Grandson keeps Churchill legacy alive
L.C. Schank taught agriculture at Churchill County High School in Fallon. As a horticulturist, he wanted to be able to raise and grow his own crops. So in 1939, he bought a small farm and did just that.
Soon after, his son, Cyril Schank, started a small dairy on that same farm. He and his sons ran the dairy for many years. After more than 30 years and 300 cattle, the Schanks retired from the dairy industry and ventured into the forage industry.
Today, Abe Schank, grandson of Cyril and great grandson of L.C., owns and operates Abe’s Hay ‘n’ Feed on that very farm.
Schank attended the University of Nevada, Reno and received a degree in business management and finance. When he finished school, he knew he wanted to be back on the farm.
“When I came back from school, I decided I wanted to come back to the farm,” Schank said. “I really liked the lifestyle. I liked the family aspect of it and getting to be around my kids. I thought that would be really enjoyable.”
His father, Ernest, who ran the business full time, did all of his own marketing. He sold a small amount of forage locally and contracted the rest out with much of the hay going to California. But, Abe Schank had different plans for his father’s business.
“I figured, well I’m here and I’ve got the time, why don’t I try marketing it a little bit differently?”
Schank dedicated his time and skills and readjusted the marketing strategy toward people who raised their own animals and desired smaller quantities of hay.
“That’s kind of where it started. It was very small, and I didn’t think it would go farther than selling a little bit of hay on the side,” he said.
Schank started selling hay in the winter of 2011 as a side job. That small backyard hay side job is now Abe’s Hay ‘n’ Feed, a business that provides a variety of high quality forages for livestock in northern Nevada.
“I love taking something from the very beginning, working the land up, planting it at the very beginning stages and then seeing it all the way through the production. Then the very end of seeing the customer get that product and then feed it to their animals and the quality that they look for.”
Over the last four years, customers had frequently inquired about deliveries, something that Abe had wanted to begin but did not have the resources to do so at the time.
In January 2014, he broke his ankle, leaving him out of commission for six months and hardly able to do anything.
“I had to hire some help, and I figured there was no better time than now to get into the delivery business,” Schank said. “So I bought some trucks and put them to work and it’s been doing pretty good.”
He is currently developing a new way of delivering hay to speed up the delivery process and make it as cost efficient as possible.
Working out the kinks in the delivery system and adding value to his forage product line are Abe’s two biggest points of focus for Abe’s Hay ‘n’ Feed.
“The customers are the ones that keep me going,” he said. “I try to run everything around keeping them happy and focusing on what they want. Part of that is having supply year round.”
Because hay only grows during six months of the year, Abe’s biggest challenge has been figuring out how to keep a year round supply for his customers.
Abe has also been working on creating unique forage blends that come in a different format than normal feeds, known as cubes. The cubes are a wet feed, replicating an animal foraging in the open range, and come in a compressed bale wrapped in plastic.
“We’re in the process of adding value to the forage that we grow and improving customer service,” Schank said. “I want customers to know that when they’re buying our products, they’re getting them locally from the producer and that we’re adding value to the product in whatever way we can.”
Schank is a fourth generation member of Churchill County Farm Bureau. He is involved with Ag in the Classroom in Fallon and enjoys sharing information about his livelihood with kids and the general public.
“It’s organizations like the Farm Bureau that help perpetuate agriculture and help people understand the importance of it in our society,” Schank said. “I think a lot of people just don’t understand where their food comes from, and if they do, they don’t understand the importance of and the involvement that it takes to actually get it to them,” he said.
Schank and his wife Lindsey are parents to two boys, 3 and 5 years old, who say they want to be farmers when they grow up.
“Of course, they want to be like their dad right now,” he said. “But they’ll be able to make that choice when they’re grown up, and if they want to do it that would be great, and if they don’t, then they can do what makes them happy.”
Regardless of what his sons choose to do, Schank wants them to learn strong values on the farm.