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K-Brothers Inc.

Change drives the Wilson brothers’ success
Good stewardship and the next generation top-of-mind in farming decisions

Doing something because it’s always been done this way is opposite of how the Wilson family operates.

Brothers Kevin, Kurt and Kory Wilson manage K-Brothers Inc. and Red Ripe Farms near Galveston, Indiana. Their operation entails managing a small cattle herd, custom hay-cutting and growing corn, soybeans, wheat and tomatoes.

The Wilson family’s farming history predates the three brothers’ memory. What they do know is they’re still farming today because they’re willing to change and adapt.

“We always tried to make the best decision at the time and always with the next generation in mind,” Kevin said. “That drives us to be good stewards of the land. We need that land to live on and produce more on it next year.”

In the red in a good way

The Wilson family started growing tomatoes for a local canning company in the 1950s. That canning company grew into Red Gold. Red Gold now partners with more than 50 Midwestern families to produce canned tomatoes, which can be found on store shelves and in restaurants across the country.

“We’ve had a connection to tomatoes for 60-some years, but the process has changed a lot since then,” Kevin said.

The Wilsons handpicked tomatoes until 1995, then switched to a mechanical harvester. Today, they grow 325 acres of tomatoes each year, rotating them with corn and soybeans to help manage disease. The tomato crop that used to move out of the field by truck and wagon now requires 17 semitrailers.

“We’re building the second grain bin after I told my wife I was never building another one,” Kevin said. “We’re also getting a new tomato harvester, and this is the second one after I told her I wasn’t getting another one. But you have to keep changing.”

Each brother has his area of expertise on the farm, but they all pitch in as needed to get the job done. They are all grateful to be farming and agree that making changes is necessary to overcome the many challenges that come with the job — whether that be weather, labor or increasing input costs.

“You don’t necessarily know what the day is going to bring, and most of the time I end up on Plan Z before the day is over,” Kory said.

“I enjoy the change with the seasons, and every day is a different challenge,” Kurt added. “The farming community is also unique. In a sense, our neighbors are our competition, yet they’re always there to help. Everyone is always sharing information. You don’t see that in most industries.”

And, not surprisingly, the Wilsons already are thinking ahead.

“We’re investing for the future. There are many working pieces. It’s always tough to make the next step and to pick the right time to make that step, but we’ll make it work,” Kory said.

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