Specialization Allows Kansas Brothers to Grow Farming Operation
When Onaga, Kansas, brothers Lance and Jay Rezac started farming in the mid-1980s, “We didn’t know what a great opportunity it was,” says Lance Rezac.
Really? The Agricultural Depression of the 1980s offered an opportunity to start farming?
“Things were tough back then. Interest rates were high and grain prices were in the basement,” Rezac qualifies his statement, “Banks were looking to unload land, though, and if you were not carrying a lot of debt, they considered you a good investment.”
In that regard, Rezac recalls buying 1,500 acres of ranchland for just $500 at the time. “Yes, land was cheaper, but as most farmers our age know, we were just scraping by during the 1980s and 1990s,” he counters.
More importantly, Rezac quickly points out that the brothers “knew how to work hard and how to work smart. That’s what made a huge difference. Opportunities to expand were ample back then if we worked together,” he says.
That greatly understates what this farm team has accomplished starting out with just 500 acres of farmland, 150 cows, and 100 sows back in the 1980s.
Today, the operation has grown to include 700 to 800 cows, 2,000 to 3,000 stocker calves (in a backgrounding venture), 500 to 1,000 head of fat cattle, and far more land than those original 500 acres.
This is a true farmer-feeder operation where livestock are an essential part of their revenue-generating base. “The cow-calf part of the business was a natural since we have access to lots of grass,” he explains.
Indeed, the landscape surrounding the Rezac Land & Livestock headquarters encompasses the rolling grasslands of central Kansas. This rangeland, some of which is in the Kansas Flint Hill tall grassland region, abounds with native grasses that provide abundant grazing throughout the spring and summer.
Mixed in between this spawling rangeland are cultivated acres for corn, soybeans, wheat, and alfalfa. “That is the ideal combination for us – grain and grass. I consider it to be one of the best assets we have at our disposal,” Rezac points out. “This area is ideal for cattle, and our success certainly came from capitalizing on those natural assets.”
Rezac also gives a lot of credit to the success of the operation to his father, Don, and mother, Barbara. Don passed away in 2010.
Their parents were instrumental is getting the brothers set up in farming. “Thinking back to the 1980s, there wasn’t a lot of positive news encouraging young men to go into farming,” he explains. Rezac had just graduated from Kansas State University with a degree in agricultural engineering and could have gone off to work for a company at the time.
Yet, the parents encouraged the brothers to invest in farming. They formed Rezac Land & Livestock as a partnership, with each holding a third of the company. “Dad was a state representative and was gone a great deal of the time,” Rezac recalls. “He trusted us with the operation of the business but was always there when we needed advice. He left the decisions to Jay and me to make and that enabled us to prosper.”
Another huge advantage the Rezac team had was the different interests each of the brothers had in farming. “Jay is the cowboy,” Rezac laughs. “He loves cattle and is great with them. I can’t tell you how great an asset that is in this operation.”
As for himself, Rezac is the farmer and mechanic of the operation overseeing the cropland and machinery maintenance “as well as the hog operation.”
He is also a natural-born engineer as is testified by a 120×200-foot shop and machinery storage center he designed and built from salvaged material. “We also construct a lot of our own machinery,” he adds. “Recently, we erected a feed center for the feedlot operation as well as a grain storage center. Plus, there is darn little we can’t fix here.”
In addition to the brothers, Rezac Land & Livestock also employees a team of hired hands. “We have an outstanding crew of people working here. As the operation grew over the years, we needed extra help. Bringing on those people got us used to managing people,” Rezac says.
In that regard, the Rezacs learned the importance of communication and working as a team. “It’s hard as heck to get good help in the country,” Rezac acknowledges. “When we find them (good hired hands), we work hard at keeping them onboard.”
That experience is now essential as the Rezac brothers transition into their families becoming a part of the operation. This is the best testimony of Rezac Land & Livestock’s accomplishments. The operation is well poised to bring four of the brothers’ children into the operation.
Jay’s son, Russell, is already working alongside his father to manage the extensive cattle concerns.
Lance’s daughter, Nicole Harris, has also recently joined Rezac Land & Livestock. “She had previously worked for an ag chemical company and has a lot of knowledge of precision technology. That makes her a perfect fit to oversee that aspect of the operation,” Rezac points out.
Jay’s other son, Matt, and Lance’s son, Garrett, are also preparing to join the operation after graduating from college next year. Matt is finishing out an animal science degree at Fort Hayes State University in Kansas. Garrett is going to be a senior in agriculture business at Kansas State University.
Rare is the farm operation these days that can accommodate four children – let alone four children from two families.
“We have plenty for them to do, due to this being a diversified crop and livestock base,” Rezac explains. “Being able to work as a team, as Jay and I have in the past, is crucial. The big challenge comes with first cousins working as a team.”
In that regard, the brothers have engaged a professional transition planner, Lance Woodbury of Ag Progress, to help plan out the operation’s future as well as coach the families to work as a team. “Such planning, we believe, will be crucial to the operation’s future success. Learning how to communicate is also vital,” Rezac points out. “The tricky part will be in getting the kids to meld together as a team. This is a big transition time for a family operation.”
There is one huge asset the team has going for them. “Our respective children have interests similiar to ours. Russell and Matt like to work with cattle like their father does. My children have a big interest in crop farming. That is a strength for the operation to build on for the future,” Rezac says.
Lance Rezac is featured in Successful Farming magazine's "10 Successful Farmers" on pages 12 and 13 in the June/July issue.