Turning a Love for Animals into A Career
This week’s episode is another feature from the Ag Biz Cast Podcast. Launched in August, Ag Biz Cast shares inspiring stories of young, beginning, and small farmers. It is targeted at current, past, and future participants of the Ag Biz Masters educational program, but anyone is invited to listen. In this episode we interviewed Tiffany Kline, who is carrying on her family's farming legacy with her husband Mack. For the full podcast, click here:
Could you tell us about your operation, including some history, how you got started, and how you market your products?
My husband and I bought our 69-acre farm last year from my dad. It has been in our family since 1947. I was born and raised on the farm, and it's been around for a long time. It's been a dairy farm since at least the seventies, but probably before then. My dad had started shipping milk in '94 and we took over last year with the milk contract. Right now, we're milking 62 cows. We have Jerseys, Holstein, Linebacks, and a couple of cross breeds. We also have a small beef herd of about a dozen cows. We raise their calves out every year and we raise some hogs too.
Can you tell our listeners why you enjoy farming and what inspires you to stay in the business?
I just love working with animals. I love being outside. I went to college for four years and planned to go get a job off the farm after I graduated. Living in a classroom and not being around animals every day for that long made me realize that I wanted to be on the farm. I just love being outside, taking care of the cows, and being able to make my own schedule is pretty nice too.
You mentioned that you and your husband bought your family farm. What was the biggest challenge in that process?
The biggest challenge for us was the transition planning. For us, it was a really difficult thing to talk about because we're pretty young. My dad's not that old, so it's not like he was ready to retire, but we were ready to do something. Starting conversations with him and being respectful of him while also keeping in mind what we wanted to do was difficult. That whole situation was probably the biggest challenge for us.
What has been your favorite memory or a few memories from the farm over the years?
One thing that I really love is when my nieces come. I just love seeing the little kids with the animals and seeing them run free, run wild, not be cooped up inside watching the TV. That's one thing that we really love, is just seeing the young kids. We're getting ready to have our first kid this winter, so we're excited to start our family here and see where that goes.
What do you envision for the future of the farm?
We would love to get into selling direct to consumers. My husband works off the farm right now and we market our milk through DFA. We would love to do beef, pork, and a small amount of produce. First we want to get into direct marketing to consumers so that we can use that as a transition to get my husband here full time so that I have a little bit more help. We would love to see that happen.
You are an Ag Biz Masters graduate. Can you tell our listeners, in your own words, what does Ag Biz Masters teach young and beginning farmers like yourself?
In my opinion, Ag Biz Masters breaks down the two-year program to go along with sections of a business plan. That was one thing that was really beneficial for me. Coming out of the program with a finished business plan helped us to get a loan. The program does a really good job of breaking down each section of the business plan, helping you to set realistic goals, and plan how you're going to get there. Another beneficial thing that I learned during Ag Biz Masters was the basics of financials information about loans. This helped us to understand what the banks are looking at. We also learned the importance of benchmarking yourself to see where you're at and compare yourself to the industry.
How did Ag Biz Masters help you improve your operation and what changes did you see in it after completing the program?
The biggest thing for me was that we came out of it with a finished business plan. Looking at a blank business plan can be very overwhelming whenever you want to apply for a loan. Since we had a written plan of our goals and where we wanted to be, we could easily explain it to our loan officer. That was a big help in getting us a loan. Another thing that it really helped with was our record keeping skills.
For part of the classes in Ag Biz Masters, they went over accurate record keeping, comparing yourself, watching trends, and how to look back on your business and where you're at. They also teach how to track where you want to be and assess your business to see how you're doing and what you need to change. We also were given a better understanding of how to apply for a loan. The networking part of Ag Biz Masters was probably one of my favorite things because we had the chance to meet with other young farmers. Our loan officer was actually the one who overlooked our sessions, so we got to know him really well and it made us a lot more comfortable with him. It was pretty easy then whenever we wanted a loan. We were comfortable calling him up to explain what we wanted to do and why we needed a loan.
One last question before we wrap up today, what piece of advice do you have for younger, beginning farmers that are looking to start their own business?
I would say to take advantage of your resources and get out of your comfort zone. I know that full time farming while taking the Ag Biz Master's class can be hard but putting the extra time into the program definitely pays off. Take your time doing the assignments and then get in touch with your loan officer or someone else from the program if you have questions. The program will really help whenever you're getting ready to get started because you will have a full understanding of what's going on.
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