The Crockpot Approach

This article was originally published in The Journal on January 21, 2019.

In last week’s column, I shared some of the insights gained from attending the American Forage and Grassland Council’s Annual Conference and promised to continue this week. The story I shared last week was about forage tragedy and triumph. This weeks’ is about getting started farming without inheriting it or marrying it.

Two beef producers led the session I attended on this topic. Wesley Tucker, an Ag Economist for University of Missouri Extension, shared his story of starting from scratch, as did Dr. Jason Salchow, who is a veterinarian and custom grazer. The approaches they used were very different.

Mr. Tucker had farmed with his father as a young adult, but one day his dad said, “Son, this farm isn’t big enough for the both of us.” So, he started his own beef operation without owning any land.

His strategy was to rent as much grazable land as he could handle and rotate his cattle from one place to another. He would calculate the cost of feeding hay and the cost of renting the land. If the land was cheaper than buying hay, then he determined it was worth the cost to rent. Although it had many challenges, the system worked and he turned a profit. However, at the end of his presentation he said, “I have failed.”

When he first started this system, he was single and had time to run from one rental site to another checking cattle. After starting a family, he took his daughter along with him. She enjoyed helping move temporary fence and riding in the truck. His daughter is now ten years old and according to Mr. Tucker, “she hates the farm.” He continued to say, “I have failed because my daughter hates the farm. She hates it because instead of spending dedicated time with her, I’m checking cows before and after work.”

The take home message of his story was to be smart and economical, but don’t forget that your time has value too. You should be careful how you spend it.

Dr. Salchow, on the other hand, tried something different. He grew up in a farm family and decided to become a veterinarian. In the process, he accumulated a large amount of student loan debt, started a family, and soon realized that veterinary medicine was not his true calling. He made a rash decision to quit the practice, buy back part of his family’s farm, and focus on beef production. He shared that he does not recommend that exact strategy, but he does recommend perseverance and patience.

The past 20 years have been a long rough road for Dr. Salchow, his wife, and five children to get to where they are today. Currently they farm as custom grazers. They own the land and graze it with other people’s cattle. All their clients make monthly payments for their grazing services based on average daily gains. Clients maintain the liability for animal health and the Salchows maintain the liability for the land.

His wife maintains the records and he maintains the pastures and cattle. They are making money, they have gained the trust of their clients, and they are expanding. He continued to share that expanding would be a lot easier if his family’s farm hadn’t been separated by the previous generation in a divorce.

The leading cause of farm fragmentation in the U.S. is not urbanization, but rather death, divorce, and a family that cannot compromise. Dr. Salchow lamented over the loss of the American family farm by saying, “If you want to be successful on the farm, go home and love your wife. We have to be better husbands, wives, fathers, and mothers. There is no success outside the home that can compromise for failure in the home.”

A fellow member of the audience tied Dr. Salchow’s comments back to liability insurance, to say that the best liability insurance you can hold for your farm is a good relationship with your family. That is the glue that holds the farm together.

Dr. Salchow’s take home message was that success in farming is like a crockpot, not a microwave. He said, “Everyone wants quick results, like a microwave. But, nothing good comes out of a microwave. A crockpot on the other hand, that’s what the good stuff comes out of, but you have to cook it low and slow.”

My advice for you after attending this session is to consider both of these producer’s approaches, their struggles, and their successes.

Neither presentation was about the animals or land as much as they were about relationships with your neighbors and your family. Success in agriculture requires capital, but it is built on perseverance and trust. Trust takes time to develop and perseverance is what drives the crockpot approach to success. Take the time to build trusting relationships with your family, neighbors, and clients. Those relationships are like insurance for your current struggles and future successes.

Forage Tragedy and Triumph

This article was originally published in The Journal  on January 14, 2019.

Last week I was given a wonderful opportunity to attend the American Forage and Grassland Council’s Annual Conference in St. Louis, Missouri. Thanks to the Ohio Joint Council of Extension Professionals, I was awarded a scholarship that covered over half of the travel and registration costs to attend.

As your county Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator, I believe that expanding our knowledge and understanding of how to utilize forages to their greatest potential is of utmost importance. The American Forage and Grassland Council is the only national organization of it’s kind to bring together producers, academics, and industry leaders in one meeting space.

My number one goal when attending a learning and sharing conference is to bring back information that will benefit our community. There was a wealth of information presented at this conference, but two presentations really stood out to me and they were both delivered from beef producers, not academics.

One was a story of forage tragedy and triumph.

Buron Lanier of Piney Woods Farm in North Carolina, presented at last year’s conference about the efforts made to convert his farm from KY-31 fescue to novel endophyte fescue. A significant portion of his farm is dedicated to silvoculture, combining the production of pine trees and feeding stocker cattle. With great effort, he progressed into a 365-day grazing system. He had no need to feed hay and very little supplemental feed. The system was working marvelously.

But this year he had a different story to share. Hurricane Florence hit the East Coast in September 2018. Mr. Lanier had just started stockpiling his novel endophyte fescue for the winter when his farm became submerged by hurricane waters for over 5 days. The water levels were up to five feet in most of his pastures. He lost over 75 percent of his newly converted pastures. His neighbors also lost their KY-31 pastures and many of them lost their homes as well.

Due to his 365-day grazing plan, Piney Woods Farm had no stored feed. Mr. Lanier was devastated by the destruction, but his home was still livable, his cattle alive, and his family safe. Donated hay and feed were his saving grace. He has since learned how to feed cottonseed and plant by-products and low quality hay. Despite the set-back, he intends to re-establish his pastures back into novel endophyte fescue and begin again.

At the end of his presentation he shared that when something this devastating happens, you question all your motives for farming. He had retired as a successful entrepreneur and started a new venture, grazing stocker calves and farming trees. Why was he doing this? He was doing it for the future of his family, agriculture, and our country’s ability to feed itself. He determined that it is worth it to carry on.

You never know when devastation is lurking around the corner. In a business like agriculture, that devastation could be caused by weather or a market crash, or by the most common two factors, death or divorce. Appropriate insurance, business structure, and succession planning can help soften the blow if or when an unfortunate event comes along. Planning for the unexpected can help prevent complete devastation of the family farm, so please make a plan for your farm’s future.

Only two percent of Americans are farmers. They keep farming despite the risks associated and they often do it without the thankful support of the general public. They don’t farm to get rich, they farm to feed the world and our nation is indebted to them for their efforts.

Whether you plan on passing your farm on today or decades from now, it is crucial that you develop a business succession plan. The next local opportunity to attend an Extension program on this topic is in Morgan County. David Marrison will be leading a workshop with two opportunities to attend at the Morgan High School Vo-Ag Room in McConnelsville on January 28 and 31 from 6-9pm. The cost to attend is $20. For more information, call Morgan County OSU Extension at 740-962-4854. Registration is due by January 21.

Next week I will share a summary of another presentation with you. It focused on “getting started farming without inheriting it or marrying it”. Stay tuned.

Business Succession- Create a Plan Before You Need One

This article by Christine Gelley was originally published by The Noble Journal Leader on October 29, 2018.

Bernie Erven, Ohio State Professor Emeritus, has consistently promoted the idea that “successful farm succession starts at the birth of the next generation.”

Assuming he is right, that means a great number of farm owners and business operators are behind on starting their business succession plans.

Beth and her flock.

“Successful farm succession starts at the birth of the next generation.”

The whole point of creating a business succession plan is to work through many of the common issues associated with transitioning business leadership before the change happens. Whether the change is forthcoming or an abrupt surprise, having a plan in place prior to needing one reduces both financial and emotional stress on family and business relationships.

The landscape of farm owner and operators will change dramatically over the next twenty years and the business sector needs to get prepared for what is to come. The USDA Census of Agriculture has been tracking the age of farm managers for decades. Data continues to show the average age increasing from one census to the next. The 2012 data showed that the average farmer in the United States of America was 57 years old (Marrison, 2017). Data from 2017 will be released soon.

Kansas State University hosted a Ranching Summit recently that included a segment on changes to anticipate over the next two decades. Guest speaker, Tom Fields of the University of Nebraska, communicated the magnitude of the shift we will soon see with America’s farm and ranch land. He stated that within the next 20 years, 60 percent of America’s farm and ranch land is going to transfer to a new generation, which would be the biggest real estate exchange since the Louisiana Purchase (Veselka, 2018).

Are farmers prepared for this shift? Are you prepared for a leadership shift in your business?

There are steps to follow to help you prepare. They include estate and ownership transition planning, a SWOT analysis, family conversations, asset transfers, staff training, retirement planning, contingency plans, and establishing implementation timetables.

The process of creating a business succession plan can feel uncomfortable, but in the end, it should help create a smooth transition when a business leadership change occurs.

To learn more about business succession planning, consult OSU Extension Fact Sheet ANR-47 “Planning for the Successful Transition of Your Agricultural Business” by David Marrison. It is available online at or from your local Extension Office. David Marrison currently serves as the Extension Educator for Agriculture and Natural Resources in Coshocton County and is a nationally recognized teacher in the field of Farm Business Management.

Another opportunity to learn more is to attend an in-person workshop taught by David Marrison over breakfast at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, November 16. This free program will take place at the Noble County Extension Office (46049 Marietta Rd. Caldwell) and conclude at 10 a.m. The program is open to business owners of all kinds.

Please RSVP for the program by calling 740-732-5681 or emailing Community Development Educator, Gwynn Stewart, at before November 12.


Marrison, David L. “Planning for the Successful Transition of Your Agricultural Business.” Ohioline, The Ohio State University, 8 Feb. 2017,

Milligan, Bob. “Ranch Transfer Is More than a Generational Transfer.” Progressive Cattleman, Nov. 2018, pp. 19–20.

Veselka, Carrie. “K-State Ranching Summit: Embracing Disruptive Technology.” Progressive Cattleman, Nov. 2018, pp. 16–18.