What is in this article?:
- Farmer prepares for agriculture downturn, growth opportunities
- Productivity investments
- Preparing for growth
Advice from a non-ag outsider with strong business credentials who regularly critiques his business plans has been critical to improving his farm management, says Jim Kline.
Kline’s eyes were opened to the benefits of an outsider’s perspective when he served on the board of directors of a non-ag company with $30 million in annual sales. “I learned a lot from that,” he says. “I should have paid them for the experience.”
When the company’s CEO retired, Kline asked if he would serve as a sounding board for his farm. “I think in agriculture, especially if you grew up in it, you have to think outside the box, especially financially,” he says. “My advisor asks tough questions. Doing something the same way you always have just isn’t good enough.”
In recent years, Hartford City, Ind., farmer Jim Kline has focused on improving productivity and paying down debt to seize opportunities if, and when, times get tougher.
Over the past three years, Kline continued to invest in his farming operation even as he aggressively paid down debt. Instead of buying land, he focused on improving productivity of both owned and rented land, as well as improving relationships with landlords. That led to modest acreage increases, even though Kline wasn’t aggressively searching for more land.
“We have put in more drainage and removed fencerows and small woods if it was approved by NRCS,” says Kline.
He also made other core infrastructure improvements, including constructing a new 28,000 square-foot office, shop and machine storage complex, built with a goal of improving the farm’s overall efficiency.
His decision to construct the new office and machinery building was another reason to back off on machinery purchases, Kline adds. “In recent years, we haven’t traded as often as we typically have because we knew we were putting up the new building. We did that with cash, and not borrowed money. If we traded equipment every other year, we didn’t need a new shop.”