Hancock Farms Changes Course
After years of running a dairy farm in Bois D’Arc, Mo., Matthew and Taryon Hancock determined they needed a change. In February 2017, they took a leap of faith and sold all their milk cows.
This wasn’t a rash decision, rather, a calculated and planned shift for their family.
“The main thing with getting out of the dairy business was the fact of not having to be tied down seven days a week,” Matthew Hancock explained.
The Hancocks wanted more time with their teenage daughters, Emma, age 15, and Alyssa, age 13.
“Our kids are both to the age where if we don’t get to the point that we can do something with them, that time is going to be over,” Matthew said.
The Hancocks now devote their time solely to their business that provides custom agricultural services. Though they spent many hours budgeting and preparing for the change, the Hancocks admit they miss the financial consistency of the dairy.
“It’s a hard thing to go from having a milk check every two weeks, even if it is not much, you still know it is coming,” Matthew said. “Now we are at the mercy of whoever needs something done. It is still a little terrifying at times,” he added.
Fortunately, the custom work has been steady. When asked what agricultural services Hancock Farms offers, Matthew replied, “Most anything – really. We do quite a bit of no-till drilling for people and custom hay.” And that is just the beginning.
Hancock Farms offers fertilizer and lime application. The Hancocks also provide custom spraying to deter weeds and pests from taking over farmland. Their custom hay business includes round and square bales. Some of their clients prefer for the Hancocks to completely take care of their hay needs.
“We do everything from cutting it, to putting it in the barn for them,” Matthew said.
The custom agricultural services business requires the Hancocks to own and maintain a variety of large equipment. The Hancocks have discovered it makes business sense for them to use newer equipment as opposed to trying to maintain older machinery.
“We try to keep modern, reliable equipment, so that when we have the opportunity to get to the field, and it’s not raining or something, we can know that we are going to get the job done,” Matthew said.
The couple remembers many years of spending countless hours and loads of cash in an effort to keep their aging machinery in working order.
“Remember the propane tractor we had for awhile?” Taryon asked Matthew, smiling at the thought. “You would try to rake with it and it smelled because it was open station.”
They both laughed and then Taryon added, “We have come a long way in the last few years. All cab tractors now. We are kind of spoiled I guess.”
The mild winter allowed the Hancocks to stay busy with their custom services for farmers. The Hancocks had many customers who needed lime applied to their fields to improve the soil quality.
Hancock Farms owns a floater truck that can distribute 300 to 500 tons of lime a day. In addition, their floater truck can spread fertilizer on 500 acres a day. Matthew is currently working on obtaining a custom applicators license through the Missouri Department of Agriculture in order to do more custom spraying for clients.
The Hancocks are now in the middle of their busiest season. In the months ahead, they will plant, maintain and harvest 300 acres of soybeans. In addition, they will cut, rake, and roll as many as 4,000 round bales of hay.
“We pretty much live on the tractor during hay season,” Matthew remarked.
But that is just the beginning. Hancock Farms bales 70 acres of their own alfalfa and custom bales alfalfa for other customers. They also care for a small herd of commercial beef cows and around 25 dairy heifers.
Their workload grows exponentially in the summer months. The Hancocks employ two to three workers in the summer to help. It is not uncommon for Matthew and Taryon to work 80 hours a week in the height of hay season.
And just when one might think the Hancocks could not stack another job on their plate, you must add community involvement to the mix. Matthew serves on the Ash Grove School District Board of Education, Taryon works in food services for Ash Grove Schools, and they both are active members of their church. Not to mention they are raising two teenage girls, which is why they chose to get out of the dairy business in the first place.
Matthew and Taryon agree only time will tell if their new business venture will give them the freedom they were looking for – regardless, they plan to savor every moment of every day.