Knowing an opportunity when you see it is key to building a successful business, say two Prince Edward Island brothers. So are preparation and confidence in your skills.
When the opening came to purchase their grandfather’s farm near Summerside and walk into a turn-key potato operation, Bryan and Kyle Maynard knew it was their chance.
“When the opportunity came up, we were both excited to take this on,” 31-year-old Kyle says of the 2015 farm purchase. The choice was either buy the farm or let it go. “We figured it could be something we’re good at.”
“I feel we had the expertise and experience to give us the right mix for success,” adds Bryan.
The brothers grew up on the farm, and Kyle went on to become a licensed machinist. He eventually moved from the shop into the office of an aerospace company where he became a customer service manager, dealing with international clients and gaining financial experience.
Meanwhile, Bryan, who is 33, continued to work alongside their grandfather, gaining invaluable first-hand experience.
Call to action
Their grandfather owned Arlington Farms and was a processing-potato grower for Cavendish. His decision, at age 80, that it was time to retire was a call to action for the brothers. They immediately went to work creating their business plan, securing financing and putting opportunity to work for them.
With product from the previous year still in storage – and the planting for the year ahead already laid out – Bryan and Kyle found themselves in a good position.
“We were in a unique situation where we hit the ground running,” Bryan says. “We had a contract to sell to the same client. A lot of the same employees were staying around.”
Taking over the operation was fast once the sale was complete, but moving from inception of an idea to purchasing the farm to completion of the sale was anything but. Negotiations began in 2014 and went on for about four months before an agreement was reached between the brothers and their aunt, who was negotiating the sale on behalf of her father.
“It was a very open transition,” Kyle recalls. “The biggest thing we had to figure out was, is this even possible? Can we service the debt?”
By the time they reached an agreement, they owned 70 per cent of the assets of Arlington Farms. Farmboys Inc. – a name that’s a tip of the hat to their father, Kent, who died in a farming accident in 1993 – was formed. “That’s what our father raised – two farm boys,” Bryan says.
Today’s farm is 3,000 acres, with about 1,400 acres of potatoes, 1,200 acres of cereals and the rest going to forages.
Even after the negotiations were over and the papers signed, the transition to full ownership was a challenge, Bryan says. Arlington Farms owned the stock from the previous growing year and still had employees on its payroll to handle that crop. Meanwhile, Farmboys was working toward full operation.
Part of the sales agreement, however, provided a detailed transition plan that outlined just about every scenario the two farms could encounter during the changeover. The agreement even covered snowstorms.
“It would have been difficult to get up in the middle of a snowstorm and wonder who is responsible for cleaning the yard. It can be an issue if you let it be an issue, but stick to your transition plan and it’s OK,” Bryan says. He notes the plan outlined which farm staff did the clearing, who paid the employee’s wages and who paid the tractor’s fuel when the yard was cleared of snow.
In the business they created, Kyle and Bryan say they’ve deliberately adjusted their cropping plan. Bryan had noticed over the years that about 25 per cent of the crop was always a challenge – whether during planting, harvest or sometime in between. When the Maynards were going through the purchasing process, they opted to reduce potato production by 25 per cent, making the operation tighter.
“It seemed like Arlington Farms was always about 25 per cent too thin,” Kyle says. “It would require investing in more equipment as well as more help to remain Arlington Farms size.” Farmboys wasn’t ready for either yet. “In the years to come, we’ll definitely look at growing. But now, this is much more manageable. It allows us to focus on quality rather than quantity. If we want to grow, I feel we’ll be more groomed for that later.”
Bryan and Kyle say they were fiercely competitive with each other as children, whether it was during a hockey game in the yard in the winter or playing baseball in the summer.
Today, as they walk the same farmyard they played in, they’ve redirected their competitive natures to take on potato farming.