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Producing Excellence

The Horton Family

Leoti, KS

Horton Farms

Products: Certified seed and seed cleaning, corn and milo

Size of Operation: 9,500 acres

In Business Since: 1973 in farming, 2004 in seed cleaning

Farm Credit Partner: American AgCredit

Working with Farm Credit Since: 1973

Generating sufficient income to enable younger generations to join the family farming operation is a challenge being faced across rural America. As young farmers come home after college or return for other reasons, often with plans to marry and start families of their own, farmers find that they need to either expand acreage or create new income streams.

One farm family in Kansas found an interesting way to do both: working together, they created a new business line, which enhanced their ability to transition their existing land to a more profitable crop, which in turn is positioning them to increase their acreage.

Brothers Jim and Ken Horton took over their father’s grain acreage when he retired, while also accumulating individual acreage. When Ken’s son, Rick, wanted to return to the farm after college, he recognized that there wasn’t enough income to support him full-time. He also recognized an opportunity: many local farmers stored their own wheat seed, but didn’t have seed cleaning equipment to remove the debris that comes along with harvesting. Rick purchased parts and built his first mobile seed cleaning unit in 2003, a unit that could travel from farm to farm, quickly cleaning wheat seed at the farmer’s location. “The transition to come back to the farm was made easy by my dad, Ken, and my Uncle Jim being willing to bring their sons back to the farm, not simply as hired men, but as partners, listening and acknowledging our ideas and input,” Rick says.

That first year, Rick, along with his two younger brothers, Matt and Alec, cleaned 20,000 bushels of seed; last year, operating two units, they cleaned 400,000 bushels for 70 different customers. “We’ve succeeded because we’ve kept it family,” he says. “One of us is always there, and that matters to people, that the owners are there doing the work.” Rick also offers certified seed cleaning, an option important to farmers wanting to continue growing certified seed, which garners a premium over conventional seed. The Hortons themselves have transitioned a third of their wheat acreage to certified seed, a move made possible because of the availability of the certified seed cleaning service.

Despite the success of the mobile seed cleaning business, Rick says that the family is always interested in adding acreage. “Seed cleaning and seed sales are just part of what we’re all about,” he says. “It’s a means to bring more people back to the farm.” In fact, Rick’s two younger brothers are also planning to join the farm – Matt recently graduated with a mechanical engineering degree and will do a lot of the farm’s IT work, analyzing the extensive amount of data involved in farming. Alec is earning an agronomy degree that will position him as the on-staff agronomist.

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