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Hughes Family featured in Summer 2012 Neighbors

The following article was featured in the Summer 2012 Neighbors Newsletter

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Whether it is planting a field, contracting crops, or raising a family; a farmer's success often involves being ready for opportunity. For Kevin Hughes the opportunity to farm on his own came in 2000.

Growing up in a farming family, Kevin was always raised to be well-grounded and respectful - have gratitude for what you have and to not live beyond your means. From the time he was a young boy he has always loved being around farming. Some of his best memories are of riding in the tractor with his dad as he worked the fields.

You can tell Kevin was raised well as he has carried those same values into adulthood. He is humble about his beginnings in farming. He gives credit to Lonnie Watkins and Butch Watkins (Lonnie's nephew) for helping him to get to where he is today. Unlike families that pass equipment from father to son, Kevin did not have anything when he first started - no equipment, no money to operate a farm, and no guarantee that it would work. However, what he did have was the opportunity and a proposal that Lonnie provided that could benefit them both. Hughes Family

Kevin started as a young farmer in his early 30's by working for Butch. However, after Butch dissolved his operation in 1998, Kevin thought that farming may not be what he needed and decided to work in construction for a while.

 Kevin and Lonnie WatkinsA year later Butch reached out to Kevin and asked Kevin if he wanted to farm again. Naturally Kevin assumed that Butch was going to start farming again and was asking him to work on the farm; however, this was not the case. Butch asked Kevin if he would want to farm on his own. Kevin was taken by surprise and told Butch that he didn't have any equipment or money to buy equipment so he was unsure of how he could accomplish this and make a living. Butch told Kevin "You don't have to worry; we have a plan that will work if you are willing to accept it." This is when Kevin was introduced to Lonnie Watkins.

Lonnie Watkins, after 40 years of farming, wanted to phase out of his operation. Over the years he had built up his operation to renting 1,200 acres from one landlord. He had only one daughter who had no desire to take over the operation, and had tried for two years to find someone who would appreciate the farming lifestyle and continue what he had worked building for years. The last thing he wanted was to see is his operation split apart during an equipment auction.

The original proposal between Lonnie and Kevin was for a two year contract. However, within six months of working, Kevin showed so much potential that Lonnie sold Kevin his first combine, two trucks and enough equipment so he could harvest the crop and have some income. Shortly after, Lonnie proposed to sell all the equipment and tools so Kevin could take over the entire operation. In Lonnie's eyes, he wasn't giving Kevin the equipment and` tools, but said he saw Kevin as a son and was giving him an opportunity to fulfill his dream of farming on his own and be successful.

Since that time, Kevin only rents from one landlord and has increased the rented ground to 2,450 acres in the Advance and Cline's Island area, which is all graded with flood irrigation and 190,000 bu. of off-farm storage. He continues Lonnie's rotation of wheat, corn and soybeans (including wheat beans). Kevin's comment was, "I didn't make any changes because it works." Some of the equipment he purchased from Lonnie has been replaced. As most people know new equipment comes with new technology. Lonnie laughed and said, "Kevin doesn't have to worry about me taking the farm back over, technology took care of that."

This year will be Kevin's 9th year farming on his own and continues to use the same values he learned as a young boy. He often thinks about the profitability of his farm before personal purchases. Lonnie mentioned that Kevin's pickup truck is eight years old. When asked why he doesn't buy a new truck, Kevin responded "Are they giving them away, because if not, I don't want to spend $50,000 on a new truck when I can take that money and buy a piece of equipment." He went on to say, "when I do get another pickup it won't be a new one." Kevin Hughes

Today, Lonnie is happy living in a house that sits on 50 acres next to the same farm he farmed for over 40 years. He does not regret transferring his farming operation to Kevin.

Kevin and his wife, Ella, have two daughters (Anna and Kate) who live in the Benton area. Ella does some of the bookkeeping and helps Kevin on the farm some and the girls also help lay the pipe for irrigation. Kevin also has a daughter by a previous marriage.

Kevin says that Progressive Farm Credit Services helped him get started and with the help of Lonnie Watkins and Butch he wouldn't be where he is today. Heather Couch, Kevin's loan officer, says that Kevin is an outstanding farmer and his crops always are clean and just beautiful.