Meet the Hanford Family

When it comes to sustainability, it’s not hard to think about the big picture at the Hanford family farm. Located on a hilltop that overlooks the Missouri River and the Highwood mountains, the stunning scenery served as a majestic reminder of the future.

While admiring the view, we were greeted by family dog Kona, followed by Howard and Nancy Hanford. Recently retired, the elder Hanford’s turned over the farming operation to son Brent and his family (wife, Jessica and children, McKenna, 17, and Brock, 15). However, due to intermittent rains and equipment challenges, all hands were on deck to finish the harvest with Howard and Nancy keeping a watchful eye on the elevator where Brock was bringing in truckloads of freshly harvested chickpeas, while Kona sought out some playtime.

According to Brock, busy had been the theme of the summer for the Hanford’s. After winter wheat harvest, there was a school trip to Europe. Pulses and beans were being harvested the day we visited, with spring wheat threshing set to commence the following week- the same as fall sports training for Brock and his sister McKenna, the 5th generation of Hanford’s to farm this land.

We spoke with Brock about his thoughts on the future of farming and he shared his love of the land and excitement over new technologies yet to come.

When the days’ activities were complete, Brent and Jessica joined us to discuss their approach to implementing sustainable practices. No-till farming has been in place for about 15 years (with rotation crops such as pulses in between wheat crops the last five). According to Brent, the improvement in the soil’s ability to hold moisture and nutrients has provided meaningful gains in yields, proving that environmental improvements need not come at the expense of economic gains.

The economics of farming are top of mind for growers like Brent. With the price of wheat similar to his grandfather’s time, the future of flour-based products came into the conversation when I asked Brent about consumer interest in where and how food is produced, as well as the demand for sustainable practices.

Brent hopes that ADM’s Grower Connect program can help communicate the responsible practices he has implemented and the value of such efforts. When asked what he wanted consumers to know about farming and sustainability, he paused, and then grinned.

“That we are producing a safe, healthy and responsibly grown product and that is worth something.”