Wendland shares experiences in building farming operation
By Jean Caspers-Simmet
Date Modified: 06/04/2012 2:08 PM
WATERLOO, Iowa — Kyle Wendland started building his cash grain operation from the ground up in 2005. He shared his experiences at last week's Agricultural Machinery Conference in Waterloo.
"Farming has its bad days and its good days," Wendland said, adding that there are far more good days than bad.
When he was a child, the farm crisis forced his parents, Janet and Walt, to leave farming. His dad found a job, and his mother went back to school at Iowa State University.
His family returned to Fredericksburg in 1988, when his father joined three neighbors in a 700-cow dairy.
"I fed lots of bucket and bottle calves with my two sisters before and after school," he said.
He planned to major into civil engineering at ISU, but he couldn't get through calculus. Part-way through a survey technician course, he realized working on street and sanitary sewer projects wasn't for him.
He went to work for his uncle and grandfather on their 2,200-acre farm and returned to school at Northeast Iowa Community College to major in agricultural business with a minor in agronomy.
About this time, his father took the CEO position at the ethanol plant he helped start. He quit farming about the time Wendland wanted to start.
Attending school, working for his uncle and grandfather and starting his own farming operation all at the same time was challenging.
"To say I was busy was an understatement," he said.
What he was learning in school — marketing, farm business management and crop production techniques — he applied.
"Working with my uncle and grandpa allowed me to learn first hand how decisions were made," Wendland said.
Wendland's father cash rented him 210 acres and rented the rest of his ground to two other young farmers.
Wendland started in 2005 with a 50/50 corn-bean rotation using his father's equipment and hiring someone to spray and harvest. His dad's equipment needed updating, but it got him through the first few years.
The first year, his beans yielded a fantastic 73 bushels to the acre. By paying close attention to markets, he received a 50 cent LDP on corn. It peaked at 51 cents that fall. He averaged $2.25 on corn sales that year.
"This made a lasting impression on how marketing could change my profitability," Wendland said.
Wendland added 80 acres in 2006 and switched to a 75 percent corn/25 percent bean rotation. He asked a neighbor to drill his beans because he thought drilled beans would yield better. The beans suffered from white mold and yielded just 45 bushels. His dad's Glencoe 4300 soil finisher broke an axle, and he planted around it.
It was time to update. He bought a used John Deere 8400T and installed auto steer. He purchased a 28-foot Glencoe Unimulch 6000 but found that the shovel design didn't like rocks.
He "doubled down," in 2008 and went from 290 to 570 acres and quit his full-time job. He bought a used semi tractor and trailer, a John Deere 510 and an 8333 Disc-O-Vator.
He bought his parents' farming corporation, paying them back for the equipment he had used for no cost. The corporation provided tax advantages and spread out liability.
Wendland was able to protect a $75 to $100 per acre profit using revenue assurance with a harvest price option. He had applied fall anhydrous, and the "horribly" wet spring caused nitrogen leaching. His corn averaged just 158 bushels. He purchased his 2009 nitrogen, which was high priced, in July 2008 and hedged the purchase with a corn sale.
In 2010, he farmed 680 acres and bought a used John Deere 8110 with the horsepower and hydraulics to handle a new planter.
The new planter, a 16-row John Deere 1770 NT CCS, came in 2011, when his operation grew to 950 acres, with another 90 acres of custom farming. He built a shop and office.
This year, he'll add 125,000 bushels of grain storage and triple drying capacity.