Posted: Thursday, May 03, 2012 11:00 AM
Matthew Weaver/Capital Press
Farm It owner Josh Riddle stands at the back of his truck during a break from applying nitrogen fertilizer to a Colbert, Wash., field the afternoon of April 19. Riddle is a custom farmer based in Mead, Wash.
Riddle works to help hobby farmers be 'stewards of the land'
By MATTHEW WEAVER
MEAD, Wash. -- Josh Riddle has come a long way since he had to borrow his father's equipment to take care of his customers.
Riddle started Farm It, a custom farming operation, nine years ago by hauling hay bales and mowing fields with his father's tractor, which he would borrow or rent.
A fourth-generation farmer, he couldn't afford to buy into his father's farm, but wanted to make a living as a full-time farmer.
"Part of me says it's nothing like I thought it would be, and then the other part of me says it's everything I wanted it to be," he said.
Now 34, Riddle farms nearly 1,000 acres and has several hundred customers.
Riddle's business ranges from seeding fields to field mowing. In the last year, the business began custom application of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.
The company also offers field recommendations and takes soil samples.
"(It's) so hard to say this is exactly our model," he said. "Every job is different. I guess that's why I always go with the word 'custom.'"
Riddle sees education as a key part of the business. Most of his customers have never farmed, but always wanted to live in the country.
"A lot of people move out here on 10 acres and think, 'It's going to take care of itself, it's nature,'" he said. "It's not nature; it was farm ground. It's just how to help them be stewards of the land."
Farm It is divided into services for farmers and for hobby farmers.
Calls can range from lawn care to treating rust on a wheat field to assisting brand-new farmers. Riddle estimates 4 percent of his business is farmers, with the rest being property owners.
Riddle also owns a 300-acre hay operation and 700-acre wheat operation.
His business "probably won't ever go away," he said. "The relationships I've made with customers on a friend basis, I'll probably be Bush Hogging their place for 20 years."
Sally and Dusty Eckart call on Riddle to spray weeds in their hard red wheat fields near Deer Park, Wash.
"It's very beneficial for us when we're getting rushed getting our own fields done and we have fields that need to be sprayed before we can get on them ourselves," Sally Eckart said. "Kids his age, most of them don't want to work that hard. He's out there to do a very good job for the farmers."
Debbie Dunlop of Mead owns horses. Riddle provides maintenance on the 10-acre lots in her area, delivers hay and puts bales in her feeder.
"He is a unique guy, especially for his generation," Dunlop said. "He goes out of his way. He just wants people to be happy and he works really hard to build those relationships."
Occupation: Owner of Farm It LLC
Hometown: Mead, Wash.
Education: Two years at Eastern Washington University
Family: Wife Lisa Riddle, a partner in Farm It, and two children
Contact: 509-999-4736, email@example.com