Mt. Carmel, Florida
Levi Findley knows a thing or two about strong roots — and not just the kind that make for the healthy bounty of cotton, peanuts, corn and produce he grows.
Levi’s farming roots stretch back eight generations, to the 1750s, when his ancestors made their way to America from Scotland. The early Findley family first settled in South Carolina, then moved on to Georgia and Alabama, and finally arrived in Mt. Carmel, Florida in 1922.
All in the family
Named after his great granddad, Levi is most at home in the cab of a tractor or picker working the land. There was a brief moment in college when Levi considered becoming a ﬁreﬁghter, but in the end, he had to follow his heart.
“My happiest memories as a little bitty boy was my granddad picking me up and putting me on my great grand-daddy’s tractor,” Findley said. “I could barely touch the clutch of course, but I just loved watching the seed go into the ground, taking care of it and seeing how it turned out at the end of the season.”
Levi comes from a long line of passionate farmers. “My great-granddad, my granddad… they had so much passion for farming. They passed that on to my dad, Burlin, and then to me.”
Burlin purchased his own farm in 1972 and Levi started working with him starting in high school. Along the way, Levi acquired some land of his own and, by 2005, was managing the day-to-day operations of 650-acres, with his father working right alongside him.
“That’s when I came up with the idea of calling all this Wild Boar Farms,” Levi said. “People think it’s because of the wild hogs around here, but actually, one day I was looking at the logo on my bush hog and got the idea. It just stuck.”
A great honor
In 2017, the two Findley families (Levi’s and Burlin’s) were named the Santa Rosa County Farm Families of the Year, a great honor for the hardworking father and son team. The deeper meaning of the achievement was not lost on Levi.
“There aren’t many jobs where you can work together with your father. It’s made me a better person, and I’m grateful to have the chance to be a whole lot closer to my dad doing the job we do,” he said.
Working side-by-side with those who’ve done it all before you has advantages. Levi credits his dad with teaching him plenty about rolling with the ﬂow and facing the new challenges that each season brings.
“My dad’s been farming on his own for 46 seasons now, so he has an understanding and a historical take on things that I’m still building,” Levi said. “Farming is stressful and then rewarding; we’re always being tested. Dad’s got a good feel for when it’s time to just sit back and wait.”
Farm Credit understands
Levi also believes it’s important to surround yourself with people beyond your family who understand agriculture.
“There are so many variables in farming and it only takes one bad year to mess you up. You need to
surround yourself with people who understand agriculture, especially when it comes to the people who loan you money,” Levi said. “I saw that quality in Farm Credit.”
When Levi ﬁrst met with Farm Credit of Northwest Florida six years ago, he knew immediately that he’d found a lender who understood his business and livelihood.
“Some lenders you go to just don’t get it,” Levi said. “They don’t understand what paying on a farm plan is or why sometimes we have to ask for a couple of extra days to pay because we’re holding onto the crop for a higher price.”
“Farm Credit knows what’s going on out in the ﬁelds,” he said. “They know ag, so they know what you need. Everything they do and say is in your best interest.”
Mark Waggy, Levi’s Farm Credit loan officer, has watched 36-year old Levi go through the trials, as well as the deep satisfaction, that farming brings.
“Levi is a very hard worker,” Mark said. “He’s taken what he learned from his dad and others before him, and still strives to learn new ways to improve his farming techniques.”
Mark believes what drives Levi more than anything else is his desire to make sure Wild Boar Farms will continue to ﬂourish into the future so that his young son has the opportunity to become a ninth-generation farmer. Levi, ever pragmatic, is the ﬁrst to tell you that ensuring that future includes being smart with his hard-earned money.
“With all the ups and downs of agriculture, you and your lender become very close. Mark has been great to work with. I can sit down and explain what I need and he and I can talk about how to make it work,” Levi said.
For Mark and his colleagues at Farm Credit, relationships are far more important than customer numbers.
“Having a relationship is very different from just being a customer,” Mark said. “Building trust and conﬁdence, and having a true understanding of my customer’s business and challenges, as well as their passion and dreams, that’s a good recipe for building a great relationship.”
With his dad by his side, and the continued support of Farm Credit, Levi sees a bright future ahead for Wild Boar Farms.
“Our son, Keith Levi, is 13 months old now and I can already see how much he loves the farm life and the outdoors. Of course, I’m hoping he’ll want to be a farmer, too, when he gets older.”
Levi jokes that it might actually be tough for Keith Levi not to get involved in farming since his mom, Kaylen, is the ag teacher at the local high school.
“But at the end of the day,” he said, “as my dad told me… ‘it’s your choice.’ And that’s a good way for a dad to be with a son.”