How Family and Technology Changed a SD Operation

September 15, 2017 04:57 PM

Farming has always been a legacy-based business for the 2014 Top Producer of the Year winner, Lee Lubbers of Gregory, S.D. 

“Our great-grandfather was the first generation to farm in America,” said Lubbers. 
The fourth-generation farmer prides himself on his roots and values the farm’s foundation and its potential for the future. 

“We always knew it was never just a piece of paper,” said Lubbers. “It can’t just be agreements and trust. There has to be culture behind it.”

Since Lee and his brother Terry won the Top Producer of the Year award in 2014, the operation has drastically transformed. 

Both brothers got married and started their own families. Three little girls are set to take over the farm someday.

“We couldn’t love ten sons more than our three girls,” said Lubbers. 

The fifth-generation is having a big influence on the business, that spans 20,000 acres of corn, soybeans and winter wheat. 

“We know our daughters can run this farm, not just as good as we do but better, and take it in new directions,” said Lubbers. “We’re excited about it.”

The Lubbers are already taking the succession plan to the next level—working on multiple trust funds.

“Our farm will stay together as a working unit,” said Lubbers. “[The girls] can be absentee owners. They can be involved in production every day. They can oversee the farm and have other business entities we’ve built up over the years.”

Time brought changes –triumphs and disappointments. 

“We’ll just keep going ahead and 2018 will be better,” said Lubbers.

Drought plagued the 2017 growing season throughout much of South Dakota. The first rain in months brought hail. 

The result of the damaging weather is hard to accept, but easy to calculate. 

“It took about two-thirds of the yield off of [one field],” said Lubbers. 

The Lubbers were fortunate to combine all of their winter wheat during this tough summer. Others were not so lucky. 

“We have friends who would have had 10,000 to 15,000 acres of wheat to cut and they cut 1,000 to 3,000 acres,” said Lubbers. “Some of them never fired up a combine this year.” 

When drought hits and net farm income is down, Lubbers says he’s leaving emotion out of this marketing plan. 

“A drought is psychologically crippling,” said Lubbers. “We’re going to work with numbers.” 

That’s why he says it’s important to keep the inventory he has secure. The family has replaced old bins with new ones, now with a total capacity of roughly 1.5 million bushels. 

They say they’re some of the first producers in the upper Midwest to install a bin-monitoring system to check temperatures and humidity while saving power. 

“I can be in Chicago in the airport and it will notify me which bin kicks in, which fan, and what is going on and the reason why,” said Lubbers. 

It can hydrate the crop as well. 

“We get 8 to 9 percent moisture content on our soybeans,” he said. “We can put it in the bin and in three months, we can hydrate them to 13 percent content moisture and gain three bushels.”

For this operation, change is constant, which is the way the Lubbers prefer it. 
“We’ve always embraced that,” said Lubbers. “We’re not the same operation we were five or 10 years ago. We’re not the same people.” 

Preserving yet evolving, keeping the farm moving and standing for the future. 

You can read more in the latest issue of Top Producer Magazine. 

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