Today, Al has three partners – Shane Love, Roger Cox and Isaac Thornburg. While it is not the normal succession of passing the farm down to family, it works for Groth Farms.
“We're not exactly family, but it is family to me,” Al said.
For Al, the partners have helped give back a little of what he’s lost. All of the partners have farm backgrounds, but they did not have the chance to join their family farms. The opportunity to call Groth Farms home is important to each and they all offer different areas of expertise that support the farm.
Shane began working at the farm in junior high. After obtaining a college degree and working for a crop protection company, he knew his ultimate dream was to farm full time. Shane was the first partner to join Groth Farms. He was the one Al put in charge of running the operation when he needed someone to step in. Today, he leads the row crop portion of the business.
“I could have gone a different route, but Al gave me the option to come back if I wanted to,” Shane said. “I'm glad I did. It was an opportunity I wouldn't have otherwise because it's pretty tough to just jump in and start farming.”
Roger also worked at the farm during high school. He is responsible for all the mechanical work on the farm. With a background in ironworking, Cox has passed down his trade to his children, who also have worked on the farm.
“Today, if you going to farm, you just can’t go to high school and decide to be a farmer,” Roger said. “You have to have a way to get into the business and Al gave me mine.”
Isaac leads the technology portion of the operation, which has become an important aspect of Groth Farms. He manages the information systems, mapping all fields and tracking hybrids and varieties used each year. All yields are tracked and comparisons can be made from the fields for the past several years. This gives the partners an opportunity to make accurate decisions for future planting.
“My dad built waterways for Al and I started helping as soon as I could,” Isaac said. These are the same fields he then mapped so that all field activities could be tracked.
The tools Isaac has in place provide information that helps determine each individual field’s breakeven. This helps Al when marketing grain, ensuring the farm earns a profit.
“It makes a big difference when marketing the grain because I know the production costs and breakeven point,” Al said. “Obviously, that makes a big difference in decision-making for marketing and next year’s plan.”
Each year, the Groth Farms partners gather to review a cost-of-production book. They meet with their partners, including seed providers, and review data from the previous seasons. Looking at the past several years of production, they make a plan for the upcoming growing season. Side-by-side field trials are often part of the annual review, helping solidify each field’s individual plan.
“I’m blessed to have the opportunity to help here, watching everything and learning from these guys,” Elijah Love said. As a student at Purdue University, he’s looking at a future at Groth Farms down the road when the time is right – just like his dad, Shane.
“I’ve shadowed my dad and these guys and it’s unbelievable the amount I’ve learned. If I have a field question, I go to Isaac. If it’s something mechanical, I talk to Roger. If I have a crop question, I ask my dad. That’s a pretty great way to learn how to farm,” Elijah said.
The experience and opportunity Al brought to the young farmer partners helped set up the future. And the next generation of Groth Farms is shaping up to carry forward the tradition of doing things right.