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Karli Johnson of R&J Ag Supply, on her ranch east of Sidney, Mont. (Karli Johnson/Special to Agweek)

5 questions with ... Karli Johnson, R&J Ag Supply, Sidney, Mont.

Q: What is your role in agriculture today?

My husband, Ben, and I own and operate R&J Ag supply, where we serve ranchers of the Bakken region with products to help them increase the productivity of their operations. We also put our products to the test on our ranch east of Sidney, Mont. Ben grew up working with his grandpa at R&J, and when he graduated from college, he came back to help him spend more time at the lake. R&J has been going, in some form, for the last 50 years. We love sharing the knowledge we gain from our own experiences and seeing other operations through our business.

Q: What was your career path prior to joining your present ag business role, and why did you make a change?

I grew up on a commercial cow-calf operation west of Choteau, Mont. My childhood instilled a deep passion for agriculture. I graduated from Montana State University with a degree in agriculture business.

My career started at Dow AgroSciences as crop protection sales representative. I loved the people and the company at Dow but I didn't love the work, so when the opportunity came up to work with my husband, I jumped on it. I got to be home every night, and he got an in-house bookkeeper that understood the business.

I primarily manage the finances and people. Ben handles day-to-day operations like inventory and delivery scheduling. We work together to find new opportunities and become better at what we do. I know working with your spouse isn't for everybody, but we love being partners in every aspect of our lives — especially now that we get to bring our son to work with us.

Q: What is something that keeps you up at night related to your business?

The things that keep me up at night are the things that I am excited about — even the challenges we face. I view them as exciting opportunities. In recent times, it's been buying a piece of equipment that will allow us to sell bulk feed at the store and load our drill without buckets, which is a dream come true for my husband or anyone who has loaded a drill with a bucket. I also have been dreaming about chicken tractors, mob grazing and management techniques to be able to better weather a drought.

Q: What is a favorite aspect of your community and why?

I like all the economic opportunity. In a time when many small communities are struggling to stay alive, Sidney continues to grow. Sidney's economy is well-balanced with both oil and ag, so it is better able to weather tough economic times. It is so fun to be in a place where you can watch people share ideas and grow businesses.

Q: If you could share a message to recent high school or college graduates what would it be?

Keep learning! There are always ways to innovate and solve challenges. Don't be afraid of challenges. Challenges are those opportunities in overalls that you are always hearing about. If you have a passion, chase for information about it. Surround yourself with good people that think differently than you and find a mentor.

Karli grew up of a cow-calf operation in Choteau, Mont. She and her husband, Ben, work together in his family business, R&J Ag Supply and ranching. She enjoys working with her family and diving head first into the feed business.

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