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High on the Hog

July 31, 2013
By: Julie (Douglas) Deering, Top Producer Managing Editor

Secondary enterprise serves as a testing ground

 John Carroll

Top Producer of the Year Finalist John Carroll pilots management strategies with the U.S. hog operation before launching them on a 30,000-acre cotton, soybean and corn farm in Bahia, Brazil.

When most producers think of hogs, the words "peaceful" and "relaxing" don’t come to mind. That’s not the case for Illinois native John Carroll, who spends time in his hog facilities after a day’s work in the office.

"It’s where I go to get away from the paperwork and computer; it allows me to work with animals and use my hands," Carroll says.

Carroll’s primary responsibility in his family’s farming operation is a 24-hour flight away in South America, where he and wife, Kelly, operate and partly own a 30,000-acre farm in Luis Eduardo Magalhães, Bahia, Brazil. When he is home in Carthage, Ill., which is more since his daughter began school in the U.S. last fall, he is in charge of the sow herd. Carroll has eight employees to help with the hogs in the U.S.

"When the farm’s employees stop working for the day in Brazil, it is only 3 p.m. here," notes Carroll. That’s when he heads to the hog barn for a little R&R and to test out different employee management practices he can use with his more than 160 employees in Brazil.

"If something goes wrong with eight people in the U.S., it does not create near the ripple effect as it does with a large number," he says. "I can test a theory, tweak or toss it out if it doesn’t work without creating a serious consequence."

At the young age of 32, Carroll has gained enormous experience in managing diverse employees. He has broken through language barriers and cultural divides. Carroll has also learned something farmers twice his age never grasp: the art of delegation.

"I came to the realization that I could not drive the tractor, apply crop protectants or breed every sow," he says. "I knew I had to find people that had the same drive that I do.

"The goal is to expand, but the means of expansion is to do the best we can with what we have."

I work to make sure we have the right people in place, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and try to put them in a position to succeed."

It’s one of many reasons Carroll was named a finalist for the 2013 Top Producer of the Year Award.

"John’s excellent business skills and ability to build and maintain relationships with people in many different positions and cultures have contributed greatly to his success," says Loyd Brown, Hertz Farm Management president. "He rewards employees for success and longevity."

One individual who has been rewarded is Jesse Henoch, sow unit manager. Henoch began working for the farm in September 2011 with no farm experience. "It was a steep learning curve for me," Henoch says. "I started out as a farm hand, but John had protocols and systems in place to help me learn, stay focused and do the job correctly."

Carroll’s on-boarding process turns what often is a stressful situation into a positive experience for new employees and sets the tone for their perception of the farm.

Growing Across Borders. Carroll’s hog haven might not be a relaxing place for long. He’s looking to increase production by 50% in the next year, which provides enough opportunity for his two cousins to enter the farm business. Carroll manages the sow herd; one cousin manages the nursery and the other cousin manages the finishing units.

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FEATURED IN: Top Producer - Summer 2013

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