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Farming after hours

Life for Grant Hildabrand, a 28-year-old farmer from Russellville, Kentucky, can be summed up in one word: Busy. Most every farmer can relate to that lifestyle, but Hildabrand finds himself in a position many young farmers face – working off the farm. “I work full time off the farm for USDA with the Kentucky Farm Service Agency,” he says.

While many beginning farmers work off the farm only to support their operation, Hildabrand is happy with his day job. “I really enjoy my job and being able to interact with other farmers on a daily basis,” he says. But that doesn't mean things are always easy. “Since I have an off-farm job, my farming is only done on nights, weekends, and holidays,” he adds.

Hildabrand's farm roots run deep, having grown up on a beef cattle, tobacco, and hay farm in southern Kentucky. After graduating high school, he attended the University of Kentucky, where he majored in agricultural public service and leadership and was involved in a number of agricultural clubs and organizations.

Deciding to farm after college, he encountered obstacles that affect many other beginners: financing and land acquisition. “In the very beginning, it was very tough to get a loan because I didn't have any net worth,” he says. “I was looking for 100% financing, and that's not what a bank likes to see,” he says with a chuckle. He first acquired an FSA operating loan, and now he uses Farm Credit financing.

“I rented a little crop land from my grandfather, and that's how I got started,” he says. “I took what I could get year to year, and eventually I had an opportunity to lease more land for longer periods of time.” With some experience under his belt, he advises, “If you lease land, be sure to take really good care of it – even better than your own. That could help you get more land in the future.”

Today, Hildabrand has 76 acres of soybeans, 180 acres of pasture, and 180 acres of hay. He also works a 65-head crossbred Black Angus herd and an 80-head custom grazing herd.

Grant Hildabrand's Tips

  • Be detail-oriented. Details help you get better loans, they help with taxes, and they help you know what's making money.
  • Keep good records. They help you increase yields and make more money.
  • Try to rent or borrow. Look for things you can do yourself and what you could pay someone else to do cheaper. Custom sprayers can do a much better job than you can.
  • Get involved. Be active in your community and consider continuing education classes. 

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