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Rosier Family

Rosier Family

By Joann Pipkin

Far beyond the traffic and lights of the big city, Interstate 29 leads us back to the stillness of the countryside—or so it seems. As autumn’s pallet paints the horizon, we venture off the four-lane only to find a rush hour all its own.

While hustle and bustle begins another day, the air’s freshness on this sunny fall morning brings with it a gentle reminder of the season. Tucked away in the rolling hills of Holt County, just northeast of Mound City, the dust flies as Kirby Rosier makes another round with the green machine. It’s harvest season, and Kirby pauses only a short time to tell his story.

Like generations before

Carrying on a legacy started in 1940 by his grandfather Lloyd Rosier, today Kirby shares his passion for the land with his sons. It’s a love his father, Jim, once passed on to him.

The Rosier operation includes Kirby’s wife, Kim; son Dylan and his wife, Lauren, and children, Brynlee, 4, Bristol, 2, and another grandchild on the way; and son Cole and wife, Holly, and son, Charlie, 6 months. Son Gage and his family—wife, Ashley, and their son, Maclin, 18 months—also own land the family farms although he works as a strength coach at William Jewel College in Liberty, Mo.

The farm business also employs Cliff Robbins, who has worked for the Rosiers for nearly 30 years; Gary Johnson, a 12-year employee, who drives a truck for them part-time; and Rusty Burge, who works part-time as an equipment operator doing field work.

As third and fourth generation crop farmers, the Rosiers raise corn and soybeans on mostly owned land in Holt and DeKalb counties. A Pioneer Seed dealership helps diversify their operation.

combines in the field - Rosiers

“We’ve really built our operation off of a lot of owned land,” Kirby explains. “I think what helps us weather through (the storms of farming) is a lot of our land is owned. It gives us a little better profit margin and appreciation for the land.”

With drought encompassing much of Missouri this past summer, the Rosiers seem to take the challenges it brought in stride.

“This has been a year like none other,” Kirby explains. He remembers drought-filled 2012 and hopes for comparable yields this harvest at around 100 bushels per acre for corn.

Genetic improvements, though, helped bring a higher-than-expected return, he says. “I think our yields have been a lot better than we expected,” Kirby says. “We had about 7 inches of rain from the first of April until the first of August on a lot of our fields. And since the first of August, we’ve had somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 to 15 inches of rain.”

corn coming out of auger

While some might shudder and threaten to throw in the towel amid Mother Nature’s fury, the Rosiers chalk this year’s obstacles up to part of the business and direct their sights more on sustaining their operation for tomorrow.

Driven by technology

Today’s crop producers know efficiency plays a key role in maximizing production. As labor continues to be a factor for many operations, farmers like the Rosiers turn to technology to keep their business on the cutting edge.

“Our farm is heavily invested in technology, and labor is one of the main reasons for that,” explains Dylan. “Getting labor—qualified, reliable labor—is such a hard task that we’ve kind of supplemented that with technology and replaced some of those needs that way.”

Moving to larger, more efficient equipment is one way the operation has positioned itself for the future. Innovative spraying technology helps reduce overlapping in chemical application on the Rosier’s farm.

“With our hills, we have a lot of opportunity for overlap and over-application of products, so we’ve used some of the new technology on equipment to reduce our input cost,” Dylan says. “It’s the same concept on some of our planters. On the precision side, we also do a lot with our harvest data, bringing it in to our computer system. Then, we use a lot of the Ag Leader® technology. I also use a lot of SMS™ applications to write prescriptions and analyze trials that we do on products.”

Dylan says Ag Leader® technology has been seamless for them to use and assists with collecting data to improve their operation and future production decisions.

“We go to some conferences in the winter just to try and keep our finger on (technology),” Dylan says. “We’re not always the first person to jump to technology. You just kind of feel out what would work best for our operation. You don’t want to get left behind, but you don’t want to be so out front with all the bugs in the technology either.”

Return on investment

Generations of experience taught Kirby Rosier some key lessons when it comes to keeping expenses in check and maximizing returns.

Rosiers' harvest corn

He remembers back in the 1970s buying fertilizer that they stored in an old hog barn. “We would haul it out with a loader and bucket,” he recalls. “We feel like if we would give up something like that and hire it out, it would lower our profit margin and make us less productive and less profitable overall.”

While the Rosiers have traded the loader and bucket for more modern techniques when it comes to spreading fertilizer, today they stand by the same basic principle Kirby learned from his dad and granddad.

“We do all of our own fertilizing and spraying,” Kirby says. “That’s helped give us a pretty good profit margin. It gives us a margin that allows us to buy our inputs cheaper. We’re doing the work in house.”

Relationships are everything

Variable interest rates caused trouble for a number of farmers back in the 1980s, Kirby recalls. Focusing on fixed rates, Kirby appreciates the programs offered by FCS Financial.

Chad McCollough, loan officer, with Dylan & Cole Rosiers

The Rosiers have come to especially appreciate FCS Financial because the cooperative understands their business. “Relationship is everything to us,” Kirby says.

Through the young, beginning farmer loan program, FCS Financial has also played a key role in helping both Dylan and Cole acquire land and get their start in farming.

Dylan graduated from Northwest Missouri State University (NWMSU) in Maryville with a degree in agricultural business before coming back to farm with his dad. Cole’s degree, also from NWMSU, is in geographical information systems. He has a minor in ag business.

“The beginning farmer program really helped me buy my first 40 acres,” Cole says. “From then on, that has sparked into another 40 acres, and it’s really just a good, helpful program.”

Cole points out how difficult it is for young farmers like himself to acquire the necessary capital to get a foot in the door of farming.

As young producers, Dylan and Cole realize the land they are buying now is an investment in the future.

“If you’re really going to buy land, you’re buying for the future,” Dylan says. “You’re not banking on making a bunch of profit right now for sure. It’s more of an investment than a cash flow opportunity.”

combine screen

Cole adds, “I think it’s awesome FCS Financial offers (the young, beginning farmer program) because the demographics of farmers, we’re all getting older. And, a lot of the older generation are still holding on to a lot of the assets.” 

The Rosiers work with FCS Financial’s Chad McCollough for their farm lending needs. “Their communication is good and they know breakeven and costs of production,” he says.

Maintaining sound financial practices is a management strategy Dylan and Cole learned from an early age. “We’ve had that drilled in our heads since we were in high school,” Dylan says. “Dad threw a checkbook down and said, ‘You’re going to learn how to do this and keep your checkbook balanced.’”

Marketing around the globe

Just like their Pioneer Seed dealership helps diversify the Rosier operation, so does growing different varieties of corn.

“The market is headline driven,” Dylan explains. “One thing can happen in China and it completely affects everything we do here. We just take the risk off the table.”

Kirby RosierBecause the Rosiers know their breakeven points, they are able to lock in profits through forward contracting and basis contracts.

Diversifying their crop base is key in that. In addition to soybeans and yellow corn, the Rosiers have added white corn to their portfolio—most of which is shipped straight to Mexico.

“We can only deliver it as trains are available,” Dylan explains. “So, when we haul it, it is legitimately going straight on a train and then delivered south to Mexico.”

Investing in on-farm storage has helped the Rosiers plan their marketing strategy for white corn. “That’s given us the flexibility to market the way we want to market, especially with the white corn,” Dylan says. “We can’t grow white corn without storage. We don’t have to take a hit during harvest, and we can manage our basis.”

Unlike yellow corn, the white variety is more finicky, the Rosiers say.

“It’s not as hardy,” Dylan notes. “You just have to watch it and scout it all better. It takes a few more inputs here and there.”

Investing in the future

Working with family day in and day out often requires a special dynamic. But, good, honest conversation brings true success to the Rosier operation.

“You’re working with your dad and your brother, I mean, sure you’re going to fight some days. It’s going to happen,” Dylan admits.

But, true uniqueness fills the Rosier operation. “I think what we’re good at, when the work is over, we don’t talk about work, I mean it’s over with,” he says. “We’re good at separating that in my opinion.”

Rosiers farm

And if a problem does exist, the trio works through it. “We’re pretty good at communicating if we’ve got a problem, we’re upfront about it,” Dylan adds. “We take care of it and move on.”

No set agenda, but weekly meetings help the Rosiers stay on task.  Kirby, Dylan and Cole use the time to structure workflow between both themselves and their employees.

“You’ve got to be on top of your game,” Dylan says. “$5, $7 corn covers up a whole lot of mistakes. In this environment, you can’t do that. One mistake and you lose a year doing that.”

Gathered alongside a combine in the middle of a cornfield, it’s easy to see the passion Kirby Rosier has not only for the land, but also for his family. It’s a kindred spirit the northwest Missouri farmer nearly took for granted. It’s one that brings a sentimental gleam to his eyes as he beams with shear pride.

Bringing the next generation into the family farm business wasn’t always top of mind for Kirby. He was more focused on the daily grind until a health scare a few years ago opened his eyes and mind to a new way of thinking.

Communication is where it all begins, and Kirby has taken a proactive approach to establishing a transition plan for the farm business. At only 53 years old, he and Kim have already started the transition process.

“My best advice is to be open with your kids and tell them what’s going on,” Kirby says. “It’s a constant every year with updating and getting with your lawyer and accountant. It’s not an easy job, and I don’t like doing it. But, it’s critical.”

And, Kirby is adamant about getting his sons involved as much in the day-to-day decision-making as he is the labor of the operation.

Agriculture is a business filled with challenges, often different than the ones seen yesterday. Yet, the Rosiers continue investing in the land, knowing its real bounty comes not by way of filled bins at the close of harvest but by way of tradition cultivated generations before.

“The dirt is our retirement plan,” he says.

And as the patriarch in the operation, Kirby realizes the value of investing in the future.

“I don’t make decisions on my own,” he says. “I make sure that they have input, because it’s going to be their show here one of these days.”

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