Choteau Montana’s Karli & Ben Johnson compete at the highest level
Karli and Ben Johnson ranch near Choteau with their 2 children. They recently attended a competition in Puerto Rico at the American Farm Bureau Federation national convention. Karli talked to KMON about how her and Ben got started in Agriculture:
Karli: My husband and I spent five years in Sidney running a retail Ag business, and then we moved back to Choteau, which is my hometown, in 2017. And we have been operating a commercial and registered Angus place called Seven livestock. We sell about 20 or 30 bulls a year and have gotten to take on that adventure and primarily do cow calf and hay production. We both grew up in agriculture, but we didn't return back to generational operations.
The Johnson’s were one of 27 competitors for the national Achievement Award competition held at the AFBF convention last week and Karli talked about the contest.
Karli: this contest is kind of unique because you fill out a 15 or so page application on your business management practices and your leadership through Farm Bureau and in your community, and then you submit it and they review that. And if you make the top ten, then you get an interview. And if you don't, then you just get to enjoy networking with all the other contestants and getting to know the other folks that went through the same process you did. So that's what we got to do. And it was a great experience getting to know other young producers from throughout the country.
What are some of the commonalities that you shared with some of the other folks down there?
Karli: at this level we were talking about high level business management strategies, so we were talking about within family operations, how you structure pay and your different roles within the operation and how you structure that. And S Corp versus C Corp and the benefits and downsides of each one of those. Those are the types of discussions that we were having where it was a high level management where there are commonalities and maybe not so much in the day to day production, but in the strategic management there was quite a bit.
Give me one thing that you're going to immediately institute into your own program.
Karli: I think for us the biggest takeaway was as young producers, we're not very reflective on what we're doing. We're just plowing ahead. At the end of the year, we look back and say, hey, where are projected budgets? Within reason, correct? Yes. Okay. And then you move forward, and through this process, it forced us to be reflective, and it just re-energized us and to meet other people that are having some of the same labor challenges and to talk with them about how they're addressing those. And so it gives us an opportunity to just re-energize what we've been doing.
One of the neat parts about Farm Bureau and these programs is the fact that now you have a lifelong connection of friends and people that you can lean on, touch on that a little.
Karli: Well, it's funny, Randy. We've known each other for a long time through FFA, and our faces are aging, but they're a lot of the same faces. And so you get to build on the network that we started through FFA, and a lot of these same folks are still there, and there's some new ones now, too. It's great to reconnect with old friends and people that have had similar experiences in the past and build on those into the future.
What's the one bit of advice for somebody sitting out there on the fence thinking, that sounds like fun, but that's a lot of work, I don't want to do it. What's that one bit of advice you'd give them to take that step?
Karli: Well, every time you do something like this, you gain. I learned that in FFA in high school, that you get out of it what you put into it, and when you put in a little more, you get a little more out. It's just my husband and I on our operation, we know how challenging it is to do these sorts of things, but they do bring value to us. They bring value to us, like through Farm Bureau in the policy that they develop and take forward into the state legislature and at the national level. And then also it brings value to us in our perspectives and being able to be re-energized when we go back to our operation and gives us the opportunity to do things like go to Puerto Rico, that's pretty fun. So we're super grateful for what Farm Bureau has given us and the opportunities that it's provided us.
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