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Growing Business

Hoogland Custom Chopping, LLC

Posted by Eric Walhof on Thursday, January 21, 2021

When the Hoogland Family’s dairy farm was handed to the next generation, they knew it was time to expand the operation. Learn how they started Hoogland Custom Chopping with help from Northwest Bank.

image of the Hoogland Family

The Hoogland Family Farm: A Northwest Iowa Legacy

The legacy of the Hoogland Family was built in much the same way as many farm families in America’s heartland: from humble beginnings. In 1962, when Alvin Hoogland was just a kid, he and his family moved to an acreage in the Siouxland area in Northwest Iowa and started their dairy farm, which now goes by the name of Highland Milk, Inc. Nearly 50 years later, Alvin still operates the dairy farm in Orange City, although his three sons, Justin, Aaron and Andy, have taken over much of the day-to-day work and the diversification of their agricultural operation.

Over the years, the dairy farm has grown in many ways. In 1990, they rebuilt a barn that was damaged by a tornado; in 1994, they added a freestall barn to accommodate 180 cows; and then around 2000, they added a commodity shed and a calf shed. The biggest project occurred in 2012 when they built a new parlor.

“This expansion allowed us to increase milk capacity and improve cow comfort,” Alvin said. “It is a very high-quality facility and it’s better for the employees too.”

Shortly after the beginning of the new millennium, the Hooglands realized they would need to diversify their business to financially support not only Alvin and his wife, but also the kids and their families as they became adults. The result of this realization was the founding of Hoogland Custom Chopping.

The Next Generation: Hoogland Custom Chopping

The momentum for the founding of Hoogland Custom Chopping began when Justin, Aaron and Andy were in high school. Whenever they had extra money, they would purchase cattle for the dairy to generate cashflow for themselves. By 2003, they had enough money to buy their first chopper and, in 2006, they started operating as a business.

Today, they have four choppers and a crew of around 30 that works all harvest to cut silage and grind corn for cattle producers. To find their crew, the Hooglands don’t usually have to look far.

“It’s people who are kind of like us,” Justin explained. “Some are from church; some are farmers just like us, who have some free time during the harvest season, and we have some family members as well. We have two brothers-in-law that help us and a few relatives that help drive trucks and run tractors.”

Alvin also helps with running equipment, keeping everything up and running with parts and fuel and, sometimes, even by delivering food to the crew.

The schedule for the chopping business is very flexible – sometimes by choice, and sometimes by force – with the crew frequently working until after 2 a.m. The biggest driver in their schedule, however, is the weather.

“We’re trying to get a product with a certain moisture content, so if it’s going to be hot and dry, they expect us to push hard,” Andy said. “If rain is in the forecast, we have to keep running until it rains.”

In a normal year, they start chopping in mid-to-late-August and it takes them about 25 days, extending to late September. This year, they were facing 90-degree temperatures and 40-mile-per-hour winds, which was causing the crop to dry out too fast, so they finished for the year in just 13 days.

Aaron, Andy and Justin fix up their choppers whenever it’s needed throughout the year, but the biggest push is once the season is over and through the winter.

“We like to do a lot of the repairs ourselves and we know the machine inside and out,” Aaron said. “I think that’s something we picked up on as young kids, just pulling things apart, learning how it worked and putting it back together to make it better.”

A Banking Relationship Based on Trust

The Hooglands have been working with Northwest Bank for generations. Alvin’s parents did business with them, as did Alvin and his children after him. Northwest Bank and their commercial bankers were there for the Hooglands to finance the new parlor in 2012; they were there for them during a particularly rough year in 2009; and they helped the family obtain an SBA Loan when they started Hoogland Custom Chopping in 2006.

The biggest part of the relationship is their trust in each other. The Hooglands reach out to their commercial banker, Eric Walhof, on a regular basis just to keep him up to date on what they are doing and to get his feedback on their financial decisions. This way Eric can always be thinking about the best way to help them achieve their long-term goals. 

Expanding the Legacy

What originally began out of necessity has become a successful and lucrative business for the Hoogland family. With help from their long-term friends at Northwest Bank, the Hooglands were able to expand their dairy farm over the years and expand their agricultural operation with the launch of Hoogland Custom Chopping.

We helped the Hooglands and we can help you expand your business too. Contact an agricultural banker today to get the conversation started!

Small Business Financing for the Next Step

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The Author

Eric Walhof

Eric Walhof

Regional Bank President

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