Member of Distinction: Southeast Area — Green Valley Farms

Written by Marjie Knust
1 of 1

Second chances are rare, and members of the Hockett family is not wasting thiers.

In 2009, Keith and Herschel Hockett watched helplessly as the dairy their father started in 1946 in Randleman, N.C., hemorrhaged $70,000 a month.

“We were struggling with cash flow,” Keith says. “It was time to pull the trigger and start over again.”

The Hocketts reluctantly sold their cows and got their finances back in order. Nine months later, they started milking 45 cows again at Green Valley Farms. When they started back in the dairy business, they were determined to learn from their mistakes.

“We learned you don’t spend everything you make,” Keith says. “You have cash flow issues, you need to restructure your loans, not have short-term loans. We’ve learned a very valuable lesson in that.”

The Hocketts grew the herd quickly, from 45 to 250 cows to their current herd of 850 head.

“We decided we needed to grow fast, because we saw the trend going that way,” Keith says. “We are working on getting up to about 1,100 by the time we’re done.”

Although the Hocketts have taken an aggressive approach to expansion, they are careful to work within their financial means, Keith says.

“When we came back, we changed everything on the farm, from accountants to nutritionists,” he says. “Everything we touched in 2009, we stepped away from and we started back over with a whole new group of consultants working with us.”

One of those new consultants is Bill Depriest, who now works as the Hocketts’ accountant. He and Keith meet at least once a month to discuss the dairy’s finances, including cash flow, input costs and potential for new projects or investments.

“I know that in the past, they waited until the end of the year and all the stuff went to their accounting guy, he’d put it together, and that was the only time they looked at everything all at once,” Bill says. “Now, I do it weekly or biweekly. It gives them the opportunity to make adjustments in a much shorter time frame than they would otherwise have.”

Having a better handle on the dairy’s finances has given the family the ability to make wiser decisions when building new facilities or investing in technology on the operation. Two years ago, the Hocketts designed and built a 500-cow freestall facility, and in 2013, they remodeled their double-10, quick-exit parlor to a double-16 parallel parlor, which allows them to milk cows three times a day and has resulted in a 15 percent increase in milk production. In addition, the family installed a direct load system.

“With the direct load system, we’re loading a load every 18 hours right now,” Keith says. “Who would ever have thought we’d be loading a load every 18 hours?”

The Hocketts utilized DFA Financing to secure the money to build their freestall barn and redo their milk parlor. After their experience in 2009, it was important to work with a company that had the dairy’s best interest in mind, Keith says.

“DFA is interested in their dairy producers,” he says. “They want you to stay in the dairy business. They want you to grow. My philosophy with the farm and with the co-op has always been that there’s no ‘I’ in working together. Working together is what it’s all about.”

The hard lessons of 2009 also taught the family the importance of managing risk.