From Row Crops to Becoming a Dairy Farmer

First Financial Bank
Don Kinslow knows a few things about row crops, dairy cows, buying farmland – and blazing your own path.

As the top producer in Barren County, Kentucky for many years, the Kinslow family name was synonymous with tobacco. Though the tobacco industry provided well for Don’s family, he was ready to branch out on his own – as a dairy farmer. He graciously chatted with us about his decision, his success and shared what he’s learned along the way.

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get started?

I was born and raised here in Barren County. I grew up on my family’s tobacco farm. It was established and well-known in the area using traditional, old-school practices. Though the approaches had provided for our family for many years, I was ready to try some new ways of producing. I needed to choose my own path. I decided to become a dairy farmer.

How did you change from tobacco to dairy?

At first, I didn’t stop growing tobacco, but my wife gave me an ultimatum: be a tobacco farmer or a dairy farmer. She said I had to pick one or the other and do it wholeheartedly. I went with dairy since the market was shifting away from tobacco. For the last 30 years, I’ve been a dairy farmer. We’ve got 1,100 head of dairy cattle. We also grow soybeans and corn.

What are the biggest challenges in dairy farming?

Labor is an issue. I keep 17-18 employees at a time, not counting my son and son-in-law. My daughter and daughter-in-law also help when they can. I like staying busy, so I’m out there with them, milking cows and herding cattle. But we still need more help – and good help is hard to find lately.

We’d also like to expand our operations and that requires more land. Land values are up, but land prices have doubled in the last two years.

How did you connect with Aaron Miller and FFB?

Don’t tell him this, but I like his style – we laugh!

I’ve known Aaron for over ten years from when he worked for my previous lender. Aaron and I are on the same page about farming and business. I wasn’t happy banking where I was, and he wasn’t happy there either. When I found out he had changed places, I called him. He understood what it was like to be a farmer and was willing to fight for customers.

We discovered we had a personal connection, too. Aaron’s wife grew up just a county over from us, and I have known her and her family for a long time. When Aaron goes to visit his in-laws, he comes and visits me too.

Why did you choose to work with FFB for your financing?

First Financial Bank has been good to me, but I am here because of Aaron. He was my lender before, and when he left, I followed him. The way I see it, it isn’t about the financial institution but instead the lender. It is about the relationship. I enjoy visiting with him and having him on my side.

We visit about something I am thinking about doing before I purchase, and it helps to have someone who understands me. Aaron and I are on the same page about many things, including farming. It isn’t all about business. Sometimes Aaron calls and we talk about things for an hour, then he may call back and say, “Now, what did we decide to do?”

I have referred Aaron to my friends and other farmers in the area. They have had nothing but good experiences working with First Financial Bank and Aaron.

What do you see in your farming future?

We are coming out of a hard dairy expansion, so we are looking to purchase more land and expand our row crop farming. Plenty of land around us will be for sale in the coming years, and we plan to purchase some for expansion.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us as we wrap up?

I will leave you with a story about Aaron that everyone needs to hear.

Aaron called one Friday, and I could tell he was stressed. I told him to hang the phone up until Monday. I called him later to ask him a question, and he didn’t answer. Monday, he called me back, said he took my advice, and didn’t return work calls until today. Everyone needs to slow down sometimes and put the phone down until Monday.

Want to visit with one of our knowledgeable lenders? Let’s chat.

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