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Farmers for the Future: Generation gap

Agriculture.com Staff 09/02/2009 @ 8:46am

Two generations of Shivers look at their future in farming through different lenses. At 34, Keith is at the beginning of his career, while Louis, 62, is nearing the end of his time in agriculture. Traveling down separate paths, the father and son always knew they'd have to come together and meet halfway to ensure a successful transition from the fourth generation to the fifth on their Mayo, Florida, farm.

"We both want the farm to be successful. This is a tough business to be in, and we need to compromise to succeed," says Louis.

Meeting in the middle means bridging a gap between their two ideals and defining roles on this row-crop and livestock operation to better accommodate individual needs.

To Louis, running a profitable business calls for being very hands-on. "To be successful, you have to be willing to work and go out and get the job done no matter what you have to sacrifice," he says.

For Keith, it's about maintaining a balance and managing his time well. "There has to be stability between God, family, and farm," he says. "I realize that if I don't adhere to this philosophy, nothing works."

The operation, Shiver Dairy, Inc., encompasses approximately 950 acres of owned and rented land and nearly 1,000 head of livestock, which includes both dairy and beef cattle.

Louis handles all aspects of crop production with the help of family relative Sid Koon. Crops include corn, peanuts, rye grass, sorghum, soybeans, Tif-9 pasture grass, millet, cereal rye, and oats.

Keith, who's been raising and doctoring animals since he was 11, is in charge of the entire livestock operation. Raising all of his own dairy replacement cows, he would like to gradually grow the herd.

Two generations of Shivers look at their future in farming through different lenses. At 34, Keith is at the beginning of his career, while Louis, 62, is nearing the end of his time in agriculture. Traveling down separate paths, the father and son always knew they'd have to come together and meet halfway to ensure a successful transition from the fourth generation to the fifth on their Mayo, Florida, farm.

"We milk about 600 cows, but in the next five to six years I'd like to double those numbers," Keith says.

Incorporated since 1980, Louis owns 52% and his father, Clifton, owns 48%. While much of the corporation encompasses their deeded land, it also includes the livestock operation. Since Keith's return to the farm in 2002, he has been building equity in the operation. Gradually, his grandfather Clifton's assets are being shifted to him.

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