MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Many people have been leaving the family farm behind to pursue other opportunities that may involve more money or less hard labor, said John Kramer, owner of J-Six Farms, during his presentation at the 2006 Swine Profitability Conference at Kansas State University Feb. 7.

"The next generation should know that there are opportunities for them on the farm," he said. "The trick is to find what you're good at and find a way to market it to consumers. Then, to help your business grow, hire what you're not good at. There are a lot of people or lenders out there that are willing to help."

In addition to J-Six Farms, which is based in Corning, Kan., Kramer and his family own and operate Fairview Mills, Fairview Express, and K-9 Foods, LLC. The companies have 110 employees, and in 2005, they processed 150,000 tons of grain, sold 50,000 to 60,000 pigs and generated $38 million in total sales.

There are many ways to succeed in any business, but business owners and managers need to be willing to change if they want to be competitive, he said.

"Your goals will change," Kramer said. "Forty years ago, I wanted to go into beef production. Twenty years ago I started my own hog business that has grown into an agri-business today. My goals today are to create something that our grandchildren will remember us for. I believe we have a tool for our family to use to succeed within agriculture -- if they choose."

Kramer said that he encourages young adults to get involved in a club or a sport, to earn a higher education and to get experience in something they're interested in before coming back to work on the family farm. The opportunities within the family business are already there and the knowledge and experience that can be gained elsewhere may be used later to expand the business.

When returning to the business, it's important to gain the respect of co-workers, to pay a competitive wage and benefit package, and to include employees' spouses in the business, he said.

Kramer said that attitude has a lot to do with success in a business.

"Be proud," Kramer said. "Don't put yourself down, because others will follow your lead. I think that the biggest reason America is losing a lot of small swine producers is because most would rather be in some other agriculture-related field making more money. I also think that most large operation hog producers are proud of what they do."

Entrepreneurs just need to find the things that they're best at, because if they're the best, then they'll be able to make a living doing it, Kramer said. Also, being a successful business person ultimately comes down to decision-making. Right or wrong, any decision is better than no decision.



SOURCE: News release from K-State Research and Extension.