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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Stewards of the Land

The article below was published by our local newspaper, The Republic, in the monthly publication, Farm Indiana.  I am lucky to have the opportunity to write for the paper and share stories of our life on the farm.  This time the author did a wonderful job capturing our family and the long tradition of farming which I hope continues for generations to come.

Stewards of the Land
Trevor and Brett Glick find seeds of opportunity in diverse operations

By Barney Quick
Photos by April Knox

Two brothers in eastern Bartholomew County embody a formula for success based on diversification, strategic savvy, respect for legacy and gratitude for opportunity. They do so on land that has been in the family name since 1854.

Brothers Trevor, 37, and Brett, 35, have four activities that comprise their operation: commercial row-crop production, a seed company, beef production, and distillery grain production. They see growth potential in each, depending on trends and economic forces in the world in general.
Each went to Columbus East High School and then earned an agricultural economics bachelor’s degree from Purdue University. As is often the case in Midwestern farm families, farming got in their blood early on and was regarded as a way of life.

“We feel blessed to be able to farm,” says Trevor. “It’s not the kind of profession people generally get into without coming from a family that does it. That can be done, but it’s more challenging than being born into it. We see ourselves as stewards of what’s here for the next generation.”

There are a lot more Glicks in Bartholomew County, comprising three main branches that can trace a common ancestry in Pennsylvania. The brothers have cousins nearby who also run a seed company.
“We don’t really compete,” says Trevor. “That’s the charm of this area in general. The farmers have a strong sense of community. You don’t see the inclination to undercut each other that you do in some places.”

Both the commercial row crops (corn, wheat, soybeans) and the seed business are driven by meeting precise needs of customers.

“We have opportunities to license different genetics and traits and select corn and wheat varieties for unique characteristics for the soil in southeast Indiana and northern Kentucky, which is our customer base,” says Trevor.

Their corn is non-genetically modified. It’s sold through a broker. Some goes to the distiller market and some is exported. Japan and South Korea are two destinations for Glick corn.
The current iteration of the seed business has its roots in Glick Seed Service, founded by the brothers’ great-grandfather, Lloyd. His son, Lynn, founded Lynn and Myron Glick Seed Co. with his son, Myron, the brothers’ father. Myron passed away in 2005, and the brothers purchased his interest and later their grandfather’s too. The acronym version, L&M Glick, is the current name.
While consolidation in the seed industry has diminished the number of local companies, it’s been important to the Glicks to remain independent.

 “We get to choose what we provide to our customers,” says Brett.

Their beef operation currently consists of feeder calves. They are born in February, weaned in September and sold when they reach the 500- to 600-pound range. The customers finish the calves for another year. The calves aren’t pure bred, but, once again, attention to genetics is a top priority.
“We breed them for a calm disposition,” says Brett. “They’re easier to manage, and they stay fleshy with less food than less calm cows would. We’ll keep a heifer with good genetics up to 15 years.”
Adds Trevor, “We keep precise records on breeding, birthing, weaning and their weight when we sell them.”

For several years, they had a business called Brothers Beef that was a direct-sales operation. They ran a booth at the Saturday farmers market in downtown Columbus, but, according to Brett, it became a choice between that and “Trevor going to his kids’ soccer games.”

The distilled grains component of the Glick operation came about when the Spagnuolo family, owners of Bear Wallow Distillery in Brown County, approached the brothers.

“They said, ‘Hey, you know how to clean grain, and we want to work with someone locally,’” says Trevor.

That led to supplying other distillers with custom grain cleaning and a partnership with a rye importing business.

Strategic planning is an ongoing part of their activity. Five years ago, they conducted a major SWOT (strengths, opportunities, weaknesses, threats) analysis. Brett maps out a budget on a monthly basis.
He grants that it doesn’t come as naturally as the more hands-on aspects of what needs to be done: “I’d rather be out bush-hogging or cleaning fence rows, but you have to know your route for where you’re going. You have to take your eyes off the scenery and look down at the map.”
They play to their strengths. Brett handles the financial analysis, and Trevor does a lot of the customer relations work.

Lynn can be seen strolling the premises on most days, which shouldn’t be surprising, given that the brothers’ office and the equipment storage building are across the lawn from his house.
“Grandpa is our parts retrieval specialist,” says Brett.

They send him on missions to nearby equipment dealerships when something breaks down. Lynn notes that it gives him the opportunity to eat at restaurants in Seymour or Greensburg.
Brett and his wife, Katie, have one daughter, Mae. Trevor and his wife, Kelly, have three children, Sophie, Ethan and Eli. Brett says that their wives are “very supportive of our business but not directly involved.”

Their mother, Marybeth, lives in a house adjacent to the farming property. After raising her children (and occasionally helping with tasks like tractor driving), she worked at Cummins, from which she retired. She now helps with 4-H projects for one of her granddaughters, the child of the brothers’ sister, Lisa.

What is it like to live one’s entire life on one piece of ground and see the same faces daily in one’s professional life in an age when mobility is the norm for so much of society?

“There’s definitely something very valuable about being grounded,” says Brett. “We do travel and have social lives, but we hold that connection to the past in high regard. There’s a particular shovel I really like to use. It has a worn handle and probably isn’t as efficient as one I could go buy at Rural King, but I am putting history to use.”