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New Ideas for an Old Business

Texan John Evans is carrying on his family's 153-year farming legacy with the help of new technology and a new lender.

John Evans and family
Photos by Jim Lincoln

The Evans family — left to right, Darby, John, Isabel, Erica and Oliver — represent the fifth and sixth generations to live on the Evans Ranch.


A self-described "manager of chaos," John Evans is a busy man.

Between running his family's Central Texas row-crop operation and managing a cattle herd in South Texas, he is also a dealer for an agricultural technology company, Ag Leader.

It's no wonder, then, that Evans decided to look for an ag lender who could streamline his financing.

Last year, he found the financing assistance he needed at Lone Star Ag Credit's Georgetown branch.

"I'd seen them at a couple of farm shows and thought they could help me," Evans recalls of the ag lending cooperative. "I was interested in a line of credit. But after a few visits, we made it work so I could put all of my lending in one place."

John Evans inspecting crop with employee
John Evans, right, and employee Chris Southerland check a sample of oats.

Improving Efficiency Through Technology

Evans is the fifth generation to operate Evans Ranch Inc., a 153-year-old diversified ag operation near Little River Academy, south of Temple. He grows corn, cotton, oats and wheat on approximately 2,400 acres. He also runs 300 commercial cows, mostly on another family-owned property near Hallettsville.

Before returning to the farm in 2011, Evans worked in information technology in College Station and Temple.

Today he uses his IT experience to increase efficiency on his own farm and help other farmers do the same. One of only a few Ag Leader dealers in his region, he shows farmers how to use precision ag tools — auto-steer, guidance systems and moisture monitors, for example.

Previously, the Evans family had no usable data showing what their equipment was doing in the fields.

"Today," Evans says, "we have data on every inch and every row of farmland."

In fact, he says he usually has more data than he needs, because the technology on the equipment is already collecting it.

"You only have one chance to have the information and have it right," he says. "Who knows what you'll need five years down the road? That information could be an asset for later decision-making."

On his own row-crop operation, Evans uses sensors to manage crop health. They determine if a plot needs more or less fertilizer and adjust the application rate accordingly.

"We've gone from mules and horses to tractors that basically drive themselves," Evans says. "We can measure profitability within the acre instead of by the acre."

Continuing a 153-Year Legacy

Evans took over the operation after his father passed away. But he has kept a number of the family's traditions. Many of the ranch employees also worked for his father. Evans relies on tenured employees — Chris and Amanda Southerland, Bill Cody Southerland and Caleb Sanderson — to keep the ranch going.

In his farm office, old photographs and newspaper clippings reveal the family's long history with corn. For years it was their main commodity. Today, most of the crop is sold as deer corn.

Evans follows another family tradition, as well — planting a few acres of sweet corn. He recalls peddling sweet corn in high school and sees it as a way for his three children — ages 8, 6 and 2 — to be involved in the family business. His wife, Erica, is an elementary school teacher in Temple.


"I was interested in a line of credit. But after a few visits, we made it work so I could put all of my lending in one place."

– John Evans


During the summer, the family sells sweet corn at a nearby farmers market. They also welcome U-pick customers to the farm.

"We get all kinds, from people who grew up having fresh-picked corn to those who don't know how to pull an ear of corn off the plant," he says.

Looking to the Future

Evans recently was selected to participate in Texas Farm Bureau's 2019-20 AgLead-FarmLead program. The program trains participants to become strong voices for agriculture. "We need more people to talk about it," Evans says of advocating for agriculture. "It's not just our jobs, it's our lives."

Since starting the program, he has found ways to use his newfound skills, even agreeing to a television interview with a local station.

His Lone Star Ag Credit loan officer, Garrett Edwards, is happy that the lending co-op is helping secure the future of Evans Ranch.

"The generations of family history is a really neat part of their operation, and John is in it to make sure his kids have the opportunity to be sixth-generation farmers and ranchers," says Edwards. "Because we were trying to help him move all of his financing over, it took a lot of phone calls, a lot of working closely together and a lot of details. I'm glad we were able to assist him."


Reprinted from Landscapes Magazine, Summer, 2019