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
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
“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
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
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
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