As reported from US Farm Report: Matthew and Janna Splitter of Splitter Farms were named the 2021 Top Producer Horizon Award winner in Nashville this week. Their story is one rooted in education and willingness to listen, a recipe that helped grow the farm to what it is today.
“We are a fifth-generation farm, our family came to central Kansas by way of a Baptist colony that moved here in 1878,” says Matthew Splitter, a farmer in Lyons, Kansas, who was just named Top Producer’s Horizon Award Winner. “We actually have some of the farm ground that was given to our family through the homestead act.
Today, this 35-year-old farmer prides the farm in being highly efficient.
“We really focused in on becoming a highly efficient farm; we’re looking at our costs very, very closely,” he explains. “We are utilizing our labor very efficiently; we are using maybe smaller equipment. Instead of one big sprayer, we use two smaller sprayers, and that actually lowers our costs. And then we utilize the technology that the sprayers have as well. So, we’re more efficiently doing our applications.”
With a spread of wheat, corn, soybeans and grain sorghum, his irrigated and non-irrigated acres are 100 percent no-till, tapping into efficiency with every pass. It’s a steady rotation, with a steady plan, but one that was founded following an untraditional path.
“I was adopted into this family, and so one of our biggest keys in our operation is to just take what we’ve been given, the opportunity and the assets, make them better, and then give them to the next generation, whether it’s a family member that comes back into our operation to farm or if it’s just another local family that wants to partner with us,” he says.
Both of Matt’s parents have PhDs. His dad was a corn breeder in Nepal. After he returned to this Kansas land in the late 70s, education was always at the foundation of everything he did.
“It was ingrained in me at a very young age that we need to seek out further education,” he says.
That growing hunger for continuous knowledge stayed with Matt after he graduated from Kansas State University and pursued a position with National Sorghum Producers in Texas.
“After my father passed away, in the spring of 2010, we had the opportunity to farm. We weren’t given a whole lot of assets, I think that we were just given the opportunity,” says Splitter.
Matt and his wife Janna sowed their first seeds on their farm in 2011. But just a few years later, commodity prices took a nosedive, and the Splitters struggled to figure out what was next.
“I remember sitting in my office, and I sold probably half of our wheat for about $2.75,” he says. “I just remember having a flood of emotions, knowing that this wasn’t sustainable.”
That winter, the education engrained in Matt sent him down a path of finding educational resources to help—including attending local meetings.
“We met a fellow producer by the name of Lee Schuefler and his wife Margaret Scheufler from Sterling, Kan.,” says Splitter. “They are pioneers in the no-till industry and technology on their farm. I just asked him questions, because I knew we needed to make a change. I didn’t know what that change was, but I knew we needed to make a change.”
One simple question about why he planted soybeans with an air seeder set a new plan into motion. And on the day the Powerball hit its highest mark to date, Matt’s future became clear.
“As they were leaving that night, they asked us to take over their farm,” says Splitter. “And it was such an emotional time for us, like holy cow, like we just won the lottery. And it wasn’t the idea of winning the national Powerball. But it was that night. I remember that night very specifically.”
From there, transition quickly took shape.
“At the time, they were about 5,000 to 6,000 acres,” says Splitter. “So, we’ve been transitioning over 500 to 1,000 acres each year.”
As Splitter continues the transition, he has a strong vision to carry the torch.
“There are acres on this operation that were developed into no-till in late 1995 or 1996, right when no-till wasn’t very popular, but it was definitely being identified at the time,” he says. “So there are acres on this farm that have been no-till for close to 35 years.”
With his wife by his side, and daughters Laikyn and Landry looking on, Matt and Janna are proving a willingness to learn can grow unexpected opportunities.
“We want them to see hard work and what it takes to have a business and really involve them as a family, just like we do with our employees and their families,” says Janna.
“I think there’s a clear distinction between heritage and legacy, you know. Heritage is the assets that you can inherit, it’s that idea that the ground we passed on, you know, ownership will be passed on. Legacy, in my opinion, is what you did with it,” says Splitter.
An eagerness to learn, with a willingness to listen, is what’s helped Matt Splitter find opportunities on the horizon.
“Without some serious self-reflection, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” he says. “We really knew that back in 2015 when those prices were going down, it could have been the end of our operation.”
Congratulations to the Splitter family on being named Top Producer’s Horizon Award winner this week in Nashville.