This week's episode is a rerun of AgBiz Cast podcast, which shares inspiring stories of young, beginning and small farmers. We feature Arvin Horst, a poultry and crop farmer in Adams County, Pennsylvania.
Poultry and Cash Crop Farming with Arvin Horst
This week's Field Notes is another feature from the AgBiz Cast podcast, which shares inspiring stories of young, beginning and small farmers. Today's episode is an interview with Arvin Horst, a poultry and crop farmer in Adams County, Pennsylvania. For the full podcast, click here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/960592/10009423
Can you tell our listeners about your operation, including some history and how you got started with it?
I grew up on a farm. I was born and raised on a farm. Whenever I was 18, I worked for my dad and then got an off the farm job for about seven years. Over that time, I always continued to work for my dad. Then while I was off the farm for seven years, I continued to help. Then in 2005, I started purchasing the farm from my dad.
We came up with an agreement, and in 2005 we started the transition. I was full-time farming, but I also continued my job. I’ve always done this. I still have an off the farm job, and my wife and sons help operate the farm. We have 80,000 chickens, growers with Bell & Evans and we farm 450 acres of road crop. As the years go by, we keep adding a little bit here and there as we can and as the boys get older. That pretty much gives us a rundown of what we do on the farm.
Why do you enjoy farming and what inspires you to stay in the business?
It's in my blood. I love farming. I love working with the plants. I love working with animals, and I think it's a great opportunity to raise a family. We enjoy raising my family on the farm and it inspires me to stay in the business. I just can't get away from it. I just love agriculture.
What was the biggest challenge in transitioning to ownership of the farm?
The biggest challenge was the finances. I purchased the farm from my dad, so he is helping me with that. When we purchased the farm, we also expanded the poultry a little bit to generate more income. We did have to get a commercial loan for that. Probably the biggest challenge is getting financing and being able to have the cash flow to keep that going. That was the biggest challenge, but it all worked out. I had a good experience working with AgChoice, they helped me get going here, and I appreciate that.
What has been your favorite memory from the farm over the past few years?
I don't know. I have a lot of memories. I just enjoy farming, but probably the most memorable experience is whenever we went to the lawyer's office to do the transition and sign my name on the farm. When the farm was actually in our name is probably my wife and I's biggest memory.
What do you envision for the future of the farm?
As far as the future, I have two sons that are getting older, and they are showing an interest in the farm. As they get older, my desire would be for them both to get an off the farm job for a couple years before they come back and invest in the family business. Along with the family business, we're right in the beginnings of starting a trucking company to go with the farm. You have to be 21 to drive truck out of state, so once the boys are old enough, they will do that. Until that time, I hope there'll be enough work here on the farm to keep everybody busy. That's the plan. We are evolving, expanding, and starting new enterprises.
You are an AgBiz Masters graduate. Can you tell our listeners in your own words, what does AgBiz Masters teach you and the beginning farmers like yourself?
What I came away from the AgBiz Masters program is the knowledge of business planning. I always kind of had an idea of how I wanted the farm to run. AgBiz Masters helped me to actually get it written down on paper, implement that plan, and stick to that plan.
Like I said, the business plan I had when I graduated has evolved. We now have a new business that we're going to be implementing into our business plan. Probably our biggest takeaway from AgBiz Masters is the planning. We learned the importance of getting things written down on paper.
How did AgBiz Masters help you improve your operation? What changes did you see in your operation after completing the program?
It definitely helped us to refigure out our balance sheets and follow our balance sheets through. Probably the biggest improvement that we had in our operation was doing the balance sheet and budgeting for the cash flow aspect of it. We started looking at our income versus our expenses and getting that all in order so that we don't overspend then for the coming year.
The first couple of years that we were in the business, we weren't doing that. We definitely streamlined that and that really improved our business. That all went along with the business planning of doing the balance sheets every year.
What piece of advice do you have for young or beginning farmers that are looking to start their own business?
The best advice that I can give any young farmer is that, with the volatility of ag businesses, it is important to be diversified. Like I mentioned before, I always kept an off the farm job. I recommend that if young farmers have the capability and the time, they should have another source of income besides their farm. That's one of the reasons why we're working on starting this trucking business. It's another source of income that works with the farm because we will use it to haul our grain. This helps us to get sources of income from outside the farm itself.
You can even diversify within your agribusiness. You don't have to have all corn or soybeans. You can maybe do some produce. I recommend having different channels of income, so you don’t have all of your eggs in one basket. I feel that, for my success, that was probably the greatest factor since we had another source of income. Whenever grain prices went low the other year, that other source of income was very beneficial and helped weather the tough time.