Innovate: ADDING-ON
4/4/2022
GreenStone Annual Report, ADDING-ON

 

Kalvin and Stephanie Kipp, through their business Kipp Farm Services, provide a variety of farm-related services to farmers in Montcalm and Mecosta County. In their diverse operation, they continue to innovate by growing their services.

 

“My friend’s dad, John Ryan, was especially influential,” Kalvin said. “He gave me the opportunity to operate equipment and was someone I could talk to about farming and the future. My dad Doug, also from a very young age, instilled a strong work ethic into me.”

 

 

Kalvin put himself through the ag tech program at Michigan State University by working on a neighboring farm every weekend, and that’s also where he met his wife Stephanie, who was majoring in crop and soil science.

 

  

Kalvin knew he wanted to start his own business; in 2014, the first step he took was to sell Pioneer Seed in Edmore, Michigan. He continued to focus on his goals for the future, and six months later he bought a detasseling machine to offer that service the following July. To enhance their offerings, they also built a destroyer machine to take down the male rows. Currently, they run the male row destroyer plus two detasseling machines.

 

 

The Kipps then added a cow calf operation to their business.

 

 

“We raise a registered Simmental herd, and we concentrate on genetics to raise high quality cattle,” he said. “We wean and sell our feeders before fall so we can move on to the harvest.”

 

 

Kalvin began to see the value of adding a custom harvesting business to his offerings. To make sure it was something he wanted to do, he rented a setup before investing in a purchase. He started by working with loyal customers, and in 2018, he launched his custom harvesting service. He now custom harvests corn, soybeans, and wheat around Edmore and Lakeview.

 

 

“When we work with growers, we do more than drop off stuff and collect a check,” he said. “We’re extremely involved with our farmers, because we want them to be successful and profitable.”

 

 

Now, based on their interactions with farmers, Kalvin saw another service opportunity that would meet the needs of their current customers.

 

 

“One of the biggest things we’ve added diversity-wise is the sales of our chemicals and crop protection products,” he said. “We saw the need for an independent ag retailer that has the flexibility to give customers what they need - and plenty of options. My goal from day one was to be diverse, and we will keep growing.”

 

 

The Kipps started selling chemicals out of their existing barn, but after six months of good sales, they needed more room.

 

 

Financial Services Officer Mark Oberlin has been working with the Kipps for several years, and Kalvin enjoys working with him.

 

 

“I look at Mark as a partner – not just some banker,” Kalvin said. “When we knew we needed another barn, I talked to Mark, and like he always does, he said, let’s see how we can make this happen. He proposed the barn leasing option to us, and I think it’s been great. He understands our position, and he knows how the market works, so we don’t have to explain much to him.”

 

 

“For me, that’s what’s enjoyable about this role,” Mark said. “You have those conversations with people, you have that trust, and you get to know their operation and their families. It’s rewarding.”

Mark admires the Kipps for both their work on the farm and in their community.

 

 

“Kalvin and Stephanie are young, energetic, involved in the community, and they have figured out the best way to build a service company that meets the needs of their customers,” Mark said. “They’re willing to look at the market and try things, and if that doesn’t work, move on and try something else.”

 

  

Stephanie grew up in the potato industry, working on her family’s farm until 2019, when she decided to work full-time with Kipp Farm Services.

 

  

With her potato and educational background, she became involved in offering more options for scouting, data management, and making recommendations to farmers.

 

  

Currently, Stephanie serves as chair for the Michigan Potato Research Committee, and she was just recognized as an industry leader from the Fruit Growers/Vegetable News as one of their ’40 Under 40.’ She and Kalvin also have two children, Beau (5), and Tess (2).

 

 

“I also can’t say enough about Stephanie,” Mark said. “She’s super smart, very talented, and they can work together, and I think that’s important to them.”

 

 

Having the family all together is part of what makes the full-service farm operation meaningful to the Kipps. Especially with the custom harvest sector of the business, their kids are extremely involved.

 

 

“Making the transition to work with my husband has been a great one,” Stephanie said. “I’m able to better understand his challenges and triumphs within the business. It’s not just a business to us, it is our passion that we share together and now we are sharing that with our children. I’m so excited to watch them grow up in this environment and to see where that takes them in life.”

 

 

Kalvin shares the same opinion.

 

 

“When we’re harvesting, our kids work with us every day,” Kalvin said. “It’s harder when you’re selling seed and chemicals, but when we’re in the fields, they can be right there with us. I mean, I keep saying I don’t want to send them to school – can’t they just job shadow me for the next 18 years?”

 

 

He finished, “A big reason we are so diverse is that my ultimate goal is to give my kids the opportunity I didn’t have, which is to work in our family business. We’re not done adding services, but we’re not going to go in a million different directions. We’ll just keep moving forward.”

 



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