Grassfield Farm isn’t alone. Across the US, there is renewed interest in small farms. With films like 2018’s The Biggest Little Farm and a growing emphasis on health and food quality, more shop locally, support farmers’ markets, and subscribe to CSA boxes.
It may be surprising, but more than 90% of US farms are small. Even with the increase of large-scale industrial agriculture for a growing population, small and family-run farms produce 70 percent of the world’s food.
Still, small-scale agriculture faces enormous obstacles, and those who choose this path require immense passion. Long-term profitability is challenging. More people are moving to cities, and fewer young people choose to work in agriculture. These farmers deal with fierce competition, the unpredictability of climate change, and the physical intensity of farmwork itself.
2020 has been a challenging year for most small businesses as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Perhaps a silver lining for small farmers is many have seen their business grow. Since March 2020, those who sell boxed meat, dairy, fruits, and vegetables have seen a significant increase in orders.
At Invoice2go, a Bill.com company, our mission is to empower self-employed professionals and small businesses worldwide. We want to support you in running your business on your terms and overcoming challenges – no matter how daunting.
We recently chatted with Fohn Bendele, a long-time Invoice2go subscriber and co-owner of Grassfield Farm. He and his wife Jana are both 5th-generation family farmers who run their business and raise their family in Hondo, Texas.
Learn 3 essential lessons from Fohn on how he successfully runs Grassfield Farm and provides stability for his family. See how he finds balance, does what he loves – and gets paid.
1. Combining passion with stability at Grassfield Farm
“If you want to farm and ranch and be successful, you’ve got to have a job with shiny shoes.”
The Bendele family shares a profound passion for treating the land and their animals with respect. Their farm is certified grass-fed & animal welfare approved. They raise their livestock without antibiotics or hormones and specialize in sustainable beef, pasture-raised pork, and free-range eggs.
Back in the 1800s, Fohn’s great-great-grandfather settled the farm his family still manages today. While his family’s passion for farming has remained steadfast for generations, he admits agriculture has its financial ups and downs.
Back when Fohn was a boy, his grandmother shared some advice about managing these fluctuations. Fohn recalls, “She said, ‘If you want to farm and ranch and have success, you’ve got to have a job with shiny shoes.'”
“In other words,” Fohn explains, “Pursue your passion, but make sure you have financially stable work to support it.” He’s achieved this for 25 years by providing services as a self-employed financial advisor in addition to his full-time farm work.
This provides economic balance for his family and still gives him joy. “I wear my shiny shoes part of the day, and then I wear my work boots the other,” Fohn laughs. “And the more I can wear my work boots, the happier I am.”
2. Provide value and build strong customer relationships
“I’ve always liked helping people…”
On the surface, farming and working as a financial advisor may seem to have little in common. However, Fohn explains that success in either field requires empathy, giving something of value, and cultivating quality, long-lasting connections. Whether he’s advising a financial client or selling his family’s locally grown goods, he strives to help people lead healthy and fulfilling lives.
Fohn explains, “I’ve always liked helping people. As a financial advisor, I help them figure out college or their cash flow or retirement. Just like a personal coach or a nurse, I just want to get somebody healthier.”
When it comes to the farm, that principle remains the same. Fohn wants to help people eat nutritious food that also benefits the environment.
“As a family, we’re health-conscious. And we got into farm-to-table because a lot of people want good, wholesome food. They worry about the carbon footprint and effect on our environment from shipping beef and other food. They’d rather know where their food comes from.”
3. More is possible with teamwork and technology
“I want to spend the least amount of time sitting in the office, counting numbers.”
How does Fohn balance running two successful businesses in two different industries? It comes down to two things: teamwork and technology.
For the Bendeles, farming is a family affair. Fohn shares equipment with his brother and father. His two daughters manage Grassfield Farm’s social media and website. His sons help with the physically intense labor, and his wife assists with virtually every aspect of their work and family life.
Family teamwork makes life more comfortable and provides an opportunity to share the values passed down over the generations. “We want to instill in our kids that being financially independent and in control of your own destiny is important,” Fohn explains.
For the more logistical side of running a business, Fohn says technology like Invoice2go has made it easier to manage the details without being stuck in the office all day.
“I want to spend the least amount of time sitting in the office counting numbers,” Fohn laughs. “I was looking for something simple and mobile that gave me peace of mind about my financial information. Invoice2go crosses over all different devices, so I can invoice somebody from my phone when I’m on the tractor.”
4. You can accomplish more if you’re chasing a life-long dream
“There’s always time in your day if you’re really passionate about it.”
Seeing all Fohn accomplishes as a farmer, financial advisor, and family man, it can be challenging to understand how he gets everything done in a day. However, after 25 years of balancing this busy life, he simply explained that there’s always time when you feel driven.
We look forward to seeing the Bendele Family and Grassfield Farm continue to thrive. We strive to help them and all our subscribers run their businesses on their terms and have more space for the joy of pursuing their passion.
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