By Julia Debes
Work hard, others notice. Find advisors who will teach you, not just help you. Dispensing this advice demonstrates that Matt Splitter is not just a young farmer, but already a wise one.
Those lessons pay off. Standing in his family farmstead in Lorraine, established in 1878, Matt explains how his operation has increased three-fold since he moved home to central Kansas in 2010 with wife Janna. Today, he not only farms his family’s ground in southern Ellsworth and northern Rice counties, but also farms with his father-in-law south of Sterling. When he started, he owned very little of his own equipment. Now, he owns all of his machines and employs two full-time workers and two summer hired hands. The crew does all the farm’s repairs as well as all fieldwork, minus occasional aerial applications.
“We are a turnkey operation,” he said. “We do our own spraying, our own planting and our own harvesting.”
The growth in Matt’s operation is extraordinary, even if his initial move home was an abrupt transition. Matt’s father Melvin had encouraged him to work off the farm after graduating from Kansas State University, so Matt and Janna continued to live in Manhattan, and Matt went to work for the National Sorghum Producers. However, Melvin passed away unexpectedly in the spring of 2010 and just a short month afterwards, Matt was home farming and Janna was working at a local Farm Service Agency office. Matt continued to work for the National Sorghum Producers until August 2011, when he amicably transitioned to principally farming.
That September, he planted his first wheat crop, which eventually yielded 70 to 80 bushels per acre. Unfortunately, poor weather resulted in failed fall crops for the first few years. Then, spring droughts dragged down wheat yields in subsequent years. But, Matt adapted his operation to balance the risk of drought effects to either season by moving his crop rotation closer to a 50-50 mix of wheat and fall crops.
“Even if you have a wheat crop, there is still the potential for a decent fall harvest,” he said.
Average Year for Wheat
Matt and his crew finished harvesting the 2015 wheat crop on June 30. While dryland weight averaged 52 bushels per acre and test weights averaged 60 pounds per acre, he said results from field-to-field varied greatly. One field of Everest with water still standing in mud holes even made 72 bushels per acre.
“The typical good fields were good; the typical poorer fields were poor,” he said.
“We had 100 bushel straw and 50 bushel wheat.”
Matt attributed the difference in final yields to timing, explaining that earlier planted wheat following corn performed well while later planted fields following soybeans did not yield as much. Matt said while rust did move into his area, it arrived late enough that he only sprayed a quarter of his acres with fungicide and did not see a significant impact on final yield.
With ground stretching from five miles north of the Reno County border up through central Rice county and north to U.S. Highway 56 in Ellsworth County, Matt said he prefers to coordinate and troubleshoot wheat harvest from the truck rather than the combine.
“It is not the easiest to manage,” he said.
As an even further extension of his operation, Matt and his crew also do custom field work. Matt explained that he started doing custom work early in his return home to the farm as a way to help pay for new and additional equipment.
“We just worked hard,” he said. “When other people were quitting for the day, we were going into new fields.”
Armed with that tough work ethic, earned resources and endless lessons learned and applied at this early stage of Matt’s farming career, his success seems limited only by his ability to imagine how his operation can grow next.