In Town: Mike Bowman of Lebanon, Mo., operates two companies, Fences Unlimited, since 1999, and Top Line Tree Service, for the past three years. “If it’s a fence, I build it,” is the way Mike characterized his first company, which he started, as he said, to help pay the bills. He’s put up farm fences, residential fences, wrought iron and chain link, just to name a few. Top Line Tree Service was born out of the dire weather conditions following an ice storm. “There was a time there when we couldn’t do any fencing so instead of laying off 10 employees and having them go hungry, I started something else. It’s a supplemental company. We do a couple of jobs a month.”
In the Country: “I row crop 300 acres and put up 3,000 bales of hay and silage each year. I also have 100 head of cross bred cattle, mostly Angus. My father and grandfather were true farmers, doing nothing else but farming, and my mother and stepfather are dairy farmers. My son, Steven is a great help to me on the farm and can do everything I can do. I think growing up on the farm makes a big difference for a kid, teaching responsibility and respect for the land from the very beginning.”
How do you manage two companies in addition to farming?
“I wouldn’t recommend anyone to leave a job if they have one right now, and it may not be a good time to be going into business, but things have been good for me. We – I have anywhere from 4 to 18 employees, depending on the time of year – are always busy. There is no down time. Fences Unlimited has been going for 10 years now. I haven’t had a day without work. I’m grateful to my first clients, the Reids of the Shepherd of the Hills Cattle Company, who asked me to build about 8 miles of woven wire fence, with a line of barbed wire above and below, and I’ve been in business ever since.”
What motivates you to keep up with so much?
“I’d love to be a true farmer, doing nothing else, but that is just not an option today, for most of us. My family has always been farmers and this is the way I keep that going.”
By Laura L. Valenti