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Picking up the reins

When Kyle Barlow graduated from Purdue University in 2003, he headed home to farm, just like hundreds of other ag school graduates across the country.

But that's where the similarities end, because in Kyle's case there was nobody waiting for him at the family farm near Shelbyville, Indiana.

Kyle's father, K.D. Barlow, died of cancer in 1990 when he was 38 years old and Kyle was 10. Then in February 2003, three months before Kyle graduated from Purdue, Paul Barlow, Kyle's grandfather, died at age 82.

Paul and K.D. had farmed together, and Paul had continued farming after K.D.'s death. Paul could have retired, but he chose to keep farming, partly because he liked it and partly to help Kyle get started – when and if Kyle decided that was what he wanted to do.

Because Kyle was so young when his father died, neither he nor his grandfather would know for several years whether Kyle would choose to farm.

"We moved off the farm when Mom remarried," says Kyle. "And even though we lived nearby, I was about 16 before I spent much time around the farm. I was (emotionally) close to my grandfather
before that, but I wasn't old enough to help much."

Paul and K.D. were farming around 1,200 acres when K.D. died. Paul owned about 500 acres of that. He let some of the rented ground go and rented some of his own ground to relatives. Those changes left him with 300 acres to farm close to his residence.

By his senior year in high school, Kyle was pretty sure he wanted to farm. However, he was also pretty sure he wanted to go to college. "When I was young, my parents started a college fund that paid for about half of my schooling," he says.

"I went to college kind of keeping my options open, just in case something came along," says Kyle. "But after my freshman year, I knew that farming was what I wanted to do."

Nevertheless, Kyle stayed in school. "It was kind of like insurance," he says. "If something happened, I would have the degree to fall back on. It's something that can never be taken away from me."

When Kyle Barlow graduated from Purdue University in 2003, he headed home to farm, just like hundreds of other ag school graduates across the country.

With his sights set on farming, Kyle chose most of his courses at Purdue based on how they would help him run a farm. He majored in ag systems management and minored in ag business. Plus, he took several agronomy courses. "With that ag business minor, I took five ag economics classes," Kyle says.

"He wanted the farm to survive," says Kyle. "But he didn't want us to end up hating each other over it. He put his land in a trust. Then after he died, we formed an LLC (limited liability corporation) to own the ground. We are all three equal partners in that. If we all decide to sell the ground, then we can. But if somebody doesn't want to sell, then we wouldn't be able to do it." And as per his grandfather's wishes, Kyle gets the first chance to buy the land.

Kyle Barlow thinks risk is one of the biggest factors in farming, and he believes everyone has to come to grips with how they deal with it on an emotional and business level.

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