This Iowa farmer uses his banking expertise to keep his diversified operation growing.
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.
This Iowa farmer has his hands full. With four kids, ranging from six years of age to a newborn, the future isn’t hard to see.
"My goal is not to be the biggest," says Walcott, Iowa, farmer Joe Gohlinghorst. "That’s not even on my radar. But you still have to slowly have some growth."
Growing or even running the family farm wasn’t at the top of Gohlinghorst’s priority list after college. He worked at the bank as a lender for 10 years. Being immersed in ag finance for a decade, this seventh generation farmer brought back a level of expertise to the operation that’s proved extremely valuable.
"A lot of farmers, I think they know if they can afford it, but it’s always in the back of their mind, 'well now I have to go to the bank to see if I can get a loan for this land purchase,'" he says. "I’m very condfident in the decision; I was there sitting at that desk, so I know, pretty much, exactly if we can afford it or not."
Just 10 years ago, land in this area cashed in for $4,000. Now, it’s almost tripled.
"I’d probably say the biggest challenge is I’m somewhat, I don’t want to say aggressive, but I like to get more acres and more pigs," Gohlinghorst says. "So, for me, it’s the patience that’s probably the hardest."
Gohlinghorst says being diversified has been the stronghold of the farm. It’s also created challenges.
"It’s kind of a balancing act, because we’re feeding the corn to our pigs, and we’re trying to get the cheapest corn we can to feed those pigs."
This year he locked in corn for around $6 for feed. As corn prices skyrocketed, Gohlinghorst became more confident in that decision. He knows, however, today in the game of commodity markets, you can’t win them all.
"The volatility can definitely be scary. It can also be rewarding if you can capture some of that," he says.
Gohlinghorst knows learning how to use those tools can help a farmer be successful.
"What I do know is it will be different," he says. "So, you have to embrace change and just work with it."
In addition to the latest technology, Gohlinghorst made a big decision to diversify even further and decided to sell crop insurance.
"What I like about it the most is I’m very in tune with the products and how it works, exactly," he says. "In mind there’s no question about how it works and how I get paid. Because I’m an agent, it keeps me on top of it," he says.
Knowing the details of crop insurance was vital in a year when the drought plagued the Midwest.
Such a trying year also reminds him about the benefits of owning and running a family farm. Gohlinghorst is able to take a break from the daily chores to hug his little girl before sending her off to school. No matter how much of a struggle or success each year is, it’s those moments he cherishes the most.