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Ag Entrepreneur: You can go home again

Matt Danner, Carroll, Iowa, had what some considered a posh career -- a degree in ag systems technology and agronomy from Iowa State University and a job with John Deere that sent him around the world. But he gave it up to follow his real dream: working on the family farm.

"I had always wanted to farm," says Danner, who used vacation time and weekends to help on the farm. "The stars will never just align perfectly to take that plunge. It's one of those things that you plan the best you can, and at one time put your foot out and wait for them to fall. I didn't want to look back on my life and say, 'Coulda, woulda, shoulda.' "

After more than 8 years with John Deere, he joined the family farming operation full time in 2008. Danner, his dad, Rich, and brother Chris, all work together on the fifth-generation family farm contract-finishing swine and planting corn and soybeans. The Danners custom-farm and also have a trucking enterprise.

Danner has been able to bring his background skills and knowledge of computers and GPS technology to the farm.

"The technology is a big piece," Danner says. "We wouldn't be trying to grow our operation and acre base if we were still doing things manually. The electronics allow us to add more acres while operating more efficiently and economically."

Taking on these tasks relieves the pressure from his dad and brother.

"It takes people to focus on these different areas with today's farming environment," Danner says. "I don't have to worry about the day-to-day hog operations or where the trucks are going. I have to worry about the electronics, communications, GPS equipment, and financials. It takes a team to make this all work. You don't know it all and can't do it all, but collectively you can sure get a lot further."

Danner says strategizing is another strength he brings to the team.

"I'm very acclimated to strategic planning from my time spent at John Deere and seeing operations worldwide," Danner says. "I've seen all different shapes and sizes -- from corporate to smaller single-operator farms. So just bringing that whole different, outside experience helps."

Danner uses his computer knowledge to make work more efficient. He calculates the time, space, and human resource aspects of existing work and new jobs.

"It's lots of little things," Danner says. "It's doing those extra little things that differentiate your farm."

Since moving back, Danner has reconnected with the community by getting involved in the Carroll Chamber of Commerce, FFA Alumni, the Iowa Soybean Association Advisory Council, a DuPont Young Leader program, and by attending regional farm training programs and seminars.

He's not looking back.

"I'd rather farm than anything else," says Danner. "It's very rare you can do the same thing your great-grandfather did on the same farm. It's just a blessing to be able to do that -- period."

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