The Southern family works together to keep their family farm going
John Southern was raised on his family farm in Carl Junction, Mo.
His dad Lloyd Southern began farming in 1946 with some pigs and a few cattle. After coming back from the army in the 1960s he began farming full-time, raising wheat, soybeans, milo, corn and cattle.
After John and Kim married, and John continued to help his dad on the farm while being employed at Walmart. John and Kim built their house on his dad’s farm in 1995 where they have raised their two children Parker (22) and Grace (19). Parker is a Pittsburg State University graduate and is currently employed at UPS. Grace is a student and volleyball player at the University of Central Missouri, majoring in psychology.
John helped his dad on the farm until August 2019 when Lloyd suddenly became ill and passed away. John then took over the farm and with the help of family, has continued to keep it going.
John and his twin brother James are fourth-generation farmers who always helped their dad on the farm growing up.
“We didn’t know any better, that’s just what you did,” John said.
“When we were dating, if I wanted to see John, I had to go wait with him in the grain truck,” Kim recalled with a laugh. “He taught me how to drive the grain truck, and it’s still not pretty but it’s getting better.”
John has worked at Wal-Mart as a meat manager for more than 22 years. He works the 4 a.m. to 1 p.m. shift, which has allowed him to be off in time to help on the farm.
Kim is the director of training for McDonalds and has been there for 31 years. She also helps out on the farm when she is not at her day job.
The family raises wheat, double crop soybeans and corn on about 400 acres and uses liquid and dry fertilizer, which they hire out to be spread. They have about 60 black Angus cow/calf pairs and two bulls. While most of their calves go to the stockyards each year, they keep back about six or eight heifers. They raise their own hay, but hire someone to make the hay in the summer.
Together as a family, John, Kim, Parker and Grace work cows and keep the farm going. Parker feeds hay, combines, works ground or does just anything that John needs help with.
“I like helping and want to stay around here to see how far we can take it,” Parker said.
When working cows, Grace is the tagger and Kim draws up the shots. Kim also helps open gates, rounds up cows and drives the trucks to the elevator. James who is an accountant, also helps feed hay and checks the cows when needed.
“We all work together and get it done. I couldn’t do it without them. It takes everybody,” John said.
Before his passing, Lloyd made John a binder on things to remember such as how to set the planter.
“My dad was always there to tell me how to do it and then now he’s not,” John said. “You kind of question yourself even though it is something you have done your whole life.”
John would like to see the farm passed down to the kids to keep it going.
“We are not real big, but you can make a living at it,” he said. “It would be nice to have bigger equipment and newer stuff, but it’s paid for. It might not be fancy and shiny, but it still works. Dad was a big believer in making sure to pay for something. He didn’t like taking loans out on anything. His big saying was that you have to live within your means and if you’re going to do something, do it right. Don’t half do it.”
While everyone helping on the farm is also employed elsewhere full-time or going to school, John said they take it “one day at a time and we all do it together.”
“You have good days, and you have bad days,” he said. “You’ve got to wake up, put one foot in front of the other and start over. Not everything turns a profit, but Dad always said the sun will come up tomorrow, you just have to keep going and he’s right.”