Kenneth Hartman Jr. has been involved in the family farm his entire life, but it was 1983 when he joined Glendell Farms full time with his parents, Kenneth Sr. and Joann Hartman.
At that point, the family had a 150-head registered Holstein dairy operation and 700 acres of crops near Waterloo, Ill. Kenneth was also farming 100 acres on his own with his father’s equipment. He marked the fifth generation to join the family farm.
“My parents were very involved in the dairy industry,” says Kenneth Jr., known to his friends as Kenny, and now, a 2021 Prairie Farmer Master Farmer. “We had a bull they bred called Glendell Arlinda Chief that was leased to Select Sires and was one of the top bulls in the country. I was involved in milking cows, showing, breeding and other activities of raising registered Holsteins.”
Over the years, Kenny started farming more ground. His wife, Anita, joined the family in 1992. The couple has three children: Amanda, 26; Alexis, 23; and Ashley, 20.
Anita has been involved in the operation since they got married, says Kenny, running the combine, working in the cattle barn and managing farm records.
In 1993, the family sold all the milking cows but kept the heifers and began to expand the grain sector of the farm. At this point, Kenny purchased his own machinery and merged with his parents to form Glendell H Farms Ltd.
After his father died in 2009, Kenny stepped up to help Joann head the operation. Today, the family has expanded to 4,000 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat.
Anita’s recent retirement from a 22-year career with Country Financial has allowed her to be even more involved with the daily farm duties. Amanda joined the farming operation full time following her graduation from Kansas State University in 2019. Alexis and Ashley help when the opportunity arises.
“The fact that Amanda has joined the operation shows how the farm is successful and able to add another generation,” says Randy DeSutter, 2015 Master Farmer and Illinois Corn Growers Association president, who nominated Kenny.
The family can add another generation on the farm and continue to expand in scope due to proper planning.
“Our family has worked over the years to pass things to the next generation,” Kenny says. “My parents have done estate planning to pass the land and operation to the next generations. We are working to do the same to keep the operation in the family.”
But it is more than a succession plan for the Hartman family. They continually strive to improve. In addition to land purchasing opportunities, one of Kenny’s experiences outside of agriculture has been a key factor to improving the operation, DeSutter says.
Kenny says he has always had a passion for crop and dairy production, but coming back to the farm was not his first job out of college. After graduating from Bryan Institute with a computer programming degree in 1982, he worked at Magna Bank in Belleville, Ill., as a computer operator.
“I had to work from 6 at night until 2 in the morning, but then I would come home, sleep, and then I ended up working on the farm,” he says. “I was the only child, so my parents said, ‘Why don’t you come back to the farm?’ So, I came back to the farm.”
But what about his computer programming degree? That’s what’s driven his interest in technology, which has kept the operation at the forefront of precision agriculture as an early adopter of yield mapping, grid soil sampling, variable-rate fertilizer and more.
New technology aids in the family’s farming philosophy: “Sustainability and profitability,” he says.
Kenny knows conservation practices are important to maintaining the land. The family uses no-till and variable-rate soil sampling to enhance soil fertility and water quality. They also have put in waterways, dry dams and tiling to avoid wind and soil erosion.
“Each new generation has brought new ideas and a desire to expand and improve the farm,” DeSutter says. “Kenny has followed in by using new methods on the farm to reduce overhead while increasing yields.”
Legacy of leadership
Beyond farm work, Kenny chooses to make an impact — clearly, an inherited trait.
“I have always believed you have to make a difference and try to help the industry,” he says. “My family has always seemed to be people that get involved and be leaders.”
Kenny’s father served on the Monroe County Fair Board for over 50 years in addition to his involvement with the Monroe Service Co-op Board and Gateway FS. Kenny’s mother served on the National Holstein Association Board for 10 years. She was the first woman elected to the board and served as president.
DeSutter says Kenny’s leadership is “off the charts.” He is dedicated to the industry and understands issues while working to come up with solutions.
For the past 24 years, Kenny has served on various boards related to corn production.
“I’ve spent a lot of years working with different sectors in Illinois Corn Growers, Illinois Corn Marketing Board and National Corn Growers,” he says. “What sticks out to me more than anything is working with local and national politicians to educate them about what it is really like on the farm and what is important to agriculture.”
But the organization involvement does not stop with Kenny. His daughters have remained active in agriculture and community organizations such as FFA, 4-H and Sigma Alpha.
“I am most impressed with Ken and Anita’s family. It is exciting to see the next generation catch fire for agriculture from their parents,” says Boyd Schaufelberger, a 2019 Master Farmer and fellow dairyman. “A farmer’s most important ‘crop’ is his family, and I am convinced Ken’s family will be his greatest accomplishment.”