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Grow Smart

January 29, 2014
By: Julie (Douglas) Deering, Top Producer Managing Editor
Sonny Beck
Indiana’s Sonny Beck realized his seed business might not be around if he didn’t have a plan for growth. Today, it’s in the survive and acquire category.   

Different strategies help farmers achieve goals

What is success? Some farmers might define success by looking at the size of an operation; others might define it by the amount of debt owed; and still others would define

it as the ability to bring younger generations into the folds and pass on the farm. Success and growth come in many different forms.

For Brian and Kelli Eglinger, who farm in Augusta, W.Va., success is being debt free and comfortable. In 1996, the Eglingers both had full-time jobs but were presented with the opportunity to purchase 120 acres from Brian’s grandfather. At 21, Brian took out a loan with USDA’s Farm Service Agency to help make the purchase possible.

"We were scared to death," Brian says. But with a plan and hard work, the couple had the farm paid off in five years. "You have to be dedicated to paying it off and make the most with what you have," Brian says. "The first couple of years, we were doing good to just maintain everything."

Together, the Eglingers created a 10-year plan for the farm, outlining where they wanted to be. Brian wanted the farm to generate enough income to allow him to transition to a part-time job. The Eglingers also wanted to build their dream house.

Brian Eglinger

To add value to his West Virginia farm, Brian Eglinger built a breeding barn to supply eggs to Pilgrim’s.

Eventually, Brian was able to take a part-time job doing paperwork for the county farmland protection program, which allowed him to spend more time getting things done on the farm.

To justify the expense of a new hay baler, Brian calculated that he needed to custom bale about 800 bales for neighboring farms for a few years.

In 2003, Brian and Kelli built a 300' by 42' broiler breeder layer house with Pilgrim’s Pride. The house supports 7,000 hens and 700 roosters. During peak season, the Eglingers collect between 6,000 and 7,000 eggs each day.

Today, Brian works full-time on the farm and cares for their three children. Kelli has kept her job as a nurse practitioner at the local hospital. In addition to contracting with Pilgrim’s, they have about 30 cow-calf pairs, farm about 170 acres, sell hay and have a small apple orchard.

"I’m happy with how far we’ve come," Brian says. "We are comfortable, and I enjoy the freedom that farming full time gives me."

The Eglingers say additional expansion is not out of the question down the road, but for now, they

are happy stabilizing what they have.

Achieving growth is a complex and difficult equation. Only a small number of companies succeed in their attempts at sustained growth, according to Bain & Company, a global consulting company that helps management teams create high levels of economic value.

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FEATURED IN: Top Producer - February 2014

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