A Man of Faith
Few businesses are as imbued with risk as farming. Every season, farmers across the country repeat the cycle of incurring major cost to raise a crop, not knowing what the season will bring. Seed goes in the ground without any guarantee that crops will make it to harvest or that the markets will cooperate enough to make a profit. So, naturally, being a farmer means having a lot of faith – faith in the weather, family, equipment, yourself, or the divine – that everything will make it through.
For Mark Miller, 49, a 5th generation farmer from Hurley, SD, faith is not only the most important part of farming, but the most important part of his life.
“Farming for me is one of those things that I realized that God owns everything, and I’m just the manager,” Miller said. “Then, it really clicked for me. God is in charge. He has the power, and I’m just his manager.”
Managing risk on his 1000-acre corn and soybean farm then becomes a way to extend and reinforce that faith. As a part of that management plan, Mark has worked with the agronomists at Hefty Seed Company in Freeman, SD since the store opened back in the early 2000s. At first, simply saving money on products was enough to earn his business, but what kept him engaged was the company’s efforts to inform farmers about all the ways they could improve their bottom line.
Mark Miller with his wife and children (left to right): Kate, Luke, Sharia, Mark, and Emily. It is rare for any farm to have just a singe operator – ever member of the family contributes in some way.
“I thought, ‘Wow I’m saving a lot of money going to these guys,’” Mark said. “I’ve become more and more of a customer over the years because I was impressed with how they do things like education.”
Shortly after started to work with the Freeman store, Mark began watching Ag PhD TV and attending workshops, and he tries to catch all the workshops that are held in his area each year on topics such as crop protection programs, rebates, and the latest in ag technology. However, his favorite workshop continues to be the Ag PhD Soils Clinic.
“The whole issue of soil tests and being able to read them was always a big mystery to me,” Miller said. “Generally, I would always rely on someone else to tell me what to do, what to put on. When you think of how many dollars you put into fertilizer and amendments for your soil, it’s just amazing how many dollars we throw at it and know so little about it. To finally understand it was a huge moment for me.”
Over time as he became more confident in his soils knowledge, Mark went from taking a single composite sample for each of his fields to sampling his whole farm in one-acre grids. The ability to look at his soil tests and make his own recommendations for balanced fertility has allowed him to make more informed fertility decisions and increase his overall yields.
On the seed side, Mark’s farm has also started using Hefty Complete, both for the added protection and plant health benefits his crop gains, but also from the assurance that if insect problems show up later in the season, the respray program offered with Hefty Complete will be there to follow up the seed treatment with in-season applications.
“I had all my soybean seed treated with Hefty Complete this past year,” Miller said. “LOVE that. I saw the beans come out of the ground, and they were healthy and had an incredible root system. I was very pleased. Most people don’t even realize there’s that guarantee if there are insects that you’ll get a free spray. On one field where I had to spray and respray due to insects, they handed me free chemical. All-around, I am so impressed with Hefty’s seed treatment.”
Mark Miller doing some planter maintenance in preparation for his next crop.
Apart from all the informational and agronomic benefits he gets from working with Hefty’s, Mark appreciates the flexibility and pricing he gets from the prepay program.
“When I started farming, I didn’t really see places where you could put down a bunch of money, and if you didn’t use it, you got it back with interest,” Miller said. “Also, I was dealing with companies that you would lose your discount if you switched to something else.”
With Hefty Seed Company, Mark Miller’s farm is free from such restrictions.
While saving money is important, it’s not everything. What Mark Miller most appreciates about doing business with Hefty Seed is that the company’s leadership follows a perspective that matches his own. That perspective is one of faith, and it informs Hefty Seed Company’s mission of putting the success of farmers first and foremost.
“At the end of their meetings, they put up a Bible verse that encourages people,” Mark said. “For me, I’m a Christian and I really respect that someone would carry values like that into a company and try to run it with the value that you seek to help people and treat them correctly. The biggest thing that people overlook with Hefty’s is they’ve got the philosophy that if you treat people right, then they’ll do business with you.”
In other words, it comes back to faith, and farming takes semi loads of it. The ability to draw comfort and encouragement from faith can help alleviate the stress that comes from working in what can be one of the most stressful and riskiest industries out there, and it goes a long way in making any farm a success.
“The overarching thing for my own farm is faith,” Mark said. “Everything comes back to God. I see myself as a manager for God, and I see myself as a person who looks out for my family, loves my family, and loves my people around me. When I get all that in order – God first, family second, farming third – then, things seem to start working out for me. It’s funny how things work themselves out when you get them in the right order. When I see the Hefty boys, they’ve got a lot of that. And that’s why I really appreciate what they do.”