Twin Lane Farm, LLC, may be sandwiched amid some of Pennsylvania’s largest, most economically competitive farms. Yet Bob Shearer and son Mike have struck on a formula to compete, owning just 43 acres and renting 329 acres in eastern Lancaster County.
Part of the formula: Contract-finishing 13,400 hogs a year for Country View Family Farms (Hatfield). The contract eliminates the risk of low market hog prices, Bob says.
A solid reputation for producing high-yield corn, soybeans, wheat and grain sorghum helped generate their custom planting and harvesting business. Bob’s custom work business grew with family help to where it now custom plants 2,500 acres and custom harvests 2,000 acres a year.
Knowing their costs down to the penny ups their profit margins. Bob’s wife, Doreen, has an indispensable business enterprise management role in making that happen.
TEAM EFFORT: Bob and his son Mike run the Twin Lane Farm, with Bob's wife, Doreen, as business manager.
Bob's interest in farming his father’s land was clear by the time he was 12 years old. By 17, he was renting the ground. By 19, he was farming 140 acres and had built his first 150-sow hog barn, later converted to finishing. In 2006, Bob purchased the farm from his parents.
Bob already has a business plan in place to transfer the LLC to Mike and his wife, Julie. In brief, the operating agreement allows Mike to buy into the LLC and achieve full ownership in 10 to 12 years. Mike already owns the second 2,400-head hog finishing barn — his cash flow generator.
The farm received Pennsylvania Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) program tax credits to purchase no-till equipment. It also reduced costs of building a composting structure and solar panels with the help of state grants.
Tapping ag tech
Part of their hog facilities power and ventilation is provided by ground-installed solar panels to substantially reduce farm electrical needs. Aside from the farm’s rental land, close to 250 acres of other land is available for permitted manure application. Some 80% of their hog manure is applied within two miles of the farm.
Twin Lane Farm no-tills their crop land, following a rotation of two years of corn, then soybeans, followed by wheat and double-crop soybeans — all using GPS-based technologies. That helps explain why Twin Lane Farm has five-year average yields of 109-bushel wheat, 200-bushel-plus corn, 68-bushel soybeans (including double-crop).
The farm is well-equipped to deliver what it promises on time. The Shearers have two 12-row planters. One no-till planter, for instance, is set up with 15-inch row splitters. They realized early on that drilling soybeans required more soybean seed, for instance. The 15-inch rows accomplished better yields with less seed and faster.
Close to 70 acres of grain sorghum are planted in 15-inch rows annually on wetter, more marginal cropland frequented by deer. The five-year average for this crop — marketed primarily for bird seed — is 168 bushels per acre.
They custom combine and truck barley, wheat, corn, soybeans and grain sorghum. Their farm shop is equipped to handle even semi-tractor rebuilds
This farm follows updated farm conservation and nutrient management plans. Bob is a believer in USDA’s Risk Management Agency, and has been a farmer spokesperson on crop insurance for the agency.
Shearer a strong ag advocate
Location: Mount Joy, Lancaster County, Pa.
Family: Bob and Doreen have three grown children, Bobby, Mike and Ashley Gemmil.
Leadership roles: Bob Shearer has been extensively involved in state and local ag groups. He’s a past secretary of Manheim Young Farmers, board member of Pennsylvania Pork Producers and Pennsylvania Corn Growers. He currently serves on the Manheim Ag Advisory Board and Lancaster Ag Preserve Advisory Board. He is vice chair of Lancaster County Conservation District, and is a member of Lancaster Ag Preserve Advisory. He actively serves in the Lives Changed By Christ (LCBC) church of Manheim.
Notable: Twin Lane Farm has hosted numerous educational tours from U.S. and foreign ag dignitaries. The farm also received Pennsylvania’s Environmental Agricultural Conservation Certification of Excellence Award. Bob was recognized with an honorary degree by Manheim FFA.