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Jonathan Cooper wasn’t raised on a farm per say, but he’s sure got it in his blood.Jonathan Cooper next to truck

Though his family owned 40 acres near Meadville, Cooper’s dad was an industrial arts teacher and coach; his mom a registered nurse. A few cows and hogs dotted their landscape, but Cooper learned the ropes of farming from a neighbor who hired him on to help with cattle and row crops.

 

1. On-the-Job Training


What began with Cooper raking hay in seventh grade for an area farmer eventually turned into a lot of on-the-job training that framed the path for his future. “They gave me a lot of responsibility,” he says of the neighboring farmer who would eventually turn over hay baling and spraying responsibilities to Cooper.

At 17, when a 143-acre farm north of Meadville came up for sale, Cooper was determined to buy the property. His parents co-signed the note.

Still, the young entrepreneur realized it would be hard to start a farm on his own. He headed for college first at North Central Missouri College in Trenton and finishing at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville all the while returning home to work on the farm.

 

 

2. Labor in Exchange for Use of Equipment


In exchange for labor, the neighboring farmer Cooper had worked for agreed to help. Cooper would purchase the inputs and trade out labor for use of their equipment.

Cooper’s path would be tempted when he learned part of Butterfield Grain in Meadville was for sale. He’d developed a relationship with the business owners while working for his neighbor and immediately was interested.

Ownership plans were finalized in August 2002, nine months before Cooper would graduate from college with a degree in agriculture business management and a minor in geographic information systems.

A young man now in his early 20’s, Jonathan Cooper’s plate suddenly became very full. He was owner of a 143-acre farm, part owner of a grain company, and still worked some for the neighboring farmer.

Yet, all things work together. About the time, the neighboring farmer’s operation changed direction, T&R Soil Service in Chillicothe came for sale. Along with the owners of Butterfield Grain, Cooper purchased ownership in that business and headed there to manage it.

“We have a great working relationship,” Cooper says of his business partners.

But, being part-owner of two businesses and farming all at the same time means 30-year-old Jonathan Cooper often burns the candle at both ends.

 

 

3. Be Efficient


Part-time farmer, Jonathan Cooper & customer Jonathan Cooper works with farmers like Richard Carpenter, Breckenridge, at T&R Soil Service in Chillicothe where he is part owner.

“Whenever I was farming a hundred acres, finding time to farm wasn’t a big deal,” Cooper says. “Planting could be done on a Sunday afternoon.”

Nowadays, it isn’t uncommon for Cooper to leave the business at 9 or 10 at night and head straight for the field, working until 2 or 3 in the morning.

“The key to it all is being efficient,” Cooper says, noting that he doesn’t need a $300,000 combine. Instead, he trades out labor with friends in exchange for him helping with harvest on their operations. And, his dad is always near to lend a hand on the farm.

Connections and knowing the right people are crucial to his success, Cooper notes.

“If you are going to farm 500 acres after 7 at night, then you have to have the equipment to get the job done,” he further explains the need for efficiency. “You can’t afford breakdowns. But, that doesn’t mean your equipment has to be new.”

Cooper has seized opportunity when it came knocking on the door.

“I’m sure there were challenges along the way,” Cooper says of his journey, “but I didn’t know any different. I just got up every morning and did the job.”

Advances in technology have saved Cooper’s business many miles during his tenure. When busy season hits the fertilizer business, Cooper can load trucks and monitor phone calls. He’s also able to text his employees any changes in orders.

His equipment is GPS-guided with swath control. “I can see about 10-15% efficiency in what those machines can get done in a day compared to those equipped with less technology,” Cooper notes.

And, his tractors on the farm are GPS-guided, which according to Cooper, “enables me to do 15% more after work.”

He adds, “If you’re not on the cutting edge of the technology you’re going to get left behind.”

 

 

4. Time Management


Whether in his role as business owner or farm manager, time management is the real key for this young entrepreneur. “That doesn’t mean, though, you can do something when it’s the wrong time,” Cooper explains. “You have to be able to manage your time when the time is right. You’ll make more money at the end of the day if you do a job at the right time than if you spend the time doing it wrong.”

Interested in learning more about buying a farm or rural property? Download our 10 Points to Consider Before Purchasing Rural Property ebook or contact one of our loan officers.

Original article by Joann Pipkin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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