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Driven to Succeed
This family farms across two states, over three counties, on almost 12,000 acres…
By Kevin Spafford, for Farm Futures Magazine
Randy Weber’s agripreneurial roots run deep. He hails from a corn-broom maker in one generation and a wagon maker in another. Since the mid-1800s, in West-Central Indiana, the Weber name has been synonymous with industry, stewardship, and rural development. Tracing his heritage, Randy’s family was responsible for ‘changing the nature of the landscape for future generations.’
The Weber family is credited with planting many of the trees around northern Indiana. Randy’s ancestor, Henry Weber, developed the Weber Wagon in 1845, the ‘Rolls Royce of Farm Wagons’ and a brand that was eventually merged into to the International Harvester Company.
Today, from their home base in Ambia Indiana, Randy, wife Chris, and son Karl grow soybeans and food quality white and yellow corn across two states, over three counties, on almost 12,000 acres. Beyond farming Randy and Chris support Karl’s racing aspirations.
Currently racing on the ARCA circuit, Karl started racing go-karts seven years ago and the Webers have been supporting his NASCAR dreams ever since. Now at 18 Karl says, “I’m a farmer first and race driver second.” It’s farming that supports this avocation and it’ll be farming he falls back on when he packs his racing gear away for good. Like Webers before him, Karl wants to work the land and raise a crop.
Randy and Chris acknowledge passing the farm to a next generation, even one as eager and capable as their son, will be a big task. Tax laws, regulations, rising land prices, environmental concerns, and maintaining their own financial security will try to play a spoilers’ role in their effort. But they’re willing to pay the price and do whatever it takes to plan for succession and transition the operation to a well-prepared next generation.
In asking Randy about leadership on the farm, his answers are straightforward and rather methodical, as if he’s considered the question in advance and knows exactly how to respond. About how he manages the operation, Randy replies, “It’s kind of a game. As our farm has grown, I’ve learned how to balance the resources and responsibilities I have, so I don’t try to do everything all at once.”
“Farming has been a learning procedure.” He said, “You grow into it [the farm], just like growing any other business.” He goes on, “We’ve been very fortunate; we’ve had employees come along that are able to fit well into the operation and that in turn creates opportunity and helps us continue to grow.”
If it sounds like Randy is motivated by challenge, he is. Ever the consummate optimist, Weber says, “I like everything about agriculture. I mean, each year, to go out and plant corn in the spring, you have eternal hope that it’s going to be a bountiful harvest.”
“Unless you’re a farmer,” he tries to explain, “It’s really hard to understand the love and the desire a person has for agriculture and for farming.”
In defining success, Weber says, “Success isn’t in numbers. It’s a fulfillment that you get when you do the job right and have good results. For me, it’s more than just completing a task; it’s the whole cycle. From finishing the planting season all the way through to the end of the growing cycle and then harvest. That’s what always gets me excited, getting the job done!”
Digging a little deeper, Weber explains, “You do a lot of work in between [planting and harvest]. But when you get down to the end and you’ve completed a cycle, it’s always an exciting thing. And, if you think about it, in a farming career, you only get so many chances. The average farmer may only get 35 chances in a whole career. So,” Randy emphasizes, “you really want to do the best you can with each of the opportunities you get.”
In talking with Randy, you won’t hear a lot of “I.” He credits his good fortune to the people around him, those that have come before, and the opportunities he’s had to live the farming life. He admits, it’s a lot of hard work, but given his attitude and his outlook, Randy would be a success in any effort he set out to accomplish. “Driven to succeed” might be the Weber motto.
Published as ''Driven to Succeed", by Kevin Spafford for "Farm Futures" magazine, April 2015.
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