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Tyler Rush Family

Forward thinking helps Tyler Rush pave his own path as a young producer.

By Joann Pipkin

Tyler Rush checking corn crop.Headed west, the two-lane leaves the Ozark Mountains in the distance. As the pavement winds through the countryside, the rocky hills transform to fertile fields east of the Interstate 49 corridor. Here, a quiet morning in the countryside is rejuvenated following a welcomed late-summer rain the afternoon before.

In the weeks leading up to our visit, Jasper and Barton counties were not unlike their north Missouri counterparts. Parched pastures yearned for relief. Corn and soybeans wilted under the afternoon sun. Today, though, the sunlight glistens in the morning dew as our drive to the bean field dodges an occasional puddle.

We’ve caught a few showers,” Tyler Rush says. 

While the young farmer is beyond appreciative for the much-needed moisture, he’s also come to realize southwest Missouri is never too far away from a drought. 

Whenever it comes down to our no-till and our water holding capacity, we actually have a little bit more because we have our organic matter built up (in the soil) and that helps the ground hold water longer,” he explains. 

Rush’s wisdom isn’t happenstance; it comes from generations of experience. It comes from his steadfast desire to never stop learning. At a mere 29, Rush comes by it honest. From his great- grandfather to his grandfather and on to his father, the ability to look ahead and try new management techniques has never strayed far from the Rush family. It’s a trait that Tyler keeps close at hand as he paves his own path in the industry he always knew he’d come home to.

Growing His Roots

Small pastured poultry operation helps generate additional revenue on Rush farm.

Raised on a family farm southeast of Jasper, Rush grew up showing registered Red Angus cattle with his sister, Shelby. While in high school he received a loan from FCS Financial, which helped him purchase 10 head of cattle. He combined those with some cattle he already had and rented some land from a great uncle.

After high school, Rush headed to Fort Scott Community College to judge livestock and study agriculture education. Continuing to grow his farming operation by renting neighboring land and helping his father, Rush transferred to Missouri State University in Springfield and eventually landed at Crowder College in Neosho finishing with an associate’s degree in agriculture.

"I was able to drive back and forth between here and Neosho, and I had more opportunities coming up here (on the farm),” Rush explains.

Today, Rush grows corn, wheat and soybeans on both owned and rented land in Jasper and Barton Counties. He also manages about 50 head of Red Angus-Simmental cross commercial cows and a small hay operation. And although they sit empty now, Rush maintains four hog barns that once housed a nursery operation for Smithfield Foods.

Still, diversification doesn’t stop there. Rush’s wife, Rachelle, operates a small pastured poultry operation and markets between 60 and 70 dozen eggs each week to a restaurant in nearby Joplin. It’s a nice sideline income that allows her to stay home with the couple’s two daughters, Ella, 2, and Emrie, born in August. 

Originally from Columbus, Kan., Rachelle is no stranger to farm life, which Rush says is especially helpful. Long hours during planting and harvest season often keep him out late at night. It’s a lifestyle she understands and obliges by serving dinner in the field, girls in tow. 

Farming just down the road from his father, the two share equipment and labor. “I have a really good working relationship with my dad,” Rush says. “We get along great, and we farm together. It’s just a good business partnership between father and son.”

Fueling the Fields

With about 90 percent of his crop ground no-tilled, Rush is confident making the switch was the right thing to do for the land.

“We’ve got some fields that have been continuously no-till for 10 years,” Rush explains. “We’ve seen a big increase in our soil health and our overall crop health.”

Forging ahead, Rush used a 2x2x2 system this crop season. He explains, “My planter is set up for no till. It has hydraulic down pressure on it that keeps the seed depth perfect no matter what conditions and speed I am running. This helps even in emergence.”

The 2x2x2 applies fertilizer 2 inches over on both sides of the seed furrow as well as 2 inches below the seed furrow. “The fertilizer is there when the seedling develops roots,” Rush says. “I pull a 1,600 gallon tank behind the planter for this fertilizer. We also put down a starter for the seed.” 

Checking soil health

Rush uses Keeton seed firmers with fertilizer capability, so once the seed sprouts it’s ready to start growing.

“Before, we’d just go out and scatter (fertilizer) out and hope it hit the seed,” Rush notes. “This way the plant doesn’t have to hunt for the fertilizer. It’s right where it needs to be.”

Rush works hard to take care of the land he farms and leave more soil in place. He wants to do a better job raising crops, too, because he knows good management pays in the long run. “Our yields have went up since we started no tilling, and we have increased our water holding capacity,’ he says. 

Farming for the Future

Even though he’s a young farmer, Rush can see how much the industry has changed in his short tenure. 

“We’re using different chemistry on chemicals,” he explains. “And, we’re not working the ground. We have larger equipment now with GPS (global positioning systems). You can work longer hours.”

Yield mapping is also new to Rush. That technology helps him determine how much fertilizer needs to go on different areas of a field. And, it helps him manage drainage areas.

Rush realizes the technology is all a part of helping him be a more efficient producer. He keeps a lot of his farm records on his phone. Then, he can sit down at night at the computer and analyze his operation. 

Tyler Rush test health of soil.

Technology has upped his communication game, too. “I have better communication with my fertilizer guys, my chemical guys. Better communication with my dad and my wife, too.” 

Improved communication helps Rush avoid down time in the field. And, technology helps him track the grain markets and monitor when to sell. 

Rush grows seed beans for Andrews Farm and Seed in Avilla, while corn is marketed through a variety of local avenues. Some stays on farm to feed his own chickens and cattle, while much of the rest of the crop is sent to poultry feed mills in southern Missouri.

Building a Relationship

The young, beginning farmer is quick to credit his relationship with FCS Financial for helping keep him on track. “I like to have a good relationship with my lender,” Rush explains. “I can call him up. We can talk about farming. We can discuss different things on what are the best options for me.”

Tyler Rush purchased 10 head of cattle while in high school.The fixed rate loan program offered at FCS Financial has assisted Rush in planning for his future, too. “I know what my payments are going to be for the next 20 years whenever I take a loan out,” Rush says. “That has been one of the deals that has really helped me. I know how much it’s going to cost me to raise a bushel of corn. I’ve got to figure out how much I’ve got to have in order to cover (my expenses). It helps out a lot in planning.”

Rush works with FCS Financial Vice President Landon Snook through the Joplin office. Snook says fixed interest rates allow producers like Rush to plan ahead. From the weather to acts of God and market instability, producers have much to worry about when it comes to managing their operations. Snook says a fixed interest rate keeps cost of financing off that list. 

“They know their cost of financing upfront, and they can plan that into their cash flow,” he explains. “A fixed interest rate takes away uncertainty and reduces stress because of an unknown variable.”

FCS Financial assists Rush in both real estate and operating loan needs. He’s also a member of the association’s Young, Beginning Stockholder Advisory Committee, which meets at least once each year to provide the cooperative feedback. 

“I’ve been able to talk with (other farmers) and learn about different farming operations around the state,” Rush says. “I can take what they’re doing different than what I’m doing. We bounce ideas off of one another.”

Rush and other young producers are the future of the ag industry. “Young producers are what makes my job so exciting and interesting,” Snook says. “They bring a different mindset and energy level to their farming operations. Often, they are quick to adapt to new technology, farming practices and marketing strategies.”

Snook goes on to say that every young, beginning, small farmer brings an individuality to his or her operation. “The best part of my job is to see young, beginning, small producers develop and achieve their long- and short-term goals,” he adds.

Having a plan and being able to explain it to your lender is essential, Snook says noting communication is key to a great working relationship between young, beginning, small producers and their lender. 

“The more their lender understands where they are and where they want to be, the more they can help mitigate risk and surprises,” Snook says.

Paving His Path

Rush beams with pride as he talks of the farming legacy his great-grandfather and grandfather built. He recalls his father telling stories of his great-grandfather being one of the first farmers in the area to have a tractor. One of the farms Rush operates now was farmed by his great-grandfather decades before. 

Alfalfa field“It gives me a sense of pride that I’m farming that same ground that he did for all of those years,” Rush notes. 

As a young producer, Rush realizes access to land and working capital are two of the biggest challenges he faces. He knows he has to take care of what he has because more land won’t be made in the future. 

“Dad and I were talking one day,” Rush says, “and Dad made the comment, ‘You know, why don’t we just try to do a better job with what we’ve got.’”

From there, Rush says he knew he had to do a better job of saving the soil. “I’ve got another generation that I hope wants to farm someday,” he says. “This ground is going to have to feed people for a long time, so if we can save the soil and do a better job with what we’re doing, I think we’re in better shape.”

Rush is rooted in knowing that a good attitude will carry him far in the industry. He feeds on maintaining good relationships with his landlords and discovering what made them successful.

Quick to credit his father for being a forward-thinker, Rush says he never wants to get stuck in the past. Having a diversified operation helps him manage his risk on the farm. When the cattle market is having a tough year, he can look to the row crop side of his operation to get him through. 

While Rush’s father is an avid reader, he admits one of the best ways he learns is by walking the fields early in the morning. 

“I never want to stop learning at this,” Rush says. “We’re always wanting to change something or do something just to get better. And, that’s what I like to do is just do the best that I can with what I have.”

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