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Farmers for the Future: Opening the door

Andy Bettencourt has been a farmer in training for most of his 25 years. As a young boy he would follow his dad and the hired hands around the Crows Landing, California, farm, eager to learn all aspects of the operation.

Today, Andy operates that farm (about two hours east of San Francisco) with his dad, Stan, and his mom, Joanne. It was originally owned by Joanne's parents, but when her father passed away in 1983, the future of the family farm was unclear.

Even though Joanne's father knew his daughter and son-in-law's thriving custom farming business could use the space his farm offered, no plans had been made.

Less than a year after her father's passing, Joanne and Stan began looking for another farm to buy. That's when Joanne’s mother approached the couple about purchasing the family farm.

More than 20 years later, Andy began making plans to buy into the farm, and his parents admit they were a bit apprehensive.

"We were concerned about whether he could make a good living from the farm," says Stan. "It takes a lot of effort to make it happen. Joanne and I scraped for years, and I also worked a full-time job. We didn't want to see our kids have to scrape like we did. We gave up most of our free time to get our farming business going and to accumulate equipment.

"That's where we felt Andy could succeed," he continues. "Besides equipment, a lot of things were set up for him. We own and rent ground and have a wealth of experience to share with him."

Stan and Joanne have had a custom farming operation since 1977. In 2001, they cut back to about 10 custom farming accounts and began leasing their equipment to Stanislaus Farm Supply. In 2007, their equipment planted more than 5,900 acres.

In total, they own 200 acres, rent 170 acres, and farm 65 acres on shares. They plant corn, black eye beans, small grains, and alfalfa. They have 106 head of Holstein and beef cattle.

Andy Bettencourt has been a farmer in training for most of his 25 years. As a young boy he would follow his dad and the hired hands around the Crows Landing, California, farm, eager to learn all aspects of the operation.

Before any of their children could return to the farm, the couple had one stipulation -- earn a college degree.

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