The Top Line

February 6, 2009 08:52 AM

Family Bonds Success

The 2009 Top Producer of the Year finalists represent very different businesses, but they share a commonality with many farms: strong family roots.

The winner. Lon Frahm, an accomplished musician, was angry when he received the results of his high school aptitude test. The career best suited for him? Farmer—something he was certain he did not want to be.

Yet the 2009 Top Producer of the Year—and winner of the use of a Cat Challenger for 200 hours—has built his family's farm in the small northwestern Kansas town of Colby into a multimillion-dollar business.

At the young age of 28, Frahm found himself manager of his family's sixth-generation farm when his father died. He stepped into the office and never looked back.

Armed with a business degree from Kansas State University, the secret of his success is keeping a close eye on business details—and not keeping secrets. Without question, Lon Frahm is the epitome of a top producer, but he also stands out for superior management of employees, whom he credits for much of his success.

Frahm keeps no secrets from his staff. "I share my financials with all the employees," he says. "It creates engagement and gives them a sense of ownership they wouldn't have otherwise."

The finalists. If a phoenix rose from the ashes near Hart, Mich., it very likely wasn't a mythical bird. It was probably a turkey.

When Andy and Beth Snider lost their milking parlor to fire in 1996, all but one of their registered Holstein cows perished.

Two years later, their main turkey buyer announced it was leaving the state, just after the Sniders made a significant investment in facilities. 

Snider helped form a turkey marketing co-op, and today he and two other members are certified organic producers. The Sniders also raise hogs and grain. 

Pat and Karl Duncanson's father taught them to always look for ways to improve their operation, and change is a way of life for them. Today, Duncanson Growers of Mapleton, Minn., is a multigenerational, diversified grain, oilseed, hog and beef farm that focuses on strict business management principles, environmental improvements and a dedication to agriculture and the local community.

Watch future issues for features highlighting borrowable business concepts from these outstanding role models.

To contact Greg Vincent, e-mail

Top Producer, February 2009

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