Nearly 40% of farmers in the U.S. are 55 or older. That’s why finding young, prosperous farmers is no easy task. But over the next eight weeks, AgDay will feature young farmers in a series called "The New Crop." They’re possibly the next generation of ag leaders.
Electrician by trade; farmer by blood. At age 31, Tim Rosenwinkel has been farming full-time for eight years. Farming wasn’t his first job. He decided to return home to become the third generation on the farm after working as an electrician.
"We’ve put up more grain bins for future growth and expansion," Rosenwinkel says. "Just constantly updating things here, making a lot more things more automated."
That’s where his handywork has regenerated a weathered system.
"I’ve pretty much redone the entire grain set-up from top to bottom," he says. "Our second corn dryer that we got I’m going to hook it up to internet access next year. So, that way, from my iPad or my phone, I can monitor from the combine or my house to make sure it’s running, moisture is OK and troubleshoot it, too."
Expanding the farm has been a priority for Rosenwinkel. But in his early 30s, he’s doing so with caution.
"You never want to take too big of a step too fast and go backwards," he says.
Farming in this area comes with a hefty price tag. This Illinois precious land is currently going anywhere from $9,000 to $12,000 an acre. He says this creates lending limits and other issues in trying to acquire new land. And that’s only part of the equation. Trying to launch into farming at a young age doesn’t make things any easier.
"The capital investment is the hardest part," Rosenwinkel says. "I mean the machinery and cost of the iron. Then of course the inputs get higher every year. You’re operating notes. It’s a lot of money to get into it. And without help, without being able to grow little by little, it’s just too challenging. Luckily I have an opportunity to carry on after my dad."
The face of farming has changed since his dad began. A major task is coming up with a plan of attack in conquering such volatile commodity markets.
"I’m young, so I guess I’m more bullish. I try to be conservative here and there to make sure I sell at some breakevens," he says.
Corn is his crop of choice.
"It all comes down to profit margins. Corn on corn, even with the yield drag, is still better than having soybeans."
Rosenwinkel says to stay competitive, producing more yield is the constant variable on the farm.
"As costs get higher, margins get tighter, you need more acres to justify it," he says.
Being willing to try new innovations is where this young farmer shines.
"We’re always doing plot data every year," Rosenwinkel says, "whether it’s with nitrogen stabilizers, insecticide plots, variable-rate populations. We’re always trying to see what we can do to get the yield, and not just get the yield, but make sure we cover the added costs of getting the yield and make sure we’re making something off that added investment."
That investment is paying off. Even in years when Mother Nature doesn’t provide a key ingredient in farming, yields were close to average. Despite those challenges, each pass through the golden corn field reminds him why he’s so fortunate to be doing what he loves.