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Taking a Gamble on the Anderson Family Farm

Taking a Gamble on the Anderson Family Farm

“Being a farmer, we're just natural gamblers,” Dan Anderson says. He and his wife Jessica are co-owners of the Anderson Family Farm in Fillmore, Utah, where they are raising over 2,000 acres of alfalfa, corn, small grains, 250 head of cattle, and six fearless farm kids. 

By taking a few chances, the Andersons honed their risk-taking skills to grow their operation, and are working together to build a legacy they can pass on for generations.

Back-up Plans

Dan had a backup plan that did not involve managing a 2,000-acre farm full-time. While he always had a passion for agriculture and a desire to farm throughout his life, Dan’s father and grandfather cautioned him that the volatility of farming made it a risky choice of employment. 

If you want to farm, you better get a backup plan because this isn't guaranteed,” they advised, according to Dan.

So, Dan attended Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, where he met his wife and obtained his degree, not in an agricultural field, but in nursing. Dan’s backup plan was to become a nurse anesthetist and then farm on the side to provide for his family. He did this after graduation, returning to the farm and working part-time.

Although Dan appreciated the nursing field, his passion remained in agriculture. Dan and Jessica decided to capitalize on some small opportunities, take a few risks, and trade a few sleepless nights to focus their efforts on the farm.

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Rolling the Dice: Adding Corn to the Operation

After several years working for his grandpa and dad, Dan had the opportunity to take over running much of his grandpa's farm. At that time, the operation was “basically a small-grain, alfalfa rotation,” Dan says. “We didn't mess around with corn very much, but I started getting more into that market when I started farming.”

Dan and Jessica started growing and combining their corn crop and selling to a nearby egg farm in Delta and the Smithfield Hog farm in Milford. After marketing their corn this way for several years, Dan recognized an opportunity to grow forage corn thanks to local demand for corn silage. 

“That was one of our bigger steps,” Dan says. “We bought a chopper, all the trucks, and the pit tractors. It was a big investment and many people said, ‘You probably shouldn't get into that, there's a lot of risk to it’.”

Despite fearing he could lose his silage pile or struggle to find a market, Dan and Jessica raised their first crop of corn silage. Unfortunately, that first year was tough. The corn came in well, but some late-season storms kept the Andersons from harvesting in their desired window. The corn was tasseled out, and the dairy that originally agreed to purchase backed out.

“I thought we got into a mess,” Dan says. “But we got through that first year, and we ended up finding a really good dairy to partner with on that corn silage, and since then, it kept evolving.”

Dan and Jessica recognized that entering new markets and investing in equipment were significant financial risks. Still, they decided to capitalize on those little opportunities that would allow them to make the farm a full-time career.

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Growing the Farm Business

By making the farm a full-time operation, Dan and Jessica continued to build by diversifying the operation.

Purchasing More Acreage and Equipment

Since acquiring his grandpa’s farm, Dan and Jessica have expanded by taking on Dan’s father’s farm and purchasing their land.

To help maximize the production of this ground, Dan and Jessica have continued to invest in equipment. “Our equipment has gotten a little bit nicer over time,” Dan says. “We can get through our harvest easily, and we were able to expand into custom harvesting as well, which has been great for us.”

Along with crop production and custom harvesting, Dan and Jessica also manage a fleet of trucks that they use to deliver not only the corn silage they produce but also contract out for hauling and shipping many commodities.

“We've kind of started a shipping enterprise,” Dan says. "Every day, six days a week, we're running one or two loads of corn silage over the mountain to the dairy, and then we're also delivering fertilizer and compost, and we haul cattle.”

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Capitalizing on their equipment and looking for alternate business avenues has helped put Dan and Jessica in a position to continue investing and improving their operation. 

“Farm equipment and farm ground is ridiculously expensive,” Dan says. “For a young guy to be able to buy that equipment requires taking on a lot of debt, so if we can start tapping into new markets, it is a huge benefit for us.”

Hungry? Try Jessica Anderson's homemade biscuit and gravy recipe

Back in the Cattle Business

Dan and Jessica recognize the importance of managing the risks associated with farming. “We’ve found out with farming not to put all your eggs in one basket,” Dan says. “Because if you have something come in and freeze all your corn, having enough diversity can keep things afloat.”

Part of Andersons’ diversification included building their own cattle herd. Dan says his grandfather had cattle on his farm a long time ago, but he and Jessica have since rebuilt that herd.

Today, the Andersons care for 250 head of their own cattle and, like with their equipment, have searched for ways to capitalize on this area. 

Building a Meat Packing Plant

To help the Andersons pull more from their cattle business, Dan partnered with their nearby friend who had started his own part-time meat-cutting business.

“We always wanted to sell directly to our consumers,” Dan says. “We try to cut out as many middlemen as possible and raise a good product, and my friend wanted to cut meat, so I suggested we partner up to build a meat packing plant.”

Dan and Jessica agreed to provide the land and starting capital to fund the new meat plant in 2021. After working on it for over two years, the Provident Meat facility officially began operating in the summer of 2023.

“We're excited to take our cattle from a calf to the consumer and raise the kind of meat that people want,” Dan says.

The Provident Meat packing plant can process 2,000 animals a year once it is operating at full capacity. Dan says his goal is to build his herd and process 500 to an eventual 1,000 head of Anderson-finished livestock each year.

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“Hopefully it's the beginning of a good thing,” Dan says. “We're trying not to grow too fast, to ease into it and evolve as we go slowly.”

Provident Meat will also serve as a retail location for Anderson Family Beef with USDA certifications to sell on-site and even direct-ship beef to hungry consumers. Dan hopes the new meat packing facility will also benefit other local ranchers by offering an alternative marketing route for their livestock.

“We've had a lot of local ranchers that desire to sell their own beef as well, and this gives them another place to go,” says Dan. “Most meat plants are booked out well in advance, so having another one right here for people to use to market their beef will be good, too.”

Progressive Farming

Growing the Anderson farming operation has required risk-taking and recognizing and taking advantage of emerging agricultural techniques and technologies. By maximizing the potential of their farm ground and livestock genetics, Dan and Jessica are continually growing their business with help from IFA specialists.

Quality Counts: IFA Experts Help Improve Yields

“IFA has been a part of the farm since the beginning,” Dan says. “IFA has been around for a hundred years, so I'm sure my great grandpa used them, my grandpa used them, and now we use IFA for fertilizer, for seed, for chemicals, and for their technical crop advice.”

IFA’s Agronomy Division remains on the cutting edge of agriculture, and IFA agronomists help intermountain growers incorporate emerging technologies and products to improve their yields and promote soil health for long-term results.

Krea Mecham, Certified Crop Advisor with IFA’s Southern Utah Agronomy Center, works personally with the Anderson family to provide guidance and recommendations to help improve the health and productivity of their diverse crops. 

“IFA is just a great resource that helps us make the best decisions for our operations,” Dan says. “Krea is out walking the fields often to guide what is best for our crops at certain times.”

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Krea values his relationships with growers, especially growers who are willing to adapt and take risks like the Andersons. “The Andersons are a perfect example of taking risks and increasing production with technology and machinery,” Krea says. “They're the kind of progressive growers we're happy to work with at IFA.”

Krea and his fellow agronomy advisors recognize the investment that growers put into crop-input costs, and he’s grateful that he can help growers by providing honest and economical solutions to their production problems.

“I feel that we are one of the most honest fertilizer and crop-input suppliers out there because we take to heart that we're a producer-owned company,” Krea says. “Our responsibility is making the co-op strong by helping our growers produce their best.”

Discover the advantages of growing with IFA Agronomy

Dialing in Cattle Nutrition with IFA

Dan and Jessica trust IFA with the health of their plants and the livestock nutrition that will fuel their newest meat enterprise. As the Andersons grow their cattle herd and the Provident Meat packing plant, Dan hopes to build a feedlot where they can finish their cattle as well as purchase local beef to finish for processing.

“They say if you have a farm, you should have a dairy,” Dan says. “We don't want a dairy, but we do want a feedlot. We have the farm, and feed, and someone else is making money off the feed we sell, so it might as well be us.”

Dan understands that growing feeder cattle and producing a quality meat product relies heavily on good genetics and sound nutrition. That’s why he plans to consult with IFA nutritionists to develop feedlot rations to help him produce the beef customers want.

“Some consumers want grass-fed, and some want a nice grain-finished beef, so that's going to require its own ration,” Dan says. “We'll be able to offer both, but it'll take someone with expertise to get that ration dialed in.”

Dan and Jessica are excited to grow their operation by expanding to a feedlot in the coming years. IFA nutrition experts are ready to help them maximize their livestock potential in this new venture.

Contact an IFA Feed & Nutrition expert

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Wrangling Farm Kids: The Future of the Anderson Farm

Dan and Jessica might not have planned on building a bustling agricultural operation. However, taking the necessary risks and capitalizing on opportunities has allowed them to grow a successful farming enterprise that they can share with their young family.

“It’s great that we can do this full-time and incorporate our family into it,” Dan says. He and Jessica are grateful for opportunities to teach their kids valuable life lessons and skills by working on the farm. 

“So many people don't understand that food doesn't just show up on a shelf at Walmart,” Jessica says. “Our kids are going to know the whole process from start to finish, and it's so cool they're going to be involved in it.”

Although young, the Anderson farm kids are already involved in the operation. The older kids have taken on roles helping manage pests and weeds around the fields, while the younger kids help Jessica care for the smaller animals around their homestead and go on errands to the local IFA for needed supplies.

“IFA is a part of our daily life,” Jessica says. “The kids and I go to our local IFA once a week just to get little things to keep our animals healthy and going.”

IFA is excited to help the Andersons grow in their endeavors and watch as the Anderson farm kids become more involved in their family’s farming legacy.

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Written by Mikyla Bagley, IFA Content Writer, and originally published in the IFA Cooperator magazine (vol. 90, no. 1) Spring 2024. 

Mikyla Bagley is a fifth-generation rancher actively involved in her family’s cattle operation. She holds a deep respect for the wisdom and management practices of the farmers and ranchers who have crossed her path, both because of her family operation and otherwise. A deep desire to remain connected to the agriculture industry drove Mikyla to earn her BIS in Agriculture Science and Communication from Southern Utah University. She continues to be involved in her family’s operation while using her degree and life-long experience as IFA’s Content Specialist sharing the experiences and wisdom of IFA experts and Co-op Members.

“The agriculture community is filled with genuine and hard-working men and women whose passion for their lifestyle deserves to be shared. I look forward to helping highlight both their stories and expertise alongside IFA.”
     —Mikyla Bagley