an economist. That is why many farmers are doing to be profitable and successful business people. Today, many farmers are specialized. One example is my father. Nearly 10 years ago, my dad transitioned from conventional to organic farming of his corn, wheat, soybean and hay crops. For reference, my dad has been farming since the age of 15 and attained personal acreage at age 18. In his mid-50s, this was quite a change from the usual farming routine he had for over half of his career.
He currently farms around 200 acres of crops around northwest Ohio. This example depicts my dad as an economist. I don’t always believe it when I see his disorganized mess of an “office”, but because of his production methods, he provides for our family the best he can.
|Down the lane near one of my dad’s fields.|
My dad is not the only farmer or rancher who uses these methods. There are many around the nation who find niche marketing opportunities –domestically and internationally– and excel at them. I think that is amazing how efficient and thoughtful agriculturalists can be. This makes me excited for the future of our industry.
Do you have a story of how a farmer you know thinks like an economist?
|Don is showing us an onion he pulled out of the field.|
Many consumers underestimate the demands that agriculturalists meet on a daily basis. It isn’t just a matter of making the highest dollar.
Farmers and ranchers must meet the market needs while providing the best care for their crops and animals. They typically choose between production methods like organic or inorganic, conventionally stalled or free range and other variations. However, one farmer in Helm, Calif. isn’t just picking one way to grow his crops. He has chosen to follow the market demands when planting his 7,000 acres.
|These are some grapes used in making Gallo wine.|
Don Cameron is the general manager at Terranova Ranch, Inc. This ranch is run with 75 employees and 150 laborers to gross $20 million a year. That is not accomplished by pure size. Don is savvy about agricultural production. He doesn’t just know how to grow crops, but he has the brains of a businessman when selecting his markets.
Helm is within the San Joaquin Valley — dry, arid lands with little water to be found. On average, California receives 7 inches of rain per year. That is a tough opponent for any farmer! However, because of irrigation practices, the state is powerful in agricultural production.
|These are some organic cherry tomatoes.|
|Lots of almond trees!|
For 31 years, Don has worked to refine this operation to utilize the natural resources provided and grow nearly 200 different varieties of crops.
“Living out here, there is always something going on,” Don said while showing us around the different crop varieties.
We saw many different plants on the ranch including:
- Grapes (raisin, wine, and table varieties)
- Olives for olive oil
- Bell peppers
- Broccoli seed
- Custom lettuce seeds
The majority of his crops are contracted, but Don is focused on providing for the needs of many companies. Ten percent of the ranch is organic. Don does not believe he needs to produce simply one or the other, but grow each efficiently to meet market demands.
At this first visit, I was in awe by the diversity of the ranch and the success Don has seen from the operation. There are many opportunities ahead for farmers. However, they are not always easy to achieve. Terranova Ranch proved to me that there is no road block for success to provide for a growing world.
What do you think? Are his market-driven tactics a good way to run his business and feed the world?
Please share your comments and look forward to more posts about California!