Posts Tagged With: Kip Tom

Talking with an Indiana Farmer | Part 2

Kip Tom

Kip Tom

Today, I’m finishing up my interview with Kip Tom of Tom FarmsClick here to read Part 1.

AM: Like every job, I’m sure yours has ups and downs, good days and challenging ones.  What aspect of your job do you find most gratifying?  What has been the most challenging experience you’ve encountered as a farmer?

KT: One of the most gratifying experiences is 1.) seeing committed young people come into our business (or another farm) and engage in the work with a desire to make a difference, and 2.) having the opportunity to help them along the way.

I also enjoy opportunities to transfer knowledge of production agriculture and give others the opportunity to change their lives and businesses.  It’s exciting to ignite the spirit of entrepreneurism that is embedded in some people and watch it flourish.

One of the challenges I face is attempting to make a significant impact in consumer awareness of modern agriculture systems.  Another challenge is attempting to change and improve global food security when those in developing countries want to engage, but politics, governance or cultures do not allow it to happen.  It starts with our youth, and one person at a time.

(Photo by Borden)

(Photo by Borden)

AM: In the profile about you in “Indianapolis Monthly,” you said something about GMO crops providing millions of meals served to a starving world while noting there has not been one hospital visit reported because of GMO use.  Can you expound on that? How is modern agriculture and biotechnology helping to feed a starving world?

KT: First off, I will say that I and many in agriculture embrace all forms of food production, whether organic, natural, local or commercial modern agriculture.  We need them all for today and tomorrow. 

My reference to biotechnology was in respect to concerns about food safety.  Since 1996, the global population has consumed 17 trillion meals without one documented overnight hospital stay that was verified and attributed to approved biotech crops.

Biotechnology has delivered crops that have improved yields and productivity, including new advanced molecular breeding techniques and the ability to ward off pest more effectively.  The biotech changes have reduced the impact of pesticides to humans and the environment. 

Up to this time, most biotech crops benefits were focused on improving production.  Going forward, there has and will continue to be significant investments in developing seeds and traits that benefit the diets of consumers and livestock.  We will build coordinated supply chains that will deliver more value, and improve agriculture systems and those that agricultural systems support.

As the world’s population climbs to 9.3 billion people in tandem with improved diets, we will need to double the worlds food supply by 2050 with the same or fewer resources we have today while protecting the environment.  We are (and will be) merely using science in food production, just as we do in so many other areas of our human existence like medicine and technology.

Thanks Kip for some great insights into Indiana agriculture.  Do YOU have any questions about ag that you’d like to see answered on this blog?  If so, email me at Thanks for reading!

Categories: Farming in the 21st Century, The Faces of Modern Agriculture | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Talking with an Indiana Farmer | Part 1

Kip Tom

Kip Tom

Today, I have the privilege of introducing you to Kip Tom.  Kip is the CEO of Tom Farms, a family-owned business located in Northern Indiana.  Tom Farms was established by Everett and Marie Tom in 1952 and is currently one of the largest suppliers of seed corn to Monsanto.

Kip kindly agreed to do an email interview with me discussing sustainability, agriculture in the 21st century, and family business.  Enjoy the first part of the interview today, and check back for the rest of the interview on Thursday.

AM: Obviously, your family’s connection to agriculture is deep and important to you. How does your family’s farming history impact the way you think about the Ag industry?

KT: Our family settled in our community 176 years ago this summer, about seven generations before my children joined the business.  Each of us who have a role in this business must take responsibility to assure that the business continues.

AM: Sound economics and business principles are key components of running an operation that can last for multiple generations.  Why is it important to run a family farm using sound business principles?  How does a sound business model contribute to the overall livelihood of an operation?

KT: Oftentimes financial decisions have been made on the farm in the past with little-to-no due diligence.  A business can only survive through good and challenging times if the financial impact of all decisions is clearly understood prior to making the decision.  It is critical that leaders understand where the income and cost centers are, and how the contribute to the business’s bottom line.

AM: As I listen to the conversation surrounding agriculture, I hear a lot of talk about sustainability.  What does sustainability mean to you? How is an operation like yours sustainable?

KT: Sustainability is a word that can span many conversations, but to our business it means:

  1. Succession of the family business;
  2. Protection of all resources spanning generations; and,
  3. A systems approach to our manufacturing processes.

AM: You’ve spent many years on your family farm, and have also chosen to be actively involved in the national and international discussion about agriculture.  In other words, you have the knowledge and experience of working on the farm while also understanding the various dynamics of national and international Ag concerns.  From your perspective, what are the top three challenges farmers are facing in the 21st century?

(Photo by Roberts)

(Photo by Roberts)

KT: The first challenge I see is a failure to recognize that production agriculture is a manufacturing business and that we need to invest in developing a systems approach to producing the products that we “build” on our farms to feed the growing global demand.  Farm structures will be much different in the future as they are in essence a “biological manufacturing plant” producing food, fiber and energy.  Success in this endeavor will require extensive capital investments, coordinated supply chains, and talented management and staff.

Additionally, education will continue to be the differentiator in the future as it is now.  The successful farm business will need to have qualified leaders in the management positions as well have educated technical staff to operate the complexity of the “manufacturing plant”.

Finally, agricultural advocacy will continue to be a challenge with less connectivity between consumers and the farm.  It is the responsibility of our industry to step up from all levels and engage in local and global discussions.  We also have the responsibility of engaging with policy makers to ensure we are helping the food insecure.

Check back here on Thursday to hear more from Kip!

Categories: Agriculture in Indiana, Farming in the 21st Century, The Faces of Modern Agriculture | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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