Expect to be cleaning the gumbo off your boots after walking some of the bottom land on Mark Lehenbauer’s farm near Hannibal, Missouri. His land is located just west of the Mississippi River in northeast Missouri and to say that it holds water is an understatement.
However, gumbo isn’t the only thing that sticks with you when you spend some time with Mark. So too does his enthusiasm for farming with his family and building a profitable and sustainable business using technology and good old-fashioned business acumen.
A first for AdFarm St. Louis
St. Louis AdFarmers were introduced to Mark on our first-ever Farm Day Tour earlier this spring. A fourth-generation farmer, Mark manages the row crop production and marketing of corn, soybeans and wheat for the family business. He also oversees the reproduction and health aspects of their purebred Angus and commercial herds.
His dad Ron manages the cow and haying operations and makes sure the crop side runs smoothly in the spring and fall, filling in where needed. In addition to her career as a registered nurse, Mark’s mom Michelle is responsible for the accounting and record keeping. Mark’s wife Amy manages the cattle records and assists with the cattle operation, while also pursing an off-farm career.
The Lehenbauers were early adopters of precision agriculture in the 1990s, employing technology such as crop sensing, variable rate applications and auto steer to make multiple passes more efficiently. They have also built cattle feeding facilities that provide animals with better comfort and shelter from Missouri’s heat and humidity during the summer months.
“We use the latest tools to minimize our environmental footprint while maintaining maximum profitability per acre,” explains Mark. “Every step from planting to marketing in our row crop operation is scrutinized, to make sure that it makes sense logically and profitably.”
We’re in the people business
He sees farming in terms of the relationships with his family, neighbors and suppliers. Most of his time is spent either on the phone sharing advice with neighbors, checking market prices or chatting with local extension guys or his agronomist. Mark’s main information sources are found online, rather than in traditional print or broadcast media.
To that end, the Lehenbauer farm maintains a website and Mark uses Twitter to deliver updates on planting progress.
“Traditions tend to die hard but we feel that those who look forward to the future and adapt new practices will be here for many years to come,” he says.
Do you know farmers in your area who are embracing technology like Mark? We’d like to hear about them.
Ron Wall was born in Saskatchewan, lives in Missouri and writes from both sides of the border.