With help from seasoned lender Capital Farm Credit and supplemental Farm Service Agency funding, young and beginning producer Greg Hengst was able to realize his dream of being a Texas row crop farmer.
Like any proud father, Texas farmer Greg Hengst gets a certain twinkle in his eye when he talks about his son, Kolman.
From playing farmer to his son's burgeoning farm cap collection, Hengst's stories are laced with humor and pride.
"I tell Kolman that he's the most successful farmer ever because he plants and harvests his crops on the same day," he says with a grin.
However, it doesn't take much visiting with Hengst to imagine that he was much the same way himself as a boy.
"I've always had a love of farming, especially row cropping," says Hengst, who today farms 1,600 acres of corn, milo and wheat. "It's not just a profession, it's part of who I am."
But getting started took determination, the support of family and a good lender. Intent on farming after graduation, Hengst earned an agronomy degree from Texas A&M University. He then worked a few years for the Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation before coming home to Thorndale, in Central Texas, to farm on leased property in 2005.
A love of farming runs in his family — his grandfather and several uncles farmed well into their eighties — but his own father, Dennis, raised cattle and worked in real estate, leaving a young Hengst with very little equipment to begin his operation.
Knowing that his son would need a good lender, Hengst's father introduced him to a trusted business contact — Tim Knesek, senior vice president in Capital Farm Credit's La Grange office. Because of his age and the fact that he hadn't been in business long, Hengst easily fell into Farm Credit's Young, Beginning and Small (YBS) farmer demographic, a category of producers that the lending cooperative strives to help break into the industry. He obtained his first operating loan with Capital Farm Credit in 2005.
Extra Help for Young Producers
Farm Credit has financed YBS customers since 1916, but in recent years, Farm Credit associations across the country have made an extra effort to extend help to these YBS producers, understanding they need more help today getting their operations started. Hengst, who in 2008 was able to add acreage by farming on his grandfather's land, was no different.
"Equipment was the biggest barrier I had to starting," he says. "My grandparents didn't farm a lot and they had smaller equipment. So to farm what I had, I had to purchase more equipment than most."
In 2010, Hengst and his wife, Heather, found a house, grain bins, a barn and a shed on 5 acres just outside Thorndale.
At the encouragement of Knesek, the couple applied for a loan with Capital Farm Credit, with supplemental financing from the Farm Service Agency (FSA).
FSA targets many of their programs toward young, beginning and small farmers and ranchers. They provide both direct funds and loan guarantees allowing traditional lenders, such as Capital Farm Credit, with opportunities to create loan structures to better serve agriculture.
Handling Good Years and the Not-so-Good
"Greg is knowledgeable but he's very open to new ideas, even when we talk about finances," says Knesek. "He started farming at a time when proﬁt margins were thin so he had to be a good budgeter. He started out experiencing some good, but also a lot of hardships, learning what to do and what not to do. When those good years came, he knew how to handle them and to realize that things aren't always going to be like this and to plan accordingly."
Hengst adds that he knows there are going to be hard times, but the good times make it well worth it, as it's been a rewarding way of life for both him and his family. If he has one piece of advice for young or beginning producers, it's to surround themselves with good people.
"We can't always have $6 or $7 [per bushel] corn, but we make it through and always have," Hengst says. "That's why it's important to have good organizations like Farm Credit to work with. Anyone wants to finance you when you're having a good year, but it's the ones that stand by you in your bad years that show their character. That's important for anyone, but it's especially important for a young farmer."
This article originally ran in Capital Farm Credit's customer magazine, Landscapes.