Lone Star Family Farms
Nestled into the Texas panhandle, Lone Star Family Farms was brought to life in 2009 by five dedicated family members. Driven by passion and hard work, the team manages a broad array of crops spread over 55,000 acres. Employing 50 full-time employees, their head count spikes to 80 during peak season. Lone Star Family Farms employs skilled personnel who are self-sufficient and dependable. Conservis helps the team achieve daily operational goals with optimal efficiency. Lone Star Family Farms clearly provides a positive work environment for their employees and family.
Lone Star's assorted grain production is fully irrigated, which helps their crops grow in particularly dry conditions. They are devoted to profitable, efficient production of high-yield crops through the use of time-saving technology. This profit-minded foresight made them a great fit for cost-saving farm management software.
It’s evident that Lone Star Family Farms also cares deeply about the environment and the impact of agriculture on the economy. The business leverages cutting-edge technology to operate at maximum efficiency, while carefully protecting natural resources. This helps grow a successful and economically viable-business that will continue on the legacy for future generations to come.
At a glance
Lone Star Family Farms
Headquarters: Sunray, TX
Crops Grown: Corn, Blue Corn, Canola, Wheat,
Seed Sorghum, Cotton, Triticale, Rye, Barley
Communication to Field Workers
Lone Star’s primary challenge was tracking grain from the field to its point of delivery, whether that be an elevator, customer, on-farm storage, or other location. General Manager, Justin Crownover, knew several farmers in the Family Farms Group who were using Conservis to track their grain. Lone Star wanted another inspection point, to ensure no blind spots existed in their operation.
“That's the reason we adopted Conservis initially, because the system gave us another check within that information flow,” said Operations Manager, Curtis Neely. Lone Star’s growth mindset and mission for efficient production of high-yield crops created a desire for an accurate, organized dataset to drive their bottom line.
Equipment Manager, Scott Burdge, stated that Conservis work orders save him considerable time by communicating field activities to field workers. “It's helped us go from the old way, which was papers and more time-consuming work for me and my supervisors,” Scott said.
Recovered Grain Loads
Justin initially chose to implement Conservis on wheat and canola, of which they harvest around 100-150 loads per season. Ensuring no load was lost, misplaced, or linked to another farmer or field, was more of a problem than Lone Star ever dreamt possible. “The canola is a high value crop and we lost a load and caught that, so it was worth probably $20,000,” stated Justin. “Then we had two loads of wheat that we'd lost out of 100-150 and it [Conservis] more than paid for itself.”
Right there and then, Justin knew that if they were losing that kind of money on wheat and canola, there was the potential for even greater loss in corn. Lone Star immediately implemented Conservis on all remaining crops.
“Even the first year we used it, it was around 40 loads of grain that we had lost in the process that Conservis found us. Some of those loads would not have been recorded at all if we had not caught them on Conservis.”
Inventory Control Specialist, Michael Kitchen, recalls how antiquated the management of harvest season was, prior to Conservis. He used spreadsheets to document every load and as you might guess, he doesn’t miss that time-consuming task one bit. He was grateful when Justin asked him if he’d be interested in using a software program. “I would say probably over the last six years that we've used Conservis on the harvest side, I've probably saved us 30 loads of corn that went to the co-op that they didn't have any record of,” said Michael. “We've had a couple loads that disappeared. They went to somewhere we don't know. We were able to approach that truck driver and find out that he didn't deliver it where he said he delivered it. So yeah, it's very instrumental.”
“At the beginning, it was like an aha moment that we saved that $20,000 or $40,000,” stated Justin. “Today it's more like it's just standard operating [procedure]. One thing is that the elevators know that we're using it, and so they make an extra effort to do a good job for you.”
Real-Time Field Visibility
Lone Star’s acreage has expanded significantly over the years. Presently overseeing 55,200 acres with a growing team that largely consists of seasonal employees leaves ample room for error. The full team knows their farm operations have a lot of moving parts. Using Work Orders, the ability to quickly communicate changes to field workers on the fly is a big asset.
Curtis uses the Clipboard app to track field progress. He knows the accuracy is strong. When workers pull up their tickets, they show the precise applications that occurred. This data transfers to the office and inventory is adjusted in real time, automatically. Curtis has pushed Conservis adoption in other areas of the system because he recognizes the value in having information flow back to the office.
“As tight as margins are, there's no room for error. And even if margins are good, why do you want to not capture it all? At the end, you really want to be successful, and I think that [Conservis] allows us to be successful at any size.”
“To plug the holes of leakage on something this size is pretty hard to do,” Curtis said. “So, making sure our inventories are right and the applications went to the right fields and we know what happened, is huge.” Lone Star field workers submitted 4,000 Work Order tickets last year and of those, there were three problems. “And so, the percentage was very, very good,” said Curtis.
Michael enjoys having real-time visibility to his workers’ progress. “I'm able to track in real time, from when the worker goes from the field to the co-op,” said Michael. The system provides comment boxes when you're creating grain tickets, allowing workers to leave notes documenting any deviations that occur. He sees efficiency and value in this tool.
Michael appreciates the visibility into inventory and instant access to seed and chemical applications too. The ability to see all this remotely is another win for Michael. “I could be vacationing, and somebody asks me a question. I can go to my phone app and pull up information right there,” stated Michael. “I don't have to worry about coming to my computer when I'm 360 miles away. So no, it's very handy. It's real time.” Equipment Manager, Scott, agrees. “Clipboard is huge for us, especially during harvest, because I'm never at the office,” Scott said. “I'm always in the truck, running around and you can just pull it up on the iPad. I mean, it's dummy-proof. It's color coordinated. ‘Well, that's done, that's done, that's done.’ And for a guy like me, I want to see all those colors changing. That means we're getting close.” Scott is grateful for the color-coded fields that provide instant knowledge into the status of each field.
“I would say Conservis saves most days in being able to operate in the way we run,” stated Agronomist, Marc Nutter. “Sometimes things change quickly and being able to get those changes communicated out to everybody that needs to know is the biggest aid.”
Crop Insurance Claims
“The piece that's made it easier for us is we've had some insurance issues,” Justin stated. In 2017, Lone Star experienced fumonisin problems on their land. According the National Corn Growers Association, fumonisin is one of the two main myotoxins that affect corn. It is caused by the fusarium family of molds and can be quite toxic to certain species.
This prompted insurance indemnity to become involved and Justin was pleased to say that their insurance company expedited their claim due to the precise records stored within the system. “They allowed us to use our Conservis information to help expedite the insurance claim. And that was really nice to have and be able to work through that with the Conservis information,” said Justin.
Record Keeping & Reports
Before Conservis, Equipment Manager, Scott, recalls back to having paper records and loose pieces of paper that would make their way to him, before finally getting to the back office. He recognizes that the electronic way of today is more accurate. “It may have the same data, but going straight from their iPad on the handheld to the office for the inventory people, it’s more accurate just because it delivers it more reliably,” Scott said.
“I don't have to go to a manilla folder back in the stockroom and look for something. It's just right there.”
Michael echoes a similar feeling as he talks about the team working in the field. “Because in the past, they would just write it down on a piece of paper and put it in their back pocket,” he stated. “I'd be lucky to get it seven days later.” Michael enjoys having easy access to records dating back to their first year with Conservis.
Michael uses reports to recap crops, acres, FSA data, counties and yields. He can quickly generate and sort the info he needs, making reporting to the team easy and enjoyable.
In Texas, a substantial percentage of crops raised are done so for cattle feed. In the case of Lone Star Family Farms, however, there is a primary focus on producing crops for human consumption. As an agronomist, Marc recognizes that with the way things are headed, people prefer to know more about the origins of their food. Whether it’s spurred by food safety concerns or health and wellness, this consumer trend gives a leg up to farms that use Conservis, because full traceability is baked into the platform.
Having input data including detailed ingredients within each chemical, seed and fertilizer, works as a big advantage. “That traceability where we can track everything we do, everything that went on that field from planting all the way through harvest, and to be able to show that to the end user, I think is a big benefit,” said Marc.
Curtis is grateful to the Conservis Customer Success team who helped Lone Star Family Farms adopt, implement and learn the software. Conservis assisted in developing an operating procedure that their full team now follows. “The customer service team has been wonderful,” said Curtis. “Eric (Conservis Customer Success team) has been invaluable throughout this whole process because we've talked to Eric since day one.” Michael feels the same. “I can't say enough about them,” he stated. “The thing that I like is there's not a bad time for me to call. They're awesome. There's not a dumb question. When I call there, I know I'm not going to get, ‘God, are you kidding me? You're asking me that question?’ They're very straightforward and they're great, very customer service oriented. That's important to me.”
“We went over all the things that we were trying to do and it was wonderful to have that level of support to ensure we would be successful.”