Producing Excellence shares compelling stories of American farmers and ranchers, both newcomers to agriculture and producers who span generations.
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Watson Farms, Inc.
Products Raised or Grown: Corn, soybeans and wheat
Size of Operation: 2,000 acres
Years in Business: 40
Farm Credit Partner: Ag Credit, ACA
Years Working with Farm Credit: 10
Lee Watson started farming corn, soybeans and wheat with his father in the 1970s, and has continued farming those same crops with his wife, Connie, ever since. That certainly doesn’t mean things on his farm haven’t changed over the years.
Lee and Connie now work with their son and daughter-in-law, Dusten and Ruth, who joined Watson Farms, Inc., 15 years ago while also acquiring land of their own. The Watsons consistently enhance their farming operation by implementing new technologies, many of which are financed by Ag Credit, ACA. “We try to take in new technology and make improvements all the time to increase our bottom line,” Lee says. “We want to get the most advantage from all of our inputs to reduce costs and increase yields.”
These technologies rely heavily on grid sampling to determine soil conditions. This interfaces with highly targeted GPS systems that enhance the process from planting through harvest. For example, this year they’re using a variable rate planting system controlling the seed drop so more seed is planted in what has been determined to be better soil and less seed is planted in less productive areas, such as sandy or high ground that will retain less water. An auto-steer system guides machinery along the rows, turning off planting when passing over already-planted areas, and this same technology also turns sprayers off as needed during the growing season so fertilizer and other chemicals are not applied twice to the same areas. Monitors track yields as fields are harvested, identifying areas with low yields that might benefit from more fertilizer or other improvements before the next planting season. “The system identifies what might be problem areas,” Lee says, “so we can make a correction to improve the yield when we plant the next crop, like adding lime to the soil or more fertilizer.”
This forward-looking view extends to transitioning their farming operation from one generation to the next with a detailed succession plan. The plan, designed to minimize the tax burden by spreading the asset transfer over time, was created with the help of an estate attorney, and was reinforced when Lee and Dusten attended a one-day Farm Journal Legacy Project seminar. “You hate to think about it, but you need to plan,” Lee says, “so about three years ago we started passing shares of our farming corporation to Dusten.” Their goal is to have at least half of the shares transferred by the time Lee retires. Just having the plan in place, though, isn’t enough. “We’ll keep a watch on the tax laws to see if we need to change things,” Lee says.