Jeff Need is a fifth-generation farmer in Frankfort, Ind., where he farms with his uncle, Kent, and other family members. He also works as a firefighter for the City of West Lafayette.
Jeff Need is a fifth-generation farmer in Frankfort, Ind., where he farms with his uncle, Kent, and other family members. He also works as a firefighter for the City of West Lafayette.

FRANKFORT, Ind. — Technology and family are at the center of the Need farm in Clinton County.

The family members’ love for soil and desire to leave land in better condition for future generations inspires them to use conservation practices such as no-till systems and cover crops.

The family members farm around 1,500 acres of corn and soybeans. They have a deep history in agriculture and have been farming in the area since 1868.

Kent Need farms the land with his nephew, Jeff, with help from many other family members.

“As I’ve gotten older, I think in this operation Jeff is the engine and I’m the anchor,” he said. “I think it works fairly well to have somebody full of energy, and that’s usually Jeff, and somebody to pull them back and say, ‘Let’s take another look.’ We work well together and compliment each other well.”

Two thirds of the land is owned by family members, and one third of the land is rented. The farm is set up so that each person can have their own farm practices while working together to get the job done.

“Any new purchases are made between he and I,” Jeff Need said. “We evaluate whether we need it and which direction we want to go. There’s a couple different ways you can do a multi-owner setup like we are.

“As opposed to kind of throwing it all into a hat, they can pick and choose what they want to do on their land. They can market it separate.

“We farm together, we work together, but each other’s balance sheet is still separate, and the marketing plan is still separate. We kind of have to work together and make sure we’re not both selling a whole bunch the same week. But it works real well for us.”

The management philosophy at the Need farm is inspired by Kent’s father. They work hard, farm in a sustainable manner and utilize technology.

“Hard work — we work six days a week,” Kent Need explained as one of the main philosophies. “We don’t care if it’s sunny on Sunday — nothing turns. Treat everybody fairly. We don’t want to gain at someone else’s expense. We don’t think that’s the way that we should operate.

“Get along — it’s family. I know from an economic standpoint that’s not exactly the way.

“We just believe at the end of the day, we look at ourselves in the mirror and say we are doing the best that we can in the fairest and most honest way. We nourish the ground and want it to be better than when we found it.”

Jeff Need works a second job as a firefighter for the City of West Lafayette. He explained that there are pros and cons to being a dual-job farmer.

On the positive side, he is able to provide insurance to his family through his second job. He also is able to take off time to be in the fields during harvest.

On the other hand, he has to take a gamble when scheduling his vacation time the year before as harvest times vary year to year.

“I can go to bed at night knowing if we get totally wiped out this year, I still have that income source,” he said.

“Lots of our technology is built around recordkeeping, and I’m kind of our recordkeeping vault. A lot of our technology makes it easier for the days when I’m not on this farm for me to come back tomorrow and see what happened.”

Need can track what planters are in the fields and at what pace they are planting from the fire station. He even can see what pressure they are exerting on the ground.

“The other big thing is that at any one point in time, any of the four or five of us might be in the tractor over the course of a day,” he said. “Same way with combine. As different things come up, something is broke and one of us is better at fixing it, someone else gets in the tractor. With the technology and auto-steer, the recordkeeping is automatic.

“It just makes it a lot simpler for somebody who has maybe not ran the combine all day to hit that button and go.”

He also said that the auto-steer capabilities help him feel fresher and sharper at the end of the day, without having to focus as much on steering.