Top Story, March 1, 2014
Innovation runs in family for DuBois in Pittsgrove
By MICHEL ELBEN
PITTSGROVE — Siblings Byron DuBois and Crystal DuBois Taylor have made a successful transition from their father’s operation to their own operation by using a lot of ingenuity and a little technology.
“I’m so glad they have taken over,” said their father Henry DuBois. “They have some different ideas but we talk about them — they have lots of different ideas — but when I was younger, I had different ideas too.”
Like his children, Henry said when he was younger he was always ready to try new things.
“I was the first out here to do center pivot irrigation, now the area’s covered with them,” he said. “Then, I wanted to try an articulating 200-plus-horsepower tractor. So I started bringing stuff in from the Midwest. It all had to do with efficiency.”
Efficiency is what motivates Byron too, Henry said. “He always wants to find the right products,” he said.
“It’s about getting things done on time,” said Byron.
The family farms more than 4,000 acres. There are 2,000 acres of corn, 650 acres of wheat, 1000 acres of soybeans, 350 acres of spinach, 160 acres of processing tomatoes, 200 acres of hay, 300 acres of southern grains, and 200 acres of sweet corn in a 13-mile radius.
The farm has 11 full-time employees including cousin Steve DuBois who is the assistant manager. He runs the harvest crews and does most of the spraying.
“We couldn’t have accomplished all that we have done without the help and dedication of our employees,” said Crystal.
Shannon DuBois helps out after her full time job on nights and weekends during harvest season.
“They were with me from the time they were able to walk,” Henry said. “But they had to want to come back to the farm after college.”
Byron and Crystal are the seventh generation to run the farm.
Crystal went to Penn State University and earned a business degree in 2003. She is taking over for her mother, Marlene, in the farm’s administrative duties.
Byron earned an ag business degree at Delaware Valley College in 2005 and is taking over general management duties.
In 2010, the family adopted the name Spring Brook Farms to embrace the new partnership. They hold family meetings over coffee each day and try to communicate about everyday operation.
“We plan for things but it’s not set in stone,” said Byron.
“But we always try to see what’s going on,” said Crystal. “Communication is key to making things work.”
If they can’t meet in the morning, they always check in via phone to keep each other informed.
They also said it’s really important to “tell Dad and tell Mom and to keep everyone on the same page.”
“It was nice for Dad to say, ‘here’s the reins,’ but he’s still there to help guide,” said Byron. “He has 40 some years of experience but he’s still there to say, “Dad, what do you think?”
“And I can still say, “Mom, how did you do this?” said Crystal.
“We’re really fortunate that our parents did that because I see our friends from college whose grandparents are still transitioning to their parents and they’re all full of energy and want to do and try things and we started transitioning a long time ago,” said Byron.
Byron said his father can now “do whatever he wants and not have to worry about what’s going on at home.”
Henry said he likes to get out in the field more and work on the tillage tractors and “now I get to work more in the shop and do more hands on stuff than I got to do before.”
“He doesn’t have to stress out as much,” said Crystal.
“You’ve got to prove that you need to try things,” Byron said. “It’s not going to happen overnight. Keep proving your point multiple times about a different vegetable or kind of equipment. Whenever they’re ready they’ll try it.”
In 1998, Byron influenced Henry to try steering light bars for spreading fertilizer to lessen chemical costs. It worked. In 2009, they bought a tractor with autopilot for tillage work and “right away we got 10 to 15 percent more done.”
“You shouldn’t be scared of technology,” said Byron. “It’s not as hard as you think it might be.”
In the fall of 2009, the DuBois family tested out a real-time kinetic spinach tractor after getting set up with virtual reference station subscription, “really reducing initial costs,” Byron said.
The auto steering allowed him to be “a lot more comfortable and not as wore out from concentrating,” Byron said.
“I had to stop at 8 p.m. and now I can run until midnight if it’s going to rain,” he said.
The family decided to adopt the auto steering in their spinach planter, cultivator, corn and bean-planting tractor, combine, tillage tractors and sprayer.
Byron said, “Some people can’t get over cost but once you have it you wish you’d had it all along.”
“You’re using the equipment to its fullest width,” said Henry. “You can go right out to the edge.”
“It boils down to efficiency and ease of operation,” said Henry. “The kids have different jobs and it makes everything a lot easier. And the technology they put on the equipment came in at just about the right time…Some are shocked that I relinquished to the younger generation already…I didn’t pressure anyone to come back.
“But I figure if they’re looking at me in the coffin, the operation will go on smoothly cause they’ve been honed. Byron carries his iPad with him. He can look up the property lines with his GPS right on his phone…it worked out real well. It all came together at the same time. It flowed right together.”