Hometown: Newton, NC
Size of Operation: 2,700 acres
Years in Business: 12
Years Working with Farm Credit: 11
Although most farmers and ranchers embody the entrepreneurial spirit, few start their agribusiness careers as young as grain and produce farmer Lucas Richard, who bought his first calf when he was just five years old. And while some might think that the grandfather who sold him the calf for just two cents was humoring a favored grandchild, Lucas successfully parlayed that small investment into his first successful business venture: That first calf grew and produced a calf of its own which Lucas then sold, using the proceeds to buy a second calf. That lesson has influenced his entire farming career: “From this early experience, I learned how to reinvest funds to grow the operation,” he says.
Learning is a consistent theme in Lucas’ farming career. As a child and teenager, he continued to raise cows, and later goats, and worked with his grandfather until he was 18. He then decided to start farming on his own, and having learned the challenges of raising livestock, turned to row crops and greenhouse plants. His initial 50-acre operation has since grown to 700 of owned and 1,600 acres of leased land, as well as an additional 400 acres he custom farms for others. He’s also increased the number of greenhouses to three, after having learned another valuable lesson his first year when a 12-inch snow storm collapsed his PVC pipe greenhouse structure. All three of his greenhouses are now steel-supported.
Lucas has extended his formal education as well. “I realized that a high school education wasn’t enough knowledge to run the size of operation I had grown into,” he says. He has since earned an associate’s degree in business administration.
His business has expanded dramatically through his own business savvy and with the help of Carolina Farm Credit. “I’ve had good relationships with each of the loan officers I’ve had,” he says. “They’ve been there to help when I needed it, in good times and in bad.”
His business has grown to encompass a grain division he established four years ago, which includes a grain elevator and a chemical and seed store. He’s also started brokering grain across the Southeast for himself and other local farmers. “This not only helps my farm, it also helps all the farms in the surrounding counties to have a better place to market their grain and buy agro-products,” he says. In 2004, he established a transportation division, which also has enjoyed significant growth: After starting with one road tractor and dump trailer, Lucas now runs seven road tractors, two dump trailers, a flat bed and five hopper bottoms that together provide service to more than 500 local farmers.
Twelve employees now help Lucas on this diversified farming operation he built from the ground up in just 11 years. He attributes this success in large part to that first lesson, saying, “I’m a firm believer in reinvesting in the operation first. This has allowed me to achieve the growth I have.”
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