From Deep in the Heart of Texas – Huffman Farms, McGregor, Texas
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Huffman Farms in McGregor, Texas is a little different from other custom harvester operations. Kevin Huffman, owner, and Johan Brink, forage program manager, said they do a significant amount of custom harvesting in addition to harvesting, storing and delivering more than 50,000 tons of corn silage to dairies around central Texas.
Huffman Farms was started in the 1970s with a focus on stocker cattle and cropping, but it experienced financial difficulties and crop failures throughout most of the ‘80s and ‘90s. After Huffman transitioned to owner in 1999, he decided it was time for a new strategy.
“My philosophy is you always need to have a plan B,” Huffman told Vita Plus Custom Harvester Meeting attendees. “Corn silage was that plan B.”
Huffman said this made sense because, when you sell corn to the market, you compete with the world. When you sell corn silage, you compete with your neighbor. This means a premium is put on quality during the 10- to 14-day harvest.
After attempting to harvest and move the corn silage to dairy farms simultaneously, Huffman decided he could produce better corn silage by storing the feed on his farm and delivering it separately. The business took off from there.
The system appears to work as they’ve had some customers for more than 15 years and the farm has grown to 530 square miles with 4,200 acres of cropland, 1,800 acres of range land, and 170 beef cows. Huffman credits this to good workers, good relations and a mutual desire to stay in business.
“We developed good relationships so business expanded,” Huffman said. “They want to stay in business, so we stay in business.”
Huffman now stores more than 50,000 tons of corn silage in bags and one large pile. He said he prefers bags because they provide better quality and less mold, but the pile was a more cost-effective option. They test loads each day and deliver six to eight loads a day year-round. For delivery, they use a base price per ton per mile, plus a fuel slide.
In 2010, Huffman bought a chopper of his own to control their harvest. That’s when Brink called.
“I called Kevin out of the blue and said, ‘I saw you bought a chopper, you’re in for more than you can handle,’” Brink said.
Brink, a native South African, started chopping as an H-2A worker. He obtained his citizenship and wanted to settle in one place, so he called Huffman and began his career there. Since then, the two have developed a successful working relationship where Brink has been in charge of the chopper and helped get the custom harvesting operation off the ground in 2010.
Brink said they harvest corn, milo, sorghum, wheat, and grass and swath several of the crops for an additional fee. They usually work with a crew of up to 17 people and never go very far from home. Quality remains important, in terms of both the quality of the crop they put up and the customer service they offer.
“You need to revisit customers to find out what’s important,” Brink said. “That is a big part and it shows you are interested.”
Huffman agreed and said it is about service beyond “just getting the job done.” He said they are constantly seeking to educate and communicate with customers and employees.
“We are all kids and can always learn something,” Huffman said.
Every interaction provides an opportunity to give information and add value. Huffman said this is really what has set them apart from the competition because you can buy products or services anywhere, but information and dependability is more valuable.