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KiplingerNov 24, 2020
Growing the Family Business
Profile Who: Larkin Martin, 57 What: Farm owner and manager Where: Courtland, Ala. How big is your farming operation? We have about 12 employees who help farm owned and rented land. I am the seventh generation of my family to manage a continuous operation. We grow cotton, corn, soybeans and wheat, although the size and crop mix has changed many times over the years.

SEE MORE What Farmer Joe Can Teach Us About Investing Who are your buyers? The corn we raise tends to have a very local market, to the people who supply the poultry industry. Most of our wheat is barged out to New Orleans to be exported. And a lot of cotton is exported in raw form to manufacturers of yarns all over the world. Asia—especially China—is the largest region of textile manufacturing. We sell soybeans mostly to a big industrial facility close to here.

Has the pandemic affected you? Farm work was deemed essential, so we've had to change very little about our operational procedures. And the nature of the work is socially distant—although I've had a member of my family come down with the virus, and I had to isolate from the employees. Luckily, we haven't had an employee come down with the virus so far. But the pandemic disrupted trade and supply-chain patterns that were already under strain. Preceding COVID, we had a downturn in prices for most of the commodities we raise. And in some cases, this downturn was exacerbated by COVID's impacts on trade.

Did tariffs imposed by the Trump ad­ministration affect your production in recent years? The tariffs disrupted trade patterns—significantly with China. And China's purchases of U.S. commodities declined dramatically in response to them. S

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