Paulman Farms is in an area of Nebraska where owner Roric Paulman says “Mother Nature never leaves you alone”.
Whether its hail or drought, the weather is constantly shifting in Sutherland, Neb. This is where Roric and his wife Deb, and their son Zachary, farm nearly 5,000 acres of grain including dry beans and popcorn. When you are at the mercy of Mother Nature, relationships become important, says Roric—especially when you suddenly find yourself farming alone.
Roric was born to farm, but his father encouraged him to get a job off the farm before joining the operation. In 1985, while he and Deb were pursuing careers in Omaha, Roric got the call from his father asking him to join the operation. Then six months later, his father died.
Those were tough days for the Paulmans. They had to sell equipment and turn the land over to Farm Credit, but Roric and Deb were determined to stay and make it work. Roric contacted all of the landowners the family had been farming with for years to see if they would stay with him. He gave them the options of renting their land or custom farming for them. By the grace of God, they all said yes and gave the Paulmans the reboot they needed.
After hitting rock bottom, the Paulmans have overcome financial challenges, marketing challenges, cropping and weather adversity and water issues to become a leader in farming. The family now owns all of the land it lost in the 1980s, growing from a negative balance sheet to a $10 million business.
Paulman Farms focuses on quality, especially with its dry beans and popcorn. The farm direct cuts its dry beans, delivering beans directly to the end user, including a large restaurant chain.
Leaning on people has been key to Roric’s success. He built the farm up with advice from his agronomist, banker and accountant. The team holds roundtable discussions twice a year and Roric is constantly looking at ways to improve the farm. To show appreciation, the Paulmans often invite their vendors – from sprayer operators to the seed salesman) to their farm.
With just 2% unemployment in the area, finding and maintaining good people is a huge task. Roric has an open door policy for employees, and he makes an effort to hire people who need a second chance. He utilizes a worker exchange program and has had employees from New Zealand, South Africa and more.
The Paulmans are now integrating their son Zachary, and instilling in him a passion for technology and the environment. From RTK to variable rate fertilizer and seeding, the Paulmans use it all.
Roric co-founded the Water Balance Alliance, which helps farmers in the area learn how to conserve and best use water resources in the state of Nebraska. They continually monitor water usage on their farm, using moisture probes in each field. In fact, they are so passionate about water conservation, they have retired 400 acres of dryland and moved it into a wildlife habitat.
Here is one premise that Roric lives by: If you want your community and your state to be a better place, you have to give your time to make it happen. Roric has lived this out in spades, with involvement in everything from local fire department to being President of the Nebraska Water Alliance Board to his recent run for legislature. Out of 10,000 votes, he was beat by 300.
Sponsored by Bayer CropScience and Case IH, the Top Producer of the Year contest is in its 16th year and represents the best in the business of farming. Three finalists are chosen from a slew of applications by a panel of judges based on entrepreneurial originality, financial and business progress, and industry and community leadership.
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