Continuing the Family Farming Legacy
We recently interviewed Bob Moniot of Moniot Farms, a crop farm in Butler County, Pennsylvania. In 2020, Bob and his wife, Lisa acquired their first farm and more recently began the transition of the family farm with Bob's parents. Bob is a 2021 recipient of the AgChoice Farm Credit Jumpstart Grant, which awarded 15 startup farmers with a $10,000 grant. For the full podcast, click here:
Can you tell our listeners a bit more about yourself and your farm operation?
I'm a third generation on our family farm. My grandparents bought the farm and started milking cows in 1939. My parents took over the farm operation in 1982 and continued to milk cows until 2004, when they transitioned into grain farming. I grew up a working beside my parents every day on the farm. When I was little, I would get excited when my dad would let me drive equipment. From an early age, I knew I always wanted to be a farmer. After graduating high school, I worked various jobs in the ag industry. These included being a welder, being a truck driver, working for a fertilizer retailer and lastly, and working for an excavating company.
About 10 years ago, I moved closer to home. As my parents have gotten older, I began helping more on the family farm again, while also working off the farm. Today, together with my wife Lisa and my parents, our family farming operation consists of 400 acres of owned and rented ground, growing primarily corn and soybeans.
We utilize cover cropping, no till and minimum till practice. In 2017, I had the opportunity to buy a wheel trencher with the intention of installing drain tile in our own field and maybe for a few local farmers. By 2020, the work installing drain tile had grown. We had rented our first farm and we planted 50 acres of corn. My dad let us use his equipment in exchange for help with his crop.
This was the year I left my full-time job. Later that summer, my dad asked Lisa and me if we would like to take over the farm. We began a transition plan with my parents in 2021. Lisa and I expanded our acres from 50 to 250, and we planted 125 acres of corn and a hundred acres of soybeans that year. We also continued the drain tile business.
Starting this year, we have expanded our acres from 250 to 300 and have taken over the day-to-day operations of the farm. My dad still continues to help and farm his own acres.
Speaking about your farming operation, what has been the greatest challenge in starting your farm and what resources have been helpful to you?
One of the biggest challenges for us getting started was getting the working capital. We put a lot of our own money into starting the drain tile business, so we had to rely on financing to begin farming. We were able to get an operating loan through AgChoice. Along the way, we found that there are a lot of beginning farmer grants and loans available.
What Lisa and I found extremely helpful for us was the Ag Biz Master's program through AgChoice, which we both completed. It was something that we could do when we had the time to do it. It made us look at our farm from more of a business perspective. It taught us the importance of having a business plan and creating and understanding financial reports. It helped us understand if what we do is working or if we need to make changes to stay profitable.
As you reflect on your own transition from your parents, what recommendations do you have for other farm families to ensure a successful transition?
It is well worth the money to use an independent third party that specializes in farm succession planning. We used AgChoice's farm succession planning services. One of the major goals was not only to find a way for Lisa and me to take over the farm financially, but also to ensure that my parents would to be financially secure in their retirement.
For us, it was important to have input from everybody that was involved in the operation. This included our accountant for financial advice and our attorney for legal advice. I would strongly recommend taking the time to seek out an attorney who specializes in agricultural law, whether it be for farm transition plans, wills, building and land leases, or whatever is important to your business.
As mentioned earlier, you were one of our Jumpstart Grant winners this past fall. How do you plan to use those funds to improve or enhance your operation?
To start, it was very much a surprise for me to find out that we received one of the Jumpstart Grants and it is truly appreciated. We decide to use the money for two different things. For one, we purchased a no-till grain drill this past fall, which will be used primarily for planting our cover crop. Since Lisa and I started farming, we have worked to make planting cover crops a priority, and we have rented a neighbor's no-till drill in the past. We are excited to have our own no-till drill to get our cover crops planted in a more timely fashion this fall.
Secondly, we've used the other part of the money for a down payment on a new grain bin. We're excited to put up another bin to add to the capacity of our grain storage. This should help us with the efficiency of harvest at fall, and give us the opportunity to market our grain for a better price.
What do you envision for the future of Moniot Farms?
Moving forward, I would like to expand the farm drainage business. On the farming side, we would like to improve fertility and overall soil health on the ground that we currently farm. Every year we try to do something different or try something new on a few acres of our land.
We would also like to update or replace some equipment as necessary. We'd like to update or build some new buildings for equipment storage. If the opportunity presents itself, we would like to farm more ground. When it's all said and done, I'd like to look back and know that I left the farm better than when I started.
As we wrap up, could you share one piece of advice you have for someone interested in getting started farming?
For me, one of the most important things for anybody getting started in farming is having people in your life to support you and to understand the demands that come with farming, whether that's a spouse, significant other, or family member. They need to support what you're doing. This doesn't mean that they need to be involved in the day-to-day business of your farm, but they need to understand and share the same common goals that you have. Farming is a very fulfilling career, but at times it can be challenging and there can be hardships. It will be important to have those people in your life to support you.
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