Illinois Farmer Doug Martin Is Always Hunting for Farming Opportunities
In 1997, Doug Martin graduated from college and started farming with his dad, Jeff Martin. With only 150 acres of his own, Doug knew that he would have to be on the hunt to grow the operation to make a career of it.
At the same time, he worked alongside his dad on the family farm near Mt. Pulaski, Illinois.
Between the two of them, they have now grown their operation by 250%, in the last 20 years.
“We had a gradual growth, for a while,” Martin says. “But in the last 10 years, we have doubled the size of our operation. So, with that growth and Dad contemplating his retirement, Derrick (my brother) has returned to the operation to farm with us.”
Over the years, the Martins have used unique strategies to stay competitive in acquiring land by purchasing and leasing.
For instance, several years ago, the Martins started a conservation tree and grass business. Also, they have developed biological products to improve soil health to boost yields, all while balancing relationships with several different landlords.
“It takes a lot of communication and attention to detail, keeping everyone informed and working together to be able to remain successful,” Martin says.
He adds, “We pay attention to what we are doing and remembering the reason we are out here farming. Not too many people have the opportunity to do what we do. While it’s a challenge to be successful, it’s an enjoyable challenge.”
Staying connected to the landlords is a key factor in being successful. To do that, the Martins have used today’s internet technology to their advantage.
“Whether it’s a simple text message, email, phone call, or our activity on social media, there is just a whole array of ways we keep in touch with landlords, nowadays,” Martin says.
The Martin family started a website and Facebook page to post photos of planting, crop growth, and harvesting for landlords to see.
“The way we communicate is landlord-specific. Some want to hear from you through a phone call once in a while, some want to know about everything going on, others text a few times a week to stay in contact, and others enjoy the website we created to display our progress on their land,” Martin says.
After writing a weekly blog on the family farm’s website, Martin has shifted more of his social network reporting to platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
“We can give our landlords quick updates more often than through the weekly blog,” Martin says. “The landlords feel like it is so easy to stay in touch this way, even though they might be on the other side of the country.”
Going forward, Martin and his brother plan to double the size of their operation in the next 10 years.
“We want to grow with land that is geographically and economically feasible. We don’t want to have to travel the whole state of Illinois just to be able to grow,” Martin says.
On The Hunt
So, the hunt is on for more land. And the Martins know all about hunting. It has been a family passion for decades.
“Our family have been outdoorsmen for several generations. My kids are getting old enough now to get them involved in hunting,” Martin says. “We’ve always felt that hunting and farming go hand-in-hand.”
Martin adds, “My great-grandpa, grandpa, and father all enjoyed hunting and have passed the passion down to my brothers and I. And we consider ourselves conservation farmers with a lot of land in the conservation reserve program and places to enhance wildlife habitat. So we take advantage of that during the hunting season.”
Martin is featured in Successful Farming magazine's "10 Successful Farmers" article running in the June issue.