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A Smart Start

It’s not easy to start a farming career on the edge of the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex, but for Todd Kimbrell, the secret was to start small, expand gradually and stay on top of technology.

Landscapes Winter 2018
Kimbrell family

Photo by Brittney Hejl

AgTexas Vice President Matt Thomas, left, visits with Todd and Lindsay Kimbrell and their children, Trey and Tessa.

Todd Kimbrell Jr. started driving tractors on his dad’s farm at age 7. For him, there was never any doubt he’d become the fifth generation in his family to farm near Itasca, Texas.

The only question was how.

In 2003, fresh out of high school and full of drive, he was ready to begin, but he had no land or collateral. Nor did he know how to fill out a balance sheet or complete the paperwork and application for a Farm Service Agency (FSA) beginning farmer loan.

Enter AgTexas Farm Credit Services.

Knowing that his father and grandfather had turned to AgTexas for financing help early in their careers, Todd did the same. With an AgTexas beginning farmer loan guaranteed by the FSA, his farming career was launched.

Tessa and Todd Kimbrell

Photo by Lindsay Kimbrell

Tessa and Todd Kimbrell

First Comes the Tractor

His first purchase with that AgTexas loan was a John Deere tractor. Next, he rented a piece of land that had been in the Conservation Reserve Program for more than 20 years.

“Nobody wanted it,” Todd says, “but we jumped on it and still have it today.”

From there, he continued to do everything right, says Matt Thomas, AgTexas vice president and branch manager in Hillsboro. He expanded slowly while building up equity, renting land, using loan guarantees and establishing credit. Soon Todd was able to “graduate” from FSA financing to conventional loans through AgTexas.

Since his first year farming, when he planted wheat and corn, he also has grown cotton, sorghum, sunflowers, soybeans and sesame, but corn has remained his primary crop. Today, he and his wife, Lindsay, farm about 3,200 acres, and in 2019, their acreage will increase to about 5,500 acres. He serves on the Texas Corn Producers board.

The Kimbrells’ two children are a big part of the family farm, especially their 11-year-old son, who helps with planting and harvest.

“He’s a really good help. He gets that from his dad. Now, our daughter…” Lindsay says, with a laugh. “She likes to drive the grain cart just for fun. When she wants to.”

Trey and Todd maintain the harvester

Photo by Lindsay Kimbrell

Trey Kimbrell helps his dad, Todd, maintain the harvester. Todd is a two-time winner of the National Corn Yield Contest.

Competition from Urban Sprawl

Creating farming opportunities for the children and his younger brother, who farms with their dad, is a big part of the reason Todd wants to expand the farm as much as he can.

“I’m always worried about the future,” Todd says. “Growth is, in my opinion, essential to accommodate these young ones coming on. I don’t want to look up in 10 years and go, ‘Well, I don’t have room for you to farm.’”

When you farm south of the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex, however, it’s challenging to grow the operation. As urban sprawl progresses, and more and more former city dwellers move to suburbs like Waxahachie, land becomes scarce — and expensive.

“They’re building houses across the road from us,” Lindsay says.

Todd nods.

“We’ve got 700 acres that I’d be surprised if we have it in five years,” Todd says. “But, we just rented a new farm. Hence the future. I’m always looking for an opportunity to grow. It may not really be growing eventually if we lose other land, but at least we’ll have something else to fall back on.”

Using Tech Tools

Todd knows that to succeed, he must use all of the tools available to him. He has his pilot’s license, checks his fields from the air, and flies to meetings and conferences. The couple also uses a drone to scout fields for pest and weed problems, and Lindsay uses it to shoot videos and take photographs. In addition, he and a partner operate Blackland Ag Solutions, specializing in precision planting technology.

They see the big picture, and they understand that for their operation to be successful, it takes a good relationship with the bank. …We work together to help their operation grow.

– Matt Thomas

“I’m always trying to stay on top of technology,” says Todd, who won the 2016 and 2017 National Corn Yield Contests for nonirrigated corn. “Even if we’re not utilizing every little bit of the data we’re collecting, I think down the road it’s going to be very important.”

He obtains much of his information online, reading nightly on his iPad.

“My theory is if I ever quit learning new things and new ways to get better, then I’m either retired or I’m going to find a different line of work,” Todd says.

Another factor that he credits for his success is his relationship with AgTexas — particularly Thomas.

The feeling is mutual, according to the ag lending expert. In fact, AgTexas selected the Kimbrells to serve on the cooperative’s Young Advisory Board for the past three years.

“What makes Todd and Lindsay so special is their perspective on things,” Thomas says. “They see the big picture, and they understand that for their operation to be successful, it takes a good relationship with the bank. AgTexas provides that partnership, and that’s essentially the way I look at it. We work together to help their operation grow.”

Katrina Huffstutler

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