Perseverance Amid Tough Circumstances

COVID-19 created tough circumstances for brothers Chris and Jason Sylte, and the multi-state grain and cattle farm operation their family has owned for more than a half century. Their concerns revolved around the health and safety of employees, marketplace pressures and the shutdown of ethanol plants that were no longer taking grain.

“The pandemic was a real wake-up call for what can happen in the commodities market,” Chris Sylte said. “Through that, and through all the business challenges we faced, we persevered by staying calm, not taking unnecessary risks and not wavering from the long-term plan we had in place.”

Sylte Farms managed to stay strong in 2020 across the three main parts of the business—food, trucking and rental housing. The South Dakota-based farm also includes a commercial grain elevator and 80,000 acres in Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma. The Syltes also run a 1,000-plus calf/cow operation in northeast Texas as well as a commercial trucking operation for hire to haul grain. A subsidiary, S&S Rentals, offers affordable residential living options in South Dakota.

I would describe CoBank Farm Credit Leasing as being a very reliable partner over the years.

– Chris Sylte, Owner, Sylte Farms

“When we saw oil trade negative and big fluctuations in the commodities market, we worked diligently through adversity from day one,” Jason Sylte said. “In trucking, for instance, we coordinated closely with local co-ops to keep our supply chain running and all 20 of our semis going. We’re grateful for the hard work and dedication of our drivers, dispatchers, mechanics and other employees who came through for us.”

Sylte Farms did experience significant revenue drops initially, Chris Sylte said, but by the second half of 2020, they were able to recover. They limited their “financial pain” with key operational adjustments, government assistance and access to good credit. For more than a decade, Sylte Farms has been a customer of Farm Credit Services of America and CoBank Farm Credit Leasing, which offers flexible leasing options for vehicles, equipment and facilities. Over that time, the Sylte brothers have leased grain facilities, trucks, farm equipment and farm shops they have constructed.

“I would describe CoBank Farm Credit Leasing as being a very reliable partner over the years,” Chris Sylte said. “They’ve put structure and flexibility into our financing. They also have the tools and resources to maintain our equipment, our truck fleets, and our rolling stock in a way that gives us faith and confidence, making our circumstances much easier, especially during the pandemic.”

2021 will mean the continuation of a host of farm-related challenges, such as heightened volatility in commodity markets. Still, Sylte Farms is “cautiously optimistic” about the year ahead. “Farmers are typically optimistic,” Jason Sylte said. “We plan to maintain that optimism and transfer that culture to everyone around us.”