“Running a farm in today’s world basically means you are running a small business,” says Ben Chaffin, owner of Chaffin Farms. Located west of Ithaca, MI, Ben and his wife Alyssa, grow sugar beets. Until his recent passing, Ben’s late father, Mark Chaffin, was also a mainstay on the farm.

As a third-generation farmer, Ben has established a reputation for being a resource to others in the agricultural field. He says it’s important to balance business sense with being a good neighbor, an environmental steward and an industry advocate.

From a young age, Ben always wanted to grow and build things. He started going to land auctions as a kid and planted his first crop at 18. At only 21 he bought his first piece of ground. But farming wasn’t his only focus. Still buying and renting acres to farm, Ben earned his undergraduate degree from Michigan State University.

Thinking he might want to be a college professor, he stayed on and earned a master’s degree in agricultural economics. However, after determining that research and writing papers wasn’t for him, Ben returned to the family farm.

In addition to sugar beets, Chaffin Farms grows corn, soybeans, silage, peas and string beans. They also run organic farming operations. When asked what he likes about sugar beets, he answers quickly, “they’re a fun crop. It’s great to see them grow and everyone gets excited at harvest time.”

While he oversees daily operations and a staff of 10 full-time employees, he makes a point to share his experience and stay involved at both the community and industry levels. In 2013, Ben was awarded the Michigan Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer Achievement Award. He has also served on the Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee, Farm Produce Insurance Authority Board and the Western District Sugarbeet Board.

Ben sees more young farmers getting a four-year education and being aware of the business and economic necessities of farming today. But he says, in the end it’s still about being a good farmer, managing crop rotation, irrigation, harvest – and helping your neighbors.

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