Michigan Farming: Looking Forward with Agribusiness and TechnologyBy Kyle Pollock on March 19th, 2013 /
There are many changes the Raymond and Stutzman farm has gone through since its start in 1930 as a potato farm, but there’s one thing Tim Stutzman wishes to never change: the level of trust in a farmer’s handshake.
As an old way of doing business, Tim is worried that Ag Lending will be lost to a younger generation in agribusiness. To demonstrate this, Tim showed he could contact a supplier in Kentucky and have the order on his farm the next morning, just with a phone call. Suppliers and agribusinesses understand that farming is asset heavy with most of their value in their equipment, buildings and land.
Tim and his wife Angela Stutzman now lead the 4th generation farm, which takes up over 5,000 acres in Morenci, Michigan. Tim grows alfalfa, corn, grain, beans, and raises beef cattle on the family farm. “We have been lucky to be able to diversify.” Tim says, addressing how he has survived the ups and downs of farming, especially with crop prices fluctuating. The farm has turned to custom dairy farming-a way of adding a revenue stream independent of the commodity prices.
Agriculture is unique in that you can work to produce a crop, you can control where you sell it, but the buyers tell you how much it’s worth. “You know where you break even, so you know where you need to get to,” said Tim, who also explained insurance and selling equity can help increase longevity, but are essentially band-aids.
With every business venture comes a great deal of risk. Tim Stutzman, knows this all too well, and admits the risk never leaves his mind, especially with 4 family members behind him and 4 full time employees of the farm. Tim says between the weather, and fluctuations in the commodities market, the crop prices can be high one month and crash the next when it’s time to sell. “In Ag, you can only control 20%.” An investment that some business people wouldn’t touch, but is a reality for farmers.
Using Technology with Michigan Agribusiness
Since 2009, yields have been less than normal because of drought conditions. During the season, Tim continues to get started at 5 A.M. and be done by 11 P.M. Working a 40 hour week is unheard of, but the thing that keeps moving him forward is always looking for ways to better himself whether it’s adapting to new technology, learning a new skill, or being more prepared for the next year.
Tim praised Variable rate technology which allows for more precise farming. He always looks for where to tweak an application over every acre of dirt for higher yields. With every $1.50 spent on application technology, the farm saves $18 with more precious measurements and doubling down on where the better soil is in the field. The Stutzman family also looks to improve their types of practices on their farm and are voluntarily certified under the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) for livestock and crops.
“As farmers,” Angela said, “We are active environmentalists, not environmental activists.” The Stutzman family had even hosted a Breakfast on the Farm event in 2011, and welcomed visitors to tour the farm.
Farming is a fierce cycle, and the entrepreneurs in farming are unlike any other, but what may appear to consume a farmer’s day and mind, comes the best reward: the lifestyle. Tim says there’s nothing more rewarding than agriculture and running a successful family with clear values and ethics has been synonymous with running a successful business on the farm. The Stutzman’s have three sons and have certainly been accustomed to Ag Lending while being a part of a new generation, a parting to changing technology.
I asked the Stutzmans, what they need to thrive in 2013, and Tim and Angela, without hesitation, both shouted “Rain!” Looking forward, they both hope people can keep the old school Ag Lending while adopting to new technology and safe practices, but know, the best is yet to come.
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