First-generation farmer Andrew Hartshorn knew he wanted to work outside rather than sit behind a desk.
Even after Andrew attended mortuary school with the plan to work at his family’s funeral home, Andrew knew his calling lay elsewhere. He got his start in agriculture by working with his father-in-law, who helped him lease and run his first acreage. Through experience and the support and mentorship from other farmers, he soon gained the confidence to dramatically expand his operation, almost tripling it in a single year.
Start of something new
After Andrew went out on his own, he worked his first 800 acres for four years. Then, in 2010, he turned that farm back to its owners and in three separate transactions gained 2,200 acres of land on which he raises corn, oats and soybeans, most of which is sold to local elevators to be used for animal feed. “It was time to go big or go home,” Andrew says, explaining that the original farm was too small for long-term viability.
Go big or go home
Managing the expansion carried a fair degree of stress as well as a financial outlay. He more than tripled his equipment fleet, including one combine that was delivered just one week before his oats were ready to be cut. In 2011, Hartshorn Farms had a good year despite dry weather conditions that necessitated extensive irrigation. “The yield wasn’t that impressive, but we watched our spending,” he says. “It let me know we’d be able to make a living.”
Neighbors helping neighbors
Andrew’s success has been enabled in part because of support from several local farmers. “I’ve got a group of three older farmers who have farmed all their lives, and I know I can call them any time, any day, and they’ll give me advice or come over to my farm to check things out,” he says. Andrew also credits his two full-time employees, saying, “I don’t think you can have a big, successful farm without having hands who care as much as you do.” As a young, beginning farmer, Andrew also respects the advice he hears from both his financial consultant and his loan officer at Delta Farm Credit. Not surprisingly, he points to his wife, who works as a registered nurse in a nearby clinic, and his 18-month-old son, for providing the inspiration for working as hard as he does.
Overall, Andrew is satisfied with his decision to become a farmer. “There aren’t that many places where a 28-year-old can be running his own million dollar business,” Andrew says. “Plus, I get to drive a big tractor every day.”