July 2, 2003 - Marshall County Journal: Nepal RPCV Clark Moeckly passing seed company on to the next generation

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Nepal RPCV Clark Moeckly passing seed company on to the next generation

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Business Of The Month*

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Business Of The Month
July 02, 2003

Not many years ago Clark Moeckly was asked what would become of his business when he decided to retire.

Clark had joined his father, Dick, in the farming and seed operation west of Britton after earning an ag degree from South Dakota State University in 1966 and spending a couple of years in Nepal with the Peace Corps. He and his wife, Pam. had three daughters - Vicki, Andrea, and Kimberly - but all three had married and were living elsewhere.

"My answer was that it was something I would have to work out within the next five years," remembered Clark. "But it was all figured out for me."

Today two of those daughters and spouses have moved back to be a part of the business, and indications are that the operation will be "all in the family" for some time to come with each family having two children.

Vicki and Tom Henschel were the first to make the move. Tom is a Martin native and after working a variety of jobs after high school went back to get his ag degree from South Dakota State in 1992. After graduation Vicki was teaching in South Shore and Tom was hoping to get a job in the cattle business.

"I had always thought it would be nice to move back," said Vicki, "and one day Dad asked Tom if he would want to work for him."

Clark Moeckly had joined his father in the farming and seed operation west of Britton after earning an ag degree from South Dakota State University in 1966 and spending a couple of years in Nepal with the Peace Corps.

"I told him he could work for a month, six months or a year while he was looking for something else, and that was seven years ago (1996)," said Clark with a pleased smile.

Tom initially worked in the seed operation, a business he had grown up with. But in 1998 Clark decided to get back into the cattle business. Dick had fed up to 1100 cattle at one time, but that operation was discontinued in 1972. Today Tom heads up a cow-calf operation of 70 pairs.

Andrea and Darian Kilker were the next ones to make a move. Darian also grew up in the Britton area, but Andrea had never planned to return to her home town.

"I always said I would never come back to Britton," Andrea recalled. "But we had been talking about it, and we decided to move from Fargo in March of 1997."

Darian had been working as a mechanic, and he took over the farming operation of the family business, which includes about 4,000 acres, and he handles the mechanical work. Andrea took over the accounting, giving Clark more time to devote to the seed operation.

While not a part of the family business, Kimberly and her husband are also moving back to South Dakota from Phoenix this summer to take teaching jobs at Watertown.

"We had always had some employees but went to a totally family operation about four years ago," said Clark.

"And it has worked well for us. That fact that both families had been out doing other things and then came back I think is also an advantage."

The Moeckly clan is a bit unique in that two daughters came back to the farm.

"I think one of the things that makes it click maybe better than a father-son situation is that both daughters knew what they were getting into. Sometimes the spouse is an unknown factor and can feel left out," Clark noted. "And the whole family is part of the management of the thing."

Dick and his wife, Alice, moved to town to make room for the rest of the family on the farm, but he is still an integral part of the family business. His father, Charlie, came from Ankeny, IA, and after a stop in Dell Rapids purchased the farm west of Britton in 1916. Dick began selling seed corn in the 1960's and in his first year earned a trip to the World's Fair in New York for seed sales.

Today he's not retired, "just tired," he says, and still assists with the business and "gives wisdom," according to Andrea. And he is pleased to see that the business will remain in the family.

"It's been very rewarding to see them come back," Dick said.

Diversifying the business has helped the business survive when others have not. And the seed business is a major part of that.

"We started cleaning seed for our own use in 1976 and by the late 70's started selling mainly wheat and barley to neighbors," said Clark. "Today we raise all the spring wheat seed that we sell and condition and sell a lot of soybeans. We also grow seed for two commercial companies."

The business sells only certified seed, meaning that it must go through a strict process of testing. About half of the farm's tillable acres are planted in soybeans, 25 percent in wheat and 25 percent in corn, but the business markets just soybeans and wheat for its seed business. The area's weather is not reliable enough to be a seed corn producer.

"When we develop seed an inspector walks the field prior to harvest, and the seed must also pass the purity and noxious tests to become registered seed. And genetics come into play when you sell it as certified seed. Seed is genetically tested to prove it is what you say it is. A lab test gives it a finger print."

The seed is marketing on a retail basis within a 50-60-mile radius of Britton. But seed is sold on a wholesale basis to buyers hundreds of miles away, including Canada.

"The seed operation makes us more fully employed on a year-round basis," noted Clark. "We also have the elevator and the cattle which does give us some diversity."

Clark also gives his father credit for helping the family business survive and thrive.

"He was willing to let the next generation have some responsibilities. And that's why a number of operations in Marshall County have been able to foster the next generation coming back to the farm, because Dad and others have provided a good environment."

©Marshall County Journal 2003

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Nepal; Agriculture; Seed; Family Business



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