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Episode 36: From Dairy to Diversification: Insights from Matt and Dawn Thayer

In the agricultural world, volatility is almost certain. Even the thought of trying something new or venturing into a unique business endeavor can seem a little risky. But by expanding your operation and embarking into new areas, you can create additional revenue streams and even mitigate risk. 

In this episode of AgCredit Said It, we had the opportunity to speak with Matt and Dawn Thayer, husband and wife farmers who have successfully diversified their family farm in Erie County. We explore their journey, learn about their various ventures, and gather insights on how to expand and bring children into the operation.

Exploring New Avenues

Dawn and Matt Thayer started their farm right out of college, driven by a desire to build a successful operation that could support their future. After recognizing the need to diversify their income and involve their children, they embarked on a journey of expanding their farm through multiple different ventures.

According to Matt, “Diversification has been the backbone of our farm’s success. It has allowed us to navigate through market fluctuations and capitalize on emerging opportunities.”

From their initial dairy operation, the Thayers transitioned into a feedlot, where they now raise and finish cattle while also running a feed business. They also ventured into specialty crops. Mums, strawberries, sweetcorn, and melons are all grown and sold at their roadside market. By tapping into these niche crops, they were able to maximize returns on a small amount of acreage.

“We realized that relying solely on dairy farming wouldn’t be enough to sustain our farm in the long run,” explains Dawn. “So, we started exploring different avenues that aligned with our strengths and market demands.”

Involving the Next Generation

The Thayers’ daughter, Maddy, actively participates in the farm’s diversification efforts. Starting with Maddy’s Mums, the project focused on growing and selling mums so that she could gain invaluable experience while earning money. It also laid the foundation for her potential future involvement in the farm.

Maddy shares her experience, saying, “Growing up on the farm, I developed a deep love for agriculture. My parents encouraged me to start my own project. It not only helped me learn valuable business skills but also made me feel like a meaningful part of the farm’s diversification efforts.”

While Maddy is actively involved, the Thayers also recognize the potential of their two younger sons. By involving all their children, the Thayers are nurturing a multi-faceted family farm. However, it also comes with its share of challenges.

Challenges and Benefits

The Thayers emphasize the importance of planning, doing market research and understanding the specific skills and interests of each family member. They also stress the need to explore different income streams that complement existing operations, as well as the significance of managing cash flow during different seasons.

Yet, for each challenge, there is always an opportunity. Highlighting the benefits of diversification, Dawn explains, “Diversifying our farm has not only increased our revenue but also allowed us to spread risks. We’re no longer solely dependent on one market or commodity. This gives us peace of mind, especially during unpredictable times.”

Future Expansion

Looking ahead, the Thayers are exploring opportunities like a feed store, which will complement their current ventures and provide a one-stop shop for customers.

By embracing diversification, involving the next generation and remaining open to new possibilities, farmers can make decisions that align with their farm’s unique strengths and their family’s goals.

Here’s a glance at this episode:

  • [01:33] Dawn and Matt Thayer introduce themselves and their farm.
  • [02:35] Matt shares the multiple facets of their farm, which include a livestock feed business and a roadside produce market.
  • [05:05] Matt explains the cattle side of their farm operation.
  • [06:43] Dawn shares the types of produce they grow, including mums.
  • [07:29] Matt discusses why they diversified their farm with specialty crops.
  • [10:05] Dawn shares more about their family farm and their children’s interests.
  • [13:33] Matt explains why they are interested in expanding their farm and how they’ve included their kids in the planning.
  • [16:42] Dawn and Matt share their best advice for someone looking to evolve their operation.
  • [20:29] Dawn shares a little about her career as a loan officer at the Farm Service Agency.
  • [22:24] Maddy, Dawn and Matt’s daughter, joins the conversation and shares her interests in expanding the farm into aquaponics and greenhouses.
  • [27:03] Dawn and Matt share their positive experiences working with AgCredit.

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Share questions and topic ideas with us:
Email podcast@agcredit.net

Bios

Guest

Matt and Dawn Thayer are farmers from Erie County, OH. The Thayers started their farm right out of college, transitioning from a dairy to a feedlot, and adding various facets to their farm, such as growing mums, strawberries, sweetcorn, and melons with a roadside market.

Transcription

Voiceover (00:08):Welcome to AgCredit Said It. In each episode, our hosts sit down with experts from all parts of the agriculture industry to bring you insights and must-have information on all things from farming to finances and everything in between.

Brenna Finnegan (00:27):Okay. Welcome back to AgCredit Said It. This is Brenna Finnegan, and I am here with Phil Young in the Norwalk FSA or Farm Service Agency Office. Hi, Phil. How's it going?

Phil Young (00:37):Hey, Brenna. Doing good. How are you?

Brenna Finnegan (00:39):How have you been? Long time.

Phil Young (00:39):I know.

Brenna Finnegan (00:40):I haven't actually sat down and done a podcast with you in quite a while.

Phil Young (00:42):It feels like it'd be pre-Christmas since we've sat down and done something like this, you and I anyway.

Brenna Finnegan (00:46):Oh, wow. It probably was, actually. I think so.

Phil Young (00:49):Good to be back.

Brenna Finnegan (00:50):Yes, it is. And we've got a good topic today and a good group of people here with us to go through what it's like to diversify your farm and also the process of bringing your children into the operation and including them and getting them involved so that way your operation goes forward smoothly rather than some operations. We've all probably seen the devastation of a transition that's probably gone wrong. But we are here with Dawn and Matt Thayer and their daughter Maddy. They are farmers up in Erie County. I will go ahead and let you guys introduce yourselves and give us a little background on your farm and your operation.

Dawn Thayer (01:33):Hi, my name is Dawn. And we started farming, we started our operation, gosh, right out of college. So we've built it up. I'm fine working hard and I've told him, "I don't want to work hard my whole life." So we're always looking for what's at the end. What's the end goal to have a successful farm?

Matt Thayer (01:59):Matt. And yeah, actually, we milked cows when we first started back in, probably, 2022, no, I'm sorry, 2002.

Dawn Thayer (02:11):2002. Yeah.

Brenna Finnegan (02:13):That's a pretty big gap.

Dawn Thayer (02:14):Yeah, it is.

Phil Young (02:14):Yeah.

Dawn Thayer (02:16):We graduated college and started milking cows.

Phil Young (02:17):Okay, gotcha. Okay.

Matt Thayer (02:19):Right. Yep. And then we have transitioned into other ventures, and now we don't have the cows anymore, but our main thing is feeding out cattle. But then we have also added multiple facets to our farm.

Phil Young (02:35):Nice. Can you walk through what the other facets are?

Matt Thayer (02:38):Yep. So with our daughter, we wanted to give her some... Basically, I said, "You have two choices. You can get a job or you can grow something on the farm to learn and to make money." And so we started out with... We called it Maddy's Mums. Started doing mums probably three, four years ago, and it has gone very well. And then we have since added strawberries and sweetcorn and melons and everything you sell at a farmer's market. And so that has gone very well. Like I said, we did that just for a learning experience and also instead of getting a job, you can stay home and still do all the fun things you want to do during high school and whatnot while still learning something and earning money.

(03:36):Also, we have a great crop farm, which is pretty typical of most of your clients. We have started a feed business with Kent Feeds, which with our livestock, it meshes well with that. And we'll go along with the roadside market to expand what Maddy can do and sell to make money.

Phil Young (04:09):Nice.

Matt Thayer (04:10):Finally, a couple of years ago, a neighbor down the street, they were getting out of a cattle and sheep operation, and so a neighbor and I went together and bought that operation out. Works well. That person only wants to be in it for about 10 years, knowing that they're going to retire from farming. And so they pretty much manage that, and I just help when it needs extra help. But I got into that knowing in 10 years, that's a perfect time for my kids to then take over his spot. That business is definitely not for me. It is really for my kids if they want it, and at that point, the other person will be ready to retire and they can just take it over. That's what we have going on.

Phil Young (05:01):Nice. You're not busy at all though, right? Yeah.

Matt Thayer (05:02):No, no, no.

Phil Young (05:04):Yeah, right. That's nice.

Brenna Finnegan (05:05):So the breakdown, you have about five different little projects, well, they're not little, but five projects that go along with them all. So obviously, we start with the cattle part. You said you had a dairy to begin with and now you have just the feedlot. So how many head do you guys run in the feedlot?

Matt Thayer (05:23):So the steers, and this has all gone through a lot of changes, but when we first got to milking, we had a chance to raise calves from 350 pounds to 800 pounds, and we were selling them, basically being a grower, for my wife's family. And then we decided it'd be better for everybody if we just had our own operation and finished them out ourselves. So that is going well. And this past year we've put up a barn to increase what we were doing. But we've also had the opportunity. I now have a calf grower who gets Holsteins in as bottle calves. He gets them weaned and then we take them. So now we're basically getting vertically integrated from day-old calves all the way until the finished product. So that whole part of the operation has changed a lot in the last two, three years as well. But that's our main business. And with the crops, the crops basically all go into the cattle. We're an end user of our corn and crop products.

Phil Young (06:42):Gotcha. Okay.

Brenna Finnegan (06:43):Okay. So then now you also have the roadside stand and market. So we know that Maddy's going to be coming involved with that, and that's her pet project, right? Well, it's not really. I keep saying small stuff, and it's not small.

Phil Young (06:57):Yeah. Yeah, right.

Dawn Thayer (06:57):It's not small.

Brenna Finnegan (06:59):It's not small.

Dawn Thayer (07:00):It started small three years ago with just-

Maddy Thayer (07:02):We started with 800.

Dawn Thayer (07:04):800 mums. Yeah.

Phil Young (07:05):800. Okay.

Dawn Thayer (07:05):We started with 800 mums three years ago. How many mums did we order this year?

Maddy Thayer (07:10):2,000.

Dawn Thayer (07:12):2,000. Close to 2,000 mums. Yeah.

Matt Thayer (07:16):And then now we have a half acre of strawberries. You say, "A half acre, that's not very much," but it is when it comes to how much you can grow from a half acre of strawberries and the labor that it takes-

Phil Young (07:28):Oh, yeah.

Brenna Finnegan (07:28):Oh, yeah.

Matt Thayer (07:29):... to do that. And then the sweetcorn and the melons, it's all... In order for us to expand, land is very hard to come by. For everybody, it's expensive, it's difficult. So if you want to bring somebody back, you have to diversify a little bit and do some specialty crops that can bring in a lot of money on a little bit of acreage, because if it takes 600 acres for somebody to crop farm to make a living, most of the time 600 acres doesn't just come out of the air. Okay? So if you want your kids to come back, you need to be expanding, and that is one way that we are able to do that.

Brenna Finnegan (08:09):And I'm assuming it helps with cash flow, timing-wise and everything too. I mean, like most grain farmers, you're not getting your income till towards the end of the year, obviously towards the end of the growing season and whatnot. But I mean, when do you guys open the roadside stand normally?

Dawn Thayer (08:26):Strawberries. So when we start picking strawberries, we're going to open that. So that could be the end of May or the beginning of June, depending on when we're picking berries. And then there's a lull in July so far. We might put some more crops in there, but we're also getting ready for the fair, and then it will pick back up when we have the mums. So that's just kind of at-

Matt Thayer (08:49):Well, and the other thing that you understand, so we're talking about Madeline, but she's only 17. She's going to be graduating with an associate's and her high school diploma all at the same time. So if she wants to take this much further, she can. It's very conducive. We have a lot of ideas and a lot of things. So if she wants this to be her thing and for her to make a living off of it, there's a whole lot of room to expand. Flowers. There's lots of room to expand. Right now we're just focusing on what we can accomplish, but once she's out of school, then she can take it as big or as little as she wants.

Phil Young (09:37):Yeah. It sounds like it's going to be something. If you do go to college, it's a great kind of summer gig even for the college years too, right? Yeah.

Dawn Thayer (09:44):Yes.

Matt Thayer (09:44):

Yes. Right. Absolutely.

Phil Young (09:46):Yeah. Good timing for that.

Dawn Thayer (09:47):Nobody can see her, but she's shaking her head.

Phil Young (09:49):Yeah.

Matt Thayer (09:49):Yeah, right.

Brenna Finnegan (09:51):Yeah, yeah.

Dawn Thayer (09:52):Well, and if something happens and she doesn't want to, we have other kids.

Matt Thayer (09:56):Yeah. Right. Yeah. Who's next? Yeah.

Dawn Thayer (09:59):We're not putting all of our eggs in one basket, but we want to give them an opportunity if they want to.

Phil Young (10:03):Yeah. That is awesome.

Brenna Finnegan (10:05):Speaking of the other kids, you have two other children.

Dawn Thayer (10:09):Two boys. Yeah.

Brenna Finnegan (10:10):Two boys, right?

Dawn Thayer (10:10):Yep.

Brenna Finnegan (10:11):And what are their ages?

Dawn Thayer (10:12):Emerson is 14, and Mason is 11.

Brenna Finnegan (10:15):Okay. So what are their interests?

Dawn Thayer (10:19):Emerson, he's got the brain of an engineer. He's always wondering why things work. So we're kind of gearing him up to be our accountant, kind of gearing him. He loves math. He loves to work in things in yes and no. His world is very much black and white. And sometimes I work in the gray aspect and he doesn't like that. So he likes things that have a definite answer.

(10:48):And then Mason, he's our wild card. He's pretty sure that he's just going to run everything when he gets older. So he's the brawns of the operation. So we've got Madeline, hopefully, as the beauty, and then Emerson's the brains and Mason's the brawns when we're sitting back in retirement just drinking.

Brenna Finnegan (11:10):I think Mason sat with me at the fair, Kids' Day and whatnot when we were doing all the stations for the Kids' Day. And, oh, he is a trip and a half, that's all I've got to say.

Dawn Thayer (11:21):And he's probably younger than some of the kids that he is teaching about agriculture. And he loves that aspect.

Brenna Finnegan (11:30):Oh, when a kid could not get, "Oh, that's a horse. Oh," and they didn't get it, oh man, he let them know, "No, no, that's the horse," or whatever. It was really quite cute. He's very informative for as young as he is and whatnot, so that's good. That's really good. So then obviously we talked about the roadside stand. The feed store. I know this is in the midst of getting started, correct?

Dawn Thayer (11:59):Yeah. This is the little baby.

Brenna Finnegan (12:00):Yep. So what's the plan for that?

Matt Thayer (12:03):Well, the plan is, well, A, it fits right up our alley with the cattle, so it works for us for keeping some costs down. But the other part of that is, so we're actually building a market on a different piece of property around the corner from us to make it very easy for people to come in and get their fruits and vegetables or mums and whatever it is they want. Now, the feed store, it'll be part of that, and that's just another reason for somebody to stop. And so they might be able to get multiple things there. It's not meant to be like you're making a killing off of it, but it's meant to just help with the whole market, the whole everything.

Dawn Thayer (12:48):And drawing people in.

Matt Thayer (12:48):Drawing-

Phil Young (12:49):A value-add to them.

Matt Thayer (12:51):Right. So it's helping a lot on my end of the business. But at the same time, for Madeline, if she has this market and it's getting bigger, now there's a reason for somebody to come and maybe a little additional profit.

Brenna Finnegan (13:04):And to get my vegetables along with the feed, the barn groceries that you need, too.

Dawn Thayer (13:09):Get a little cat food, a little strawberries.

Matt Thayer (13:13):Yeah.

Brenna Finnegan (13:13):That's good. That's really good. So obviously with diversifying everything and getting all these different avenues put together, I mean, what prompted the whole, "Let's expand. Let's try this and see what happens"? How did you guys go about that whole process?

Matt Thayer (13:33):Well, let's say it's my dream that everybody can come back. Now, that's not to say if my kid has an opportunity to go away and they have this great opportunity to go away, then absolutely, I want what is best for them. But if I can make it nice and profitable enough for everybody to stay close, that's my end goal. That's why we're doing this. Even now, if I buy something and it's going to take 20 years to pay off, I'm retiring in 20 years. Okay? It's really not about me at this point because... Yeah, maybe for my retirement, but it's really about keeping my kids close if we can. And you cannot do that if, A, you're not profitable, and B, you're not big enough. And so that's why we're expanding some things now so that by the time the kids are of age, they can come back if they want to. But if you are not ready for that, then the farm isn't profitable and it will not work.

Brenna Finnegan (14:42):So you're really building your legacy.

Dawn Thayer (14:46):Yeah. And we've talked to the kids about it a lot. We're very open about expanding the farmer's market, the strawberries, what they like to do. We want their input. We want them to be involved even though they're teenagers, but we want them-

Brenna Finnegan (15:00):Complaining the whole way, right?

Dawn Thayer (15:01):Yeah. Yes. Like, "You will smile. You will like this."

Brenna Finnegan (15:06):Put a smile on while you do chores, right? Well, that's great. I mean, I love hearing stories like that with wanting to keep the kids involved. And I think that a lot of families these days have a hard time making that decision or are willing to take that leap to expand, because, yes, it costs money, we know that, and it's also committing to a lot more work. But knowing that on the flip side of all of that effort that there is a legacy there for somebody to grow upon with.

Matt Thayer (15:41):Well, and the other thing, why we're so open with them is because, at the end of the day, we want everybody getting together and still getting along, family still getting together. We've seen it so often where people have these ideas in their mind, and the succession planning doesn't go how they thought it should, and now they no longer talk to other family members. We don't want that. If you lay out your plan throughout the entire time, then everybody knows what's going to happen. We're all going to make decisions and make changes, but at least everybody can, at the end of the day, still get along.

Brenna Finnegan (16:21):Well, they're probably more willing to pitch in and give that effort to help make it more because, "Hey, this is what I'm going to be doing too. I want to make it-"

Dawn Thayer (16:32):We've got a partnership. Yeah.

Phil Young (16:32):Yeah.

Brenna Finnegan (16:32):Yeah, exactly.

Phil Young (16:36):Yeah. And I've talked to people all the time that are wanting to diversify, but it is kind of scary, right?

Dawn Thayer (16:42):Yeah.

Phil Young (16:42):Because you’re doing something maybe never done before or maybe you've just dabbled in? Do you guys have any advice for somebody, maybe they've done row crops their entire life and they're like, "I think I'm going to start this operation," or maybe it's small, but any words or wisdom, since you've done it multiple times, how to take that leap?

Dawn Thayer (17:00):Just do it.

Phil Young (17:00):Just do it. Yeah.

Dawn Thayer (17:02):Just do it. Have faith in yourself. You can do it. And start, do a little bit at a time and see how it goes. We're constantly evolving, and every year with the mums, we take notes and we put it on our phone to what varieties we like, the pots that we used, everything, when we fertilized them, and we just are constantly evolving. And the same thing with the strawberries.

Phil Young (17:23):Nice.

Dawn Thayer (17:23):We're taking notes of the varieties. So you can change, because I think if you don't evolve, you die out. So if someone's thinking in the back of their mind that they want to try something, do it.

Matt Thayer (17:36):Well, the other thing is, you need to take it in small steps. You need to be prepared that it may fail, and you need to understand that. So don't do it so big that it takes you down. The other thing is there is no grand slam in life. The strawberries ain't bringing a lot of money. There's no grand slam in life. You have to work through your problems. Anything that comes up, you have to work through it. You're not going to get rich quick. Nothing that we do... It all takes work, time and effort.

Phil Young (18:15):Yeah. And maybe don't be afraid of hiccups along the way. Don't let that be like, "Oh, this happened. So this means it's not going to..." Yeah. Just try to power through those hiccups or little speed bumps.

Dawn Thayer (18:25):I think the second year we were using fertilizer for the mums that were granular, and I burned 200 mums when we went to move them. And so I had a mentor to help with our mums, and I called them, and they were helping me through it. We were able to flush it out of them, but still, we ended up losing some of them. So then we learned about the liquid fertilizer, and that probably spurred it a little bit faster because, yeah, I ended up burning good mums.

Brenna Finnegan (18:52):I would be doing the exact same thing, but they would all be dead.

Matt Thayer (18:57):Well, and the other thing is get a mentor. Get somebody. There are lots of people willing to help and give some advice. Talk to people before you do it. There are tons of resources out there. We've got extension. I mean, ag has a lot of good resources, so talk to somebody who's done it prior to doing it, and that's a big help.

Phil Young (19:21):Yeah.

Brenna Finnegan (19:22):Well, we've heard about the operation, how it's all broken down. When we come back from our commercial break, we're going to dive into the children's involvement, off-farm jobs, and all that kind of stuff. So we'll meet you on the flip side.

Voiceover (19:38):Somewhere along the way you fell in love with farming. Then you dreamed you can make a difference by doing what you love. But getting started isn't easy. At AgCredit, we know the challenges you face in getting your family farm off the ground. That's why our AgStart Loans are designed to help small farms and new farmers when you need it the most. From the beginning. We all start somewhere. Start here with an AgStart Loan from AgCredit. Contact your local office to get started today. Learn more at agcredit.net.

Phil Young (20:10):All right. And we're back. I wanted to chat a little bit with Dawn. We've talked a lot about what we call on-farm stuff, but I wanted to talk a little bit about the off-farm stuff. And so we've got a lot of farmers in our portfolio that have in-town jobs, and wanted to talk about Dawn's because, definitely, it's right up your alley, right?

Dawn Thayer (20:27):Yeah.

Phil Young (20:29):Tell us about what your job is and who you work for.

Dawn Thayer (20:31):Yeah, yeah. So I am a farm loan officer for the FSA. The year we transitioned and realized milking cows was not sustainable anymore, health insurance was skyrocketing, and I needed to find an off-the-farm job that had good health insurance. So I was able to get my foot in the door at FSA and worked my way up the ladder with that. And now I'm a farm loan officer, so I get to help farmers on that aspect too, not in the magnitude that AgCredit does it, but we tend to see the ones that are starting to get started. And if they had a little hiccup and they need some extra finances, that's where we come in. So I bring the health insurance to the table and the benefits and a little bit of the stability in that aspect because the volatility of the farm is always crazy.

Phil Young (21:26):And just FSA knowledge, right?

Dawn Thayer (21:32):Yeah.

Phil Young (21:32):Just having probably that pool of just all the regulations and all the products and, yeah, all that comes along with it.

Dawn Thayer (21:34):Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Brenna Finnegan (21:35):And we're glad Dawn's there because we-

Phil Young (21:36):Yeah, right.

Brenna Finnegan (21:37):... monitor her office very closely. So it's always nice to call-

Dawn Thayer (21:40):It's a good partnership. Yeah.

Brenna Finnegan (21:43):... and be like "Hey, what's going on?" and then dive into all the stuff that we actually have to dive into. So it is good to have that partnership between us as AgCredit and then with FSA. And I know the Beginning Farmer Programs and how we can blend them together to help somebody build their legacy, it's a great thing to work with. So we appreciate that very much.

Dawn Thayer (22:06):Yeah. Because it is hard to start farming. So to have something to help the beginning farmers is huge.

Brenna Finnegan (22:14):Okay. And so obviously the off-farm job part, but now coming over to the children's side of things, right?

Dawn Thayer (22:24):Yeah.

Brenna Finnegan (22:24):All right. So we do have Maddy here with us also, and she is Dawn and Matt's daughter, who is 16.

Maddy Thayer (22:29):17.

Brenna Finnegan (22:30):17 years old.

Maddy Thayer (22:33):I'll be 18 in July.

Brenna Finnegan (22:34):All right. So with them expanding the farm and bringing in all these different options for you guys as the kids, I mean, what do you think of it all?

Maddy Thayer (22:49):There are a lot of options, and so I'm very grateful for that. I'm going to have my associate's at the end of this month along with my high school diploma. I've been taking classes at BGSU Firelands for two years. And so I think I will have my bachelor's degree in about a year and a half. And I think that is very helpful because even if all of this doesn't work out, there are still options for me to go elsewhere. But on the farm, there are a lot. So this plot of land, I have been really interested in aquaponics and greenhouses recently, and so depending on how far we take this, we've talked about putting up a greenhouse and starting our own little aquaponics greenhouse. So there's just a lot that we can do with it. And so it's just figuring out what will work and how we can go about doing that.

Brenna Finnegan (23:53):For you guys, it's good to know that they're willing to take the next step further, right?

Phil Young (23:58):So out of curiosity, what's your degree in? What are you going to pursue at BG Firelands?

Maddy Thayer (24:04):Communications with a minor in marketing.

Brenna Finnegan (24:07):Our marketing girl over here is thumbs up on that one. Now, with you guys bringing them in, do they each have an interest in a different avenue of the farm? Is Mason all about the cows? Obviously, we know she's all involved with the market and such. So go ahead and tell us a little about them and the avenues that they want to take.

Dawn Thayer (24:30):Yeah. That is a good question, and that's why we talk to them so much because they're also 11 and 14 so they change their mind like they change their underwear. Some days it's more frequent than others. So we see their strengths, and even though they don't verbalize what they like to do, we see what they do really, really well. So we guide them towards that. And they all help in all aspects. We're all out helping Madeline pick the strawberries. They're all helping feed all of the calves and helping plant the mums.

(25:03):They do everything, and they've never voiced their concern that they don't like something or that when they grow up they don't want to deal with the crops or they don't want to deal with the animals. So I think that just being able to talk to them about everything and having them help and then the positive encouragement, even when they're having a bad day with their fair animals, I'm like, "They've come a long way. You've made some real progress." So I think they're starting to see that it's not always picture perfect, but they can enjoy it. So I don't know if that answered the question or not.

Phil Young (25:43):Yeah, yeah.

Brenna Finnegan (25:45):Yes.

Matt Thayer (25:47):Well, our youngest, he definitely wants to farm. He, a hundred percent, wants to be a farmer. He wants to get his CDL. He wants to have his own little trucking company, which goes right up our alley because we have commodities coming in, and commodities coming out. He sees that as something that we can add. And I mean, he wants to have his own trucking company. That's what he tells us.

Brenna Finnegan (26:12):Literally, while we've sat here, we've had two more avenues for you guys to start.

Matt Thayer (26:15):I know, right?

Brenna Finnegan (26:16):The greenhouse and now a trucking company. It's nuts.

Matt Thayer (26:21):Well, he sees that, because the other thing, any help that we have is all generally pretty older. In 10 years our life will be way different. Everybody will be out of school at that point. I have truck drivers that help me and they're all going to be 80, all these people. Life is going to change and we're going to need our younger generation to help us get these things accomplished because we're simply running out of help.

Brenna Finnegan (26:55):And it's even harder to get help these days, too.

Matt Thayer (26:58):Right. We're just lucky that these older generation people are still working.

Phil Young (27:03):I wanted to just chat a little bit about your involvement with AgCredit. Just curious how that's gone just from how we've come alongside you or any stories of anything, I guess, involving AgCredit. Curious about how that's going.

Dawn Thayer (27:19):I think we have a great working relationship with AgCredit. We love our loan officer. She's always very helpful and looking for ways to help us and to take our vision, put it in the numbers, and then take it to the loan analyst and to be able to work through that. So having AgCredit and an open line of communication... When we were thinking about this expansion a year and a half ago, we had brought it up to her, "This is our goal. This is what we want it to look like in two years." So I think that she values that, that we have this open line of communication. So it's been a great working relationship.

Phil Young (28:00):Awesome. Good. Good, good.

Brenna Finnegan (28:02):It probably helps that you're also a loan officer and that you know exactly what we're going to ask for probably.

Dawn Thayer (28:06):I know what she wants. Yeah.

Matt Thayer (28:06):Yeah. And-

Dawn Thayer (28:09):So many farmers wait until it's too late and they think they can get out of the situation before it becomes a situation. And it might not even be a situation, but I think the open line of communication is the best way to go. If the markets are tanking, talk to your loan officer. "I think I'm going to be okay, but what options are there?" Because you're going to have the most options when you're teetering, and you're going to have the least amount of options when you're in that red.

Phil Young (28:39):Yeah, exactly.

Brenna Finnegan (28:39):Definitely.

Phil Young (28:43):Yeah. "Hey, cash flow's a little tight. Yeah. We need to maybe look at X, Y, Z." Don't be embarrassed by that. It happens. It is what it is.

Brenna Finnegan (28:51):Well, it's amazing how many people probably avoid you, or, well, it would be us, when things are going south because it's like it's admitting it. That's probably the biggest hurdle to jump over, too. It's like strategizing and thinking, "What's going to have to change?" Because people don't change either. So thinking of those kinds of things moving forward, and if that communication isn't there, then, I mean, the teeter-totter just went... And everything went off to the wayside.

(29:23):So I mean, the goal would be to have the conversation early with us, or in your position, same with you, that, "What can we do to fix or help? Or what needs to shift a little bit?" Maybe it is just a little shift, not just a full-blown, "You need to scratch that completely," or whatever. So it's definitely great to have the conversations from the get-go. And obviously, you bring in your role and know the projections and what you're planning to do, and are forward-thinking. I mean, the forward-thinking part is probably going to get you through the most just because, constantly, the wheels are turning. But I mean, if something does happen, it can happen pretty quickly. So the line of communication is very important. So what other opportunities has AgCredit provided for you guys and your farm?

Matt Thayer (30:18):Well, one of them for us was we were able to go to the Top Producer Conference with a whole busload of people, basically the same age as us, young producers. They took us there, and it was a great learning opportunity. They had a whole lot of speakers there. It was also very nice to get in a group of like-minded people that are younger, all of them having the same conversations, "Well, how do we expand? What can we do to make ourselves more sustainable and make it to the next level?" That was very nice. And we got that opportunity because AgCredit put that on and invited us to go on that bus tour.

Phil Young (31:04):Well, good. Well, thank you, guys. That is the Thayers. Thank you again for joining us. It was just awesome to learn about you guys, learn about all your hard work, and all your diversification. So thanks for coming. Thanks for coming on the podcast.

Dawn Thayer (31:15):Thanks for inviting us.

Phil Young (31:16):All right. Thanks for listening to another great episode of AgCredit Said It. Check out our listing of episodes anywhere where you find podcasts. I think we're up to 36-plus episodes now. So we'll see you next time, guys.

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