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Farming together, separately

Agriculture.com Staff 07/07/2010 @ 9:10am

Matt Walther and his wife, Michelle, live on this farm with their children, Bennett, 5, and Garrett, who was 9 months old when this photo was taken last July. Matt's parents, Dale and Beverly, live on a farm 5 miles away.

The typical approach for most young people who want to farm is to work for their parents after graduating from high school or college. Then after a few years, they either start farming on their own, assume management and ownership roles in the family business, or quit.

Matt Walther took a different approach when he graduated from Purdue University with an ag economics degree in December 1993. He returned home to Centerville, Indiana, to farm -- on his own. Although supportive, his father, Dale, wanted it that way, and so did Matt.

From Dale's perspective, it was tough love. "I feel very strongly that they need to make their own decisions -- right or wrong -- and grow into the management of a big farm," he says.

That suited Matt fine at the time. "The flexibility was appealing," he says. And it suits him even better today. "It would have taken longer to grow equity as an employee."

But that doesn't mean it was easy for Matt to get started.

"The two hardest things were getting financing and getting land," he says. "I had to use an FHA direct loan to get started." After a few years, he switched to bank financing.

And actually, he had a little land lined up. Just not enough. He and his brother, Andy, who is two years younger, had been renting 100 acres since they were in high school. And Matt had another 135 acres lined up to rent. The big question mark that first winter was the 165 acres of tillable ground on a farm Matt had started trying to buy while he was still at Purdue. He didn't get that farm bought until the next fall, but he was able to rent it that first year. He and his wife, Michelle, now live on that farm with their two children.

Matt Walther and his wife, Michelle, live on this farm with their children, Bennett, 5, and Garrett, who was 9 months old when this photo was taken last July. Matt's parents, Dale and Beverly, live on a farm 5 miles away.

Matt Walther's primary field tractor is this John Deere 4440 that he uses to plant with. Dale does what tillage is needed on a custom basis.

Scott Kramer (on the sprayer) handles most of the spraying for Matt and Dale (far right).

Dale keeps about 50 brood cows to run on pasture and clean up fields. For several years, he has purchased Indiana performance-tested bulls. Most years, he also feeds a lot of Holstein feeder cattle out of Harvestore silos.

Both Matt and Dale (shown here) have semitrailer trucks they use to haul corn and beans from the field and to river terminals about 60 miles away.

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