soybean innovation

Soybean Innovation & Entrepreneurship with John Horter

Along with being versed in many responsibilities in their operations, it is common for farmers to work on additional businesses outside of their typical farming duties. It could be a passion project, something that interested them and wanted to pursue, or just an activity to keep them busy in the off-season.

This type of work is now viewed as innovation and entrepreneurship within the agriculture industry and South Dakota farmers are a part of this push. We talked with John Horter, to discuss just a couple of his own entrepreneurship ventures, The Rock Block and Horter’s Farm and Ranch Supply.

What type of additional businesses can farmers get into? 

There are many different avenues. Some sell seed or insurance, some do construction, some do repairs, and some sell meat or eggs off the farm. The sky’s the limit to what someone can do to make an extra buck!

How would you describe your additional businesses? 

Oh, where to start….  I have numerous things that are additional businesses to my operation. My family owns and operates a Farm Supply Business in our local town. We sell all kinds of farm supplies from hardware to clothing, parts, tires, gas, oil, feed, and much much more in our store.

Our service allows our customers to feel better about purchasing from someone local who also uses the products we sell at the shop. I also do custom farming for people in the area which includes planting and harvesting for them. We also are in the beef industry. We custom feed cattle and have been selling beef from our farm to consumers directly as of late. The interaction between our farm and others around it, is quite satisfying having those people consume and use the products from our farm.

How did you start The Rock Block and Horter’s Farm and Ranch Supply? 

Horter Repair started when I got out of High School. I had a love of antique tractors and started repairing and restoring them in an outbuilding my parents let me use on their farm. Pretty soon I was doing it for other people and it grew into a business where we were doing 10-12 full restorations a year. Our business kept growing and we had an opportunity to buy a service station in town to expand the business.

As we started the business there, the farming economy got tough and it was harder to continue doing the high-end restorations. We shifted gears and began selling ag products and services. Recently we decided to discontinue restorations and focus on ag sales. Our business is now called Horter’s Farm and Ranch Supply.

The Rock Block was an idea I had on our own farm. The hay cutter we had was known for throwing small rocks and breaking tractor windows. I made my own version of the product in our shop nearly 12 years ago. A few other people saw it and really liked it so we started making a few.

We thought we had quite a unique idea so we went ahead and got the “Rock Block” patented. Word of mouth has grown our product sales. We sell it as one of the products at Horter’s Farm and Ranch Supply.

We are now in our 4th full year of sales and our business more than doubles each year. We have sent kits all over the US and Canada.

What made you want to start additional business ventures?  

When I first got out of Tech School my parents didn’t have enough land to bring me into the operation so I had to find ways to generate income and build relationships with others to find my own land to farm. Doing custom planting and harvesting was a great opportunity to work with other producers and show them the care and effort I had in doing work for them. It led me to opportunities to farm their land in future times.

Painting tractors was a nice source of income to help me get by until I was able to support myself with more farming and cattle.

How does an additional business work alongside farming? Do you continue working your other businesses during the busy seasons of farming or mostly in the off-season?  

I hate to admit but my phone never stops. I have messages, and emails coming in constantly from customers and friends looking to purchase supplies or looking for help with issues they have. With farming, cattle, and numerous side businesses there are very few days off in my world.

I pride myself in my service and oftentimes will take phone calls or do service calls on weekends or at night to keep people going. I know most appreciate that extra service and that’s what keeps them coming back in the door. 

What benefits have you seen from working with your additional businesses? 

I get to work with lots of other amazing people.  We all learn what works and what doesn’t… It’s nice to have a network of many different people to be able to take on different challenges that come along. I really enjoy giving people great service and great prices on things that can make them produce more money for their operations.

What are some tips you would give to other farmers looking to start their own additional businesses? 

Find something you enjoy and do it well. Don’t take on too many things and do them halfway. If something isn’t working, set a goal of how to improve it or else move on. Don’t spend time spinning your tires on things that aren’t working.  

Don’t be afraid of change. Just because “that’s the way we’ve always done it” is your thought process, change isn’t always bad. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice from others. Surround yourself with good people!

How do you manage your time working a farming operation and helping with The Rock Block/Horter’s Farm and Ranch Supply? 

I rely on my employees to get things done. We all know that we take pride in everything we do and that everyone is always watching. We set goals and discuss what needs to be done and we all pitch in to get what needs to be done.  In sales and farming, we need to be fluid and realize things come up.

We don’t always have a concrete plan for the day but we know there are things that have to be done and there are things that come up that we need to adapt and do the best we can.

Do you find that an additional business allows you to pursue other passions of yours outside of farming? 

Yes, it does. I have met lots of wonderful people over the years and we get to engage with them and do traveling and events that we normally wouldn’t get to do. I’ve gotten to be a part of businesses with new products and have gotten to try new things that others don’t get to see until years later. It’s really a great opportunity to be diversified and to see new things come about.

Do you think this type of work helps to motivate farmers as they work in the on and off-season?

I do. Again, everyone is different and has different motivations and passions. Finding something unique that sets you apart from everyone else is a great opportunity to be more successful. If you have something that is an ROI to others or can provide a valuable service to others then the sky’s the limit to your success!

As the agriculture industry continues to evolve and more innovative ideas are introduced, farmers will continue to evolve and grow with the industry. Personally, we can’t wait to see what the future holds for South Dakota farmers and the rest of the agriculture industry. 

If you want to learn more about other agricultural innovations, read Biodiesel: A Sustainable Source in South Dakota or Soy Products that Benefit the Consumer by Hungry for Truth.