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River View Farm Inc.: Raising the Bar for 21st Century Agribusiness
River View Farm Inc. (RVF) has been raising livestock in America’s corn belt for four generations and consistently falls amongst the biggest producers of poultry and eggs in the state of Indiana. With one main farm in Orleans, Ind., the company raises both pullets and chickens in addition to hogs and turkeys. Larry Johnson, president and founder of RVF, has over 50 years of experience in the industry and is proud to be gradually passing the business on to the younger generations.
“My father, my brother and I started this company together in 1960 and both have since retired, but my nephew and two sons are all here running different parts of the farm,” explains Johnson. “So, we’re very much a family operation. My nephew takes care of hogs, my son takes care of the pullets and my other son takes care of the turkeys so I can take care of the rest,” Laughs Johnson.
RVF farms about 230 acres of land to supplement the feed supply and offset production costs.. “When you are in the farming industry, the price fluctuations of grain and soy can be very volatile and feed costs are usually your biggest costs,’ says Johnson. “So we farm some crops on our main location here in Orleans which will produce enough corn to last us about four months, which is crucial considering we go through anywhere from 80,000 to 100,000 bushels of corn a month.”
RVF relies on local suppliers to create a signature feed mix for its livestock and the organization strives to support local businesses as much as possible for the remaining eight months of the year. “We do buy our grain and some of our soy from local farmers here in the area and it’s always a challenge to keep our profit margins high enough to stay a healthy company,” asserts Johnson. “Of course, like any business, you sometimes need to purchase things that simply aren’t produced by any company in the area, so when we need to buy special equipment for the livestock we will always buy from the same company.”
The company expanded organically over the years from a small farming and livestock operation as opportunities presented themselves. “We produce between 160,000 and 180,000 chickens, close to two million pullets to sell to other farms, around 70,000 hogs, and some 250,000 tom turkeys, which is a lot of livestock so we have other contracted farms we work with who take care of the majority of the hogs and turkeys scattered throughout the region from 50 to 140 miles away,” expands Johnson. “We always planned on having a more diversified business to smooth out the highs and lows of the commodity market, but it didn’t happen very fast either. We just added in new operations as the opportunities came up.”
Preparing for Anything
Combating price fluctuations in a global market has been one of the company’s foremost concerns in recent years and RVF has established various programs to weather any storm. “With market conditions being what they are and price fluctuations happening globally, it’s impossible to completely control your business. If it rains in Brazil and those corn crops don’t do so well, that’s going to put a strain on our costs. It’s a global market these days and it’s becoming increasingly hard to keep healthy profit margins,” says Johnson. “It’s why we don’t put all of our eggs in one basket. We have marketing agreements in place to protect our pricing when we sell our products.”
Johnson plans to focus on keeping the business viable for the fourth generation. “I don’t like the way the country is heading and I disagree politically with many of the government’s policies recently. There are so many regulations that it’s getting easier to price your consumer out of your product pretty quickly,” laments Johnson. “The good news is that agriculture will be ok. The demand is there so we will continue to do business the way we always have. We haven’t made any huge renovations or changes to our business in recent years and I don’t think we will be doing anything like that soon.
“We’ll be more likely updating our equipment as needed rather than doing a complete overhaul, affirms Johnson. “My primary concern is to keep this business healthy for the third and fourth generations. My brother has already retired and I’ll be stepping down eventually and I want to make sure that we stay a successful family operation.”
Come political rain or shine, River View Farm Inc. has already survived some major crises in its 51-year history and is sure to react swiftly to cope under any circumstances.