5 questions with ... Brent Kohls, farmer and ag business co-owner, Mayville, N.D.
Q: What is your role in agriculture today?
My main role is management and logistics planning on our farm near Clifford, N.D. As an owner of three ag-related businesses, there isn't a day that goes by that I'm not doing something ag related. As a row crop, corn and soybean farmer, I try do all the behind the scenes work required to keep a farm going, so I don't spend much time operating equipment. In the spring, I am loading and delivering seed for our farm and our seed customers. In the fall, I run the grain dryer and truck grain from field to farm. My therapy is post-harvest tillage. In the winter, I sell seed, work with our trucking company or deliver corn to Tharaldson Ethanol in Casselton, N.D.
I serve as director on the North Dakota Soybean Growers Association, and I'm on the research committee for the North Dakota Soybean Council. I am also on the board of directors for Clifford Farmers Elevator.
Q: How has agriculture shaped your life?
As someone who didn't grow up on a farm, I never imagined being a farmer, but I did imagine holding an ag-related job. As a son of a long-time grain elevator manager, I grew up working in the grain and agronomy divisions of Wheaton-Dumont, Minn., Coop.
In small communities across the nation, agriculture is a key and connecting factor, and the backbone of our family and community. I have had the privilege to travel throughout the world for North Dakota soy. It has been a joy helping to penetrate new markets for U.S. soybeans and establish relationships with foreign buyers. I can't imagine living anywhere else but North Dakota. I love our region — the people, seasons and wide open spaces.
Q: How do you balance work on the farm, the trucking business and your family?
Balancing work and family with the businesses is both challenging and rewarding. As farmers and business owners, we answer to ourselves. There is no one to blame when the work doesn't get done on time. I have the flexibility to catch a lot of my children's activities, and that is a privilege. With loyal, competent and trustworthy employees, the balance between work and family is a reality. We are fortunate to be surrounded by great people who do so much, so well.
Q: What is a challenge in agriculture that keeps you up at night and do you have ideas or a solution to address it?
After a long day, I'm shot both mentally and physically, so not much keeps me up at night! I do most of my thinking alone in a vehicle. That's when I think about things, including how we as farmers can serve in our community and how to get ag's message out. Another challenge is how to get more young people into agriculture and keep them in our local communities. My wife, Jennifer, and I were very fortunate to get an opportunity to rent land and start our farming career 20 years ago.
Q: What is the greatest challenge you face right now in agriculture?
With the difficult farm economy we are in currently, astute grain marketing and income diversification will be keys to success. I feel producers can add additional revenue through specialty crops, animal, livestock and specialty markets (i.e, ethanol, potential soy crush plant). A well-maintained tractor-trailer can help you capitalize on basis and markets and allow producers additional income if they can haul to additional destinations.
As far as marketing crops, I don't think I'm alone in feeling it's a big challenge and something I can improve on. As farmers, we have to be aggressive. As frustrating as it is, you may only have a handful of days to market your crop at profitable levels.
Kohls and his wife, Jennifer, raise three daughters as well as corn and soybeans near Mayville, N.D., and are the fourth generation co-owners of a family trucking business, A.H. Newman Inc., which was founded in 1929. A.H. Newman is a dry bulk food grade carrier hauling flour for the North Dakota Mill & Elevator in Grand Forks and sugar for United Sugars from various beet processing plants in the region. Kohls is also a seedsman for Channel Bio.