Dusty Lane Farms

Mike Brooks

Mike Brooks is an eighth-generation farmer who has decided at an early age to pursue agriculture as a career. This 22-year old started growing crops as a teenager and has increased his growing acreage to a total of 450-acres, consisting of spinach, tomatoes, corn, wheat, and soybeans. His dad, Bill, farms another 550-acres of potatoes, spinach, soybeans and peas. But “nowadays, it’s not the smartest thing to just rely on potatoes due to marketing conditions,” he says.

That’s why he’s in the third year of growing processing tomatoes. Yet the processing industry is experiencing change as well and he sees it moving towards increased consolidation. He even voiced his doubts that the processors currently working with New Jersey growers will be the same in 10 years and feels there is a limited future for process vegetables, because the inputs costs are too high. Making the move to fresh market vegetables in the future would require a whole shift in operating practices, he noted, but a decision he may have to make some day.

This is one reason why he feels, “You have to have a business perspective in agriculture because you have to change and adapt with the industry.”

He remarked that, “You also have to know a moneymaking proposition and a losing proposition.” To help offset some of the risks associated with marketing agricultural products, he purchased a tractor trailer and hired a driver to haul potatoes to Pennsylvania. When the truck is not used to haul potatoes, he hauls grain to Pennsylvania or he contracts with area nurserymen to haul nursery stock, therefore increasing his income. “Having the truck and trailer has increased our marketing leverage because when we need to haul our products it’s there.”

Staying in business will also take flexibility, he says. “We’re going to have to diversify in the future so we’ll have to be receptive to new ideas and to new ways of doing things.” There’s little doubt that Mike Brooks will have trouble doing so.

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