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Adding value pays off for farm business

Manitoba: When buying more land became difficult, Myron and Jillian Krahn made the most of what they had

Myron and Jillian Krahn don’t have a lot of opportunity to increase the land base of their southern Manitoba farm, but they do grab every opportunity they can to add more value to farm enterprises they do have.

They’ve increased the size of the farm near Carman, Man. considerably since they took over the operation about 13 years ago, but now their focus is in growing various aspects of the business which is centered on commercial grains and oilseed production as well as a pedigree seed business.

“We don’t pass up too many opportunities to make a dollar or add value to our farm business,” says Myron, who was born and raised on the family farm located about two miles north of Carman. Jillian was raised on a farm near Morris, Manitoba. “It is getting difficult to buy more farmland in this area, so we are looking to add value to what we have.”

The Krahns are the 2014 Outstanding Young Farmer (OYF) nominees for Manitoba. They will be in Quebec City later this month competing with other regional finalists for the national OYF award.

When Myron returned to farming in 2001 after graduating from the University of Manitoba and working off-farm for a few years, he and Jillian decided they needed to increase the size of Krahn Agri Farms Ltd. and also diversify the business.

The original home place was about 900 acres. In the following years they increased farm size to about 3,000 acres. About half their crops are commercial corn, soybeans, wheat, canola and oats, while the other half of their soybean, cereal, and canola acres are produced as certified seed. They also have a “small but very interesting” acreage of native grass seed production.

The Krahn’s look after all their own field work and take on some custom work for other farmers as well, including everything from seeding to harvesting to grain drying. The native grass seed business isn’t a big part of their operation, but “it has very high margins, and it is fun”, says Myron. There aren’t many producers of native grass seed, used mainly for conservation and environmental rehab and restoration projects, so it comes with an ongoing learning curve. And in the past few years they have also been developing a certified seed retail business at the farm as well.

“There are couple things we’ve done in recent years that have helped us develop the farm business we have today,” says Krahn. “One important step was getting involved in the retail seed business. And along with that we began a discussion of what we wanted this farm to be.

“We talked about it, we developed a business plan and set goals — and we have stuck to that. It’s meant being very disciplined and it has meant having a sharp pencil. We’ve had to improve our management, and we’ve had to focus on certain areas and maintain proper records. But in that process we know every month were our business is at, and adjust plans as needed.”

With strong demand for farmland in the Carman area, Krahn says it is difficult to find land available, at an economical price, for grain and oilseed production. That fact has directed them to add as much value as they can to the various farm enterprises.

“Looking ahead our emphasis will be on expanding the seed retail business,” says Krahn. They have their own seed cleaning and seed treating facilities as well as a warehouse. “It is very tough to expand acres, so we plan to expand the retail business — put more effort into marketing and sales, and perhaps expand our crop types as well. And if the opportunity comes along to buy more land we will look at that too.”

Along with farming, the Krahns also have a young family, Cadence, 10 and Keira, eight. Both Myron and Jillian are involved in the children’s sporting and school activities. And at the association level, Myron is president of the Manitoba Corn Growers Association and also served for several years on the board of directors of the local Co-op.

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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