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Kyle Mehmen

Co-Owner and GM at MBS Family Farms with operations in Iowa and Minnesota

How many generations has your family been farming? 

“I’m the 5th generation on my dad’s side, and my mom’s side is longer.”

Where are your operations, and within what geography do you operate?

“Our base is in northeast Iowa. We farm in seven counties north of Waterloo. We also farm in five counties in southern Minnesota, about 70 miles north.”

What crops do you grow, and how diverse is your operation?

“We grow number two yellow corn, which nearly all goes to ethanol. What doesn’t go there goes to pig feed. The break down is about 80 ethanol / 20 pig feed. We’re about 60% corn /40% soybeans. For soybeans, 75% are seed production to be planted next year. Our operations in Minnesota also grow a bit of production sweet corn.” 

Why did you decide to get into farming?

“I always knew I would be in agriculture. Growing up on a farm, I knew I wanted this space. When I graduated from college, I didn’t expect to be on the farm. I was a sales rep at a chemical manufacturer for five years. Then, I met my future wife and decided that there were a lot of really good things about how I grew up, and not a lot of people get that opportunity. I sat down with my folks and made a plan. Within six months of then, I proposed to my wife, we moved back to Iowa, we got married, sold a house, bought a new home, my wife graduated from college, and we started farming.” 

What is your favorite part of farming?

“Working in a family business. There’s something different every day and always a new challenge. I get to work with some of the best people on the earth, and we have a great team here. I feel fortunate to have a chance to be involved in a family business and work with my parents. It’s not something everyone always gets a chance to do. My kids also get to grow up with my folks, and that doesn’t always get to happen.”

What is one thing that would surprise people about farming? 

“First, the volume of capital that it takes to farm at any scale. You handle a lot of money, but you don’t necessarily keep a lot. Second, all the different skillsets required to be successful. For example, we have a CFO at our farm, and many people initially wouldn’t understand why they were needed.” 

What tech do you use today to look at land/do business? 

“First thing when I look at the soil map and satellite imagery. The problem is that until more recently there’s not a place to get it quickly in one place. Many of the things I would use CiBO, AcreValue, or Farmland finder is compiling.”

What is the biggest issue facing farming today? 

“There are a lot of them which are systematic and connected. The biggest issue is the rapid consolidation in both the industries and the public’s inability to understand what it means for them. It’s not anyone’s fault, but it’s the way it’s gone. 2017 ag statistics – officially 2 million people qualify as farmers but 1.4 million of those farmers are not considered full time. It’s a large split for fulltime farmers, and many gross less than 1k. That consolation is hitting us right in the face with the rapid aging of the average farmer, what that means for the food supply, the public and ag in general. Row crop consolidation is rapidly going the same way as livestock consolidation. It’s no one’s fault or might not be a bad thing; it’s just about to hit us.”

What kinds of things do you think we should be doing to encourage more people to pursue a career in agriculture? 

“There must be a significant intervention, almost on a government scale. The biggest issue is access to capital. If you’re young and don’t have access to a million bucks, forget about it. 55+ have access to the money, and people who need access can’t get it. It weeds both segments out quickly. The heritage issues have been why we’ve been able to be immune for so long. Technology will become a huge play.”

 Why did you decide to join the CIBO Farmer Advisory Network?

“I joined to understand better and have a first look at the technologies that a company like CIBO can bring. How can I not only have a good first step and integrate on my farm but play a hand in offering advice in developing tools that are helpful and useable.”

What type of feedback are you looking forward to contributing to the board? 

“Helping the team think through whether technology is useable for farmers. In technology, it seems we can get caught up in the wow factor, but when that settles, it’s a look at how it can make a difference. I feel I have a good practical knowledge of what could be helpful to farmers.”

What do you hope CIBO can make better?

“Removing barriers to access for information about agriculture.”

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