Agriculture is in Garrett Riekhof’s blood, and that’s a big reason why he planted his roots on his family’s white corn and soybean farm in rural Missouri.
Riekhof is a fourth-generation farmer who lives and works on the land he grew up on in Higginsville, a small community located about 50 miles east of Kansas City. He returned to the farm after graduating from the University of Missouri with an agricultural economics degree in 2003. He and his wife, Cara, who is also a Higginsville native and Mizzou graduate, began managing the operation in 2011 and formed GR Farms, LLC.
“Farm work always intrigued me,” Garrett Riekhof says. “I liked the idea of being outside all the time. As I got older, I wondered if I would come back to the farm, and my parents never assumed I would – they wanted me to make my own decisions – but I decided to come back home after college.”
When he first returned to the farm, Riekhof helped his father, Gary, manage the operation. After his work was complete, Garrett worked for other businesses, helping him gain additional experience and making invaluable community connections.
“My parents instilled in me that if you’re not busy, you find work,” Riekhof says.
That work ethic has served him well, and since taking control of the operation, he has grown its reach and hired three employees. In addition, he has continued in his father’s footsteps by utilizing the latest agricultural technology.
“GR Farms is at the early adapter stage of employing the technology that’s available in the agriculture industry,” Cara Riekhof says. “Garrett is not afraid to try new things.”
For example, Garrett practices zone-management farming by collecting and analyzing soil data to identify the soil’s fertility and water-holding capacity, which helps him determine its potential yield and gives him the ability to manage each zone individually. He also employs nitrogen application timing techniques with his white corn crop, and he uses the data gleaned from each harvest to create a “prescription” for the soil and crops going forward.
“Garrett is the kind of farmer who doesn’t hire much out because he likes to learn and manage his business at an intense level,” Cara says.
Both Garrett and Cara say their community has been an important part of their success, and they have given back by serving as local leaders since returning home after college.
Garrett works on the farm full time and holds leadership positions on a variety of community boards alongside Cara, who also works for her in-laws’ crop insurance business and is a volleyball coach at their children’s school.
“When two hometown kids come back to small-town America, everyone tends to become their cheerleaders,” Cara says. “There were lots of people who were excited we were returning to the community, and we’ve built a supportive network here. We wouldn’t be where we are or who we are without our tight-knit community.”
The couple now has three children – Annika, Makenna and Garrison – and they plan to continue growing their operation’s production and contributing to their community while hopefully passing on their legacy to the next generation.
“We believe you build what you become,” Cara says. “Our goal is to always keep at the forefront the reason why we do what we do, and that’s to teach and train the next generation to leave something better than you found it while understanding the importance of things outside of yourself.”