Hord family farm supports promise of quality
BUCYRUS, OH -- The Hord family has built their empire on the promise of quality, and it has held firm for six generations.
When owner Robert "Duane" Hord says he knows exactly what's in his products, he means it. He can show you.
First they plant and harvest 6,500 tillable acres and buy other grains directly from local farmers, which they use to manufacture 4,000 tons of feed each week. They feed the grains to their cattle and hogs raised on contracted farms across 12 counties. The manure from the livestock is used to fertilize their fields, and the cycle starts over again.
"This is a product where you know what the animal is getting from start to finish," Hord said. "People appreciate that. They want to know where their food comes from and we want to show them."
Though Hord claims his three-tiered business — Hord Livestock, Hord Family Farms and Hord Elevator — as a six-generation farm, really the Hord farm is a long-standing tradition. His great grandfather supported a farm, as did generations before that in a time when every family had to grow their own food.
Hord's father concentrated the business to feed and some hogs, and Duane grew it from there.
In addition to helping out on his father's farm, Hord started his own custom bailing hay and straw business at age 14. By 17, he purchased his own 154-acre farm with the help of his father and started growing the business when he graduated from high school the next year.
"I wanted to farm," Hord said. "That was my passion."
He purchased his first grain set-up in 1968, two years after marrying his wife, Inez. That's when things really took off. He purchased more land, more livestock inventory and more equipment.
The farm grew again in 1975, 1979 — also the year they incorporated, 1986, 1987, 1993 and 2008, but Hord's first farm has remained center to it all.
Their newest ventures include being a shareholder in a Hatfield Quality Meats plant in Michigan and a new grain elevator outside of Edison, which will increase storage one million bushels, Hord said.
"It was kind of overwhelming at times, but I trusted his judgment," Inez said. "I was raising the kids, but I kept books, ran tractor — whatever necessary, I was by his side."
"He saw the big picture," Inez said.
Today, Hord farms has the capacity of housing 950 head of cattle, which he finishes and sells to Tyson and JBS. Some of that meat is labeled certified Angus beef, he said.
They also raise 200,000 hogs from birth to market. Pigs are currently sent to Hatfield Quality Meats in Pennsylvania, but by 2018, half of their hog production will be shipped to the new Hatfield plant in Michigan.
Roughly 175 full-time employees help support their sustainable agriculture dream.
"I don't think size (of a farm) has a lot to do with (success)," Hord said. "It's important you have a good structure of what you're going to do, then you need good communication so everyone knows what needs to be done. You need enough capital to be able to buy inputs, and you need to gain the confidence of the people you deal with."
Speaking from his own experience: "Twenty years ago, contracting pig (barns) was a new idea, so people had to have confidence the idea was going to work," Hord said.
In the interest of transparency and bolstering his initial promise of quality, Hord is also in the process of finishing a visitor center that will showcase the farm's growth over the years, from Hord's father down to his grandson, who is the newest addition. It will also allow visitors to take a virtual tour of his barns and meet the other growers who feed into his production.
He hopes the center will be open by fall.
"My family has been in the area since 1840 on my mom's side and about 1860 on my dad's side. Building relationships with people and being in an area where you have roots is important," Hord said. "It's not important which state or county you're in, but it is important to build on what you have and your family history."