Grain Mill Operator
Tell us about your operation:
I own Martins Feeds in Centre County. We mostly serve Centre and Clinton counties and stay local. We have a partnership with Purina and Kalmbach Feed, and also have our own line of horse, cattle, sheep, goat, pig and chicken feeds. In addition to the feed mill, I farm about 200 acres with my boyfriend Chris. We also have beef cattle and do custom baling and custom manure hauling. So yeah, we are pretty busy!
Tell us about the history of the mill, and what some of the issues
and challenges are for the future:
The mill has been here since the 1800s. It was first a railroad depot, then the Martins bought the first property in 1960 and the second property in the 70’s. I am from Chester County and went to Penn State, and stayed in Centre County. Some issues we have at the mill relate to most businesses. We keep a close eye on our accounts receivable, try to maintain a good cash flow, and keep up with our own bills. We are also located next to a creek so there is the worry that we might be flooded one year! Also, some challenges are just that we are a small local business. We are trying to reach into new markets. We started a new non-GMO line in order to service a market neglected by larger feed-mills. We also have local blends that sell very well. We are different because we are local, and a lot of people appreciate that. We can also do regular, weekly deliveries while some larger companies only do every two weeks or monthly etc. Having a small business is definitely hard, but it’s rewarding.
Why are you involved in the county’s Young Farmer and Rancher program?
Being involved helps you make good connections with people in the area. We had an event with Clinton and Centre Farm Bureaus where we all went to the a fundraiser at Hoss’s and then went bowling. It was just really nice to see everyone, have fun, and connect with other young people facing similar challenges in agriculture. It is a way to get involved with other young members. I moved into the area, so Chris and I have met a lot of friends through YF&R and Farm Bureau. It is nice to meet people with similar experiences, and we can talk to each other and help each other. It is a network of great people.
You are also involved in working membership. How do you sell the value
of Farm Bureau membership?
I go over a lot of the basic things about Farm Bureau. A lot of people really just don’t understand all the different parts to the organization. There are also a lot of different reasons why people join. I make sure to talk about all of the great benefits for members. I also stress the social aspect of meeting new people. And finally the philanthropic aspect; PFB and YF&R are helping to keep agriculture alive for the next generations. We all don’t have time to keep up with all the issues and policies in agriculture on our own, so being involved in Farm Bureau, we can work together.
What advice would you give to a new farmer looking to start in the industry?
It is definitely difficult, especially if you are buying and paying for land and equipment. I would just say learn as much as you can and get a mentor. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask for help. I have a degree in Animal Science and a minor in Ag Business Management from Penn State, but finances and business is extremely difficult for a small business or farm. I also feel like a lot of that stuff is “use it or lose it.” Any chance you have for a refresher course or to learn something new, go for it! I’m doing the AgBiz Masters Program with Ag Choice Farm Credit, and it is great! I am learning so much, and it is extremely helpful.
Why is it important for young people to be active in FB?
You get to meet people with similar interests. You are also able to promote the agriculture industry. We have all these great opportunities to meet representative and policymakers, which is really rare. If you are the face they know in your community, they will call you with questions. Instead of looking up things online which could be false or sensationalized, or asking someone who is not involved in agriculture, they can call us. They will get information or views from a local farmer because they know us. Because Farm Bureau hosts and goes to so many events and we have opportunities to meet our representatives.
Lastly, why are you a Farm Bureau member?
Farm Bureau is great, they have so many member services. MSC Business Services does all my payroll, taxes and accounting. It is amazing, and a burden lifted off of my shoulders so that I can focus on other parts of my life and business. Farm Bureau has allowed me to meet so many people, and get even more involved in the industry I love so much, agriculture.