What is in this article?:
• Garrett Qualls is running things on the Qualls farm these days. His father turned over management of the operation several years ago.
• Garrett is only 24, but has deminstrated the maturity and management skills to get the job done.
• Of course, there are a few things he can still learn from his father.
GARRETT QUALLS was ready to take over management duties on the farm at 24 years of age. His father, Kenny, didn’t see any point in waiting and promptly gave him the responsibility.
Fundamentals in place
Some fundamentals had to be in place, Kenny said. “He had to be stable. Loretta (Kenny’s wife) and I were real strict parents, anybody around here will tell you that. We didn’t put up with a lot of nonsense and foolishness. We were very fortunate that our children have been good citizens as well as children. Garrett is more mature at his age than a lot of people.”
“He’s been guiding me for a long time, showing me the way, so that I would be prepared for this day,” said Garrett, who is building a home with his wife, Lauryn, within walking distance of the farm’s headquarters. “But you can’t be completely prepared in farming. You’re never ready to take on the responsibility because you’re never sure what it’s going to throw at you. But I was very happy that he had enough faith in me to let me do it on my own.”
The job is difficult at times, Garrett says. “It’s just a year round process these days. You’re so connected to information all the time. It’s hard to take it all in and keep up with it. It seems like there’s no break to take off and go hunting for the winter. You have to be on your toes, marketing grain and everything else. But I really enjoy it. It’s not a job to me. It’s a way of life, and I enjoy being out here.”
Kenny isn’t at all fazed by his phase out, preferring to look at the situation with humor. “I have been promoted to vice president of special projects. That means I get the job that nobody else wants. I am the combine driver, the dirt buggy and backhoe operator. He does the rest. He picks the seed. He buys inputs, locks in prices and handles all the USDA and FSA paperwork.”
Kenny studied estate planning to make sure the transition goes smoothly, while minimizing tax exposure. “You have to think long-term.”
“We started off with making him a partner, and I gave him half of the equipment. As we update equipment, he will slowly get the bigger share. I have a daughter, Shelby, who’s not on the farm so whatever I gave him in value, I’m trying to provide her. So we offset the equipment with a life insurance policy to try and keep everything even. It’s a lot more detailed than it seems. I’m putting all my land in a company trust, or LLC, so that it will stay with the family after we are gone.”
Meanwhile, Kenny enjoys his leadership role. He’s a member of the Cotton Board and the Arkansas Farm Bureau and the Arkansas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation. And he’s quick to point out that he still enjoys working on the farm.
“He’s the best partner you could have,” Garrett said. “I would hope he would say the same for me. It’s nice having a guy with that much experience in your back pocket. You can go and ask advice when times look tough or you’re having trouble. You can always ask Dad. Chances are he’s seen it or something close to it.”