The dinging, ringing and vibration sounds coming from Toby Kersten’s phone tell you all you need to know about his average day. It’s longer than most.
That’s what happens when you own excavating, trucking and farm operations, do custom work, and sell seed while raising seven kids. He and his wife, Amy, do it all in Clintonville, Wis.
Toby got started in business early. He learned about dairy and grain farming working on his grandparents’ farm. They were the ones who sold him his first piece of land, helping him fulfill the dream of owning a farm. The seeds of his excavating business were planted there too. As a kid, he would watch with wonder as the owners of a neighboring farm drove around in their loaders, bulldozers and dump trucks.
“I’m really an equipment guy at heart,” Toby says. “I’m running the steering wheel at both ends now, and I’m very lucky that things are working out the way they are.”
Once he and Amy began purchasing their own farm equipment, they started custom combining, grain hauling, planting and spraying for other farms.
He built his businesses from scratch, but is quick to say he couldn’t have gotten to this point without Amy.
“Without my wife there wouldn’t be a Kersten excavating, Kersten trucking, or Kersten farm at the level we’re running,” he says. “She’s key to the businesses not to mention being mom to our seven kids. We’re equals. We make a perfect team.”
Amy holds down the office, handling the bulk of their paperwork, bid proposals, billing and dispatch.
Toby does most of the excavating. Every morning kicks off with dump truck engines turning over. Seven full-time guys work for the trucking side of the business. It sometimes feels like everyone works around the clock.
“The phone dings a lot, I’ll put it that way,” he laughs.
Toby farms 500 acres of his own land and custom combines around 800 to 1000 acres. He recently purchased a new 12-row Kinze planter. Their businesses just keep evolving.
He works closely with his neighbor, Birling Farms, just as he’s done for the past 17 years. The two farms share equipment and manpower. Dairyland Seed grows on every acre at Birling’s, which is how Toby became a fan.
Toby does almost all of his own field work. He loves being out there, watching the crops grow and the yields come off. It’s a nice break from the daily routine of running a dump truck or excavator or screening sand for dairy bedding. He credits Amy and his employees for being able to walk out the door when the beans are ready and climb into the combine, where he “lives life to the fullest” knowing everything will be fine back at the office. He can’t say enough about the support he has.
Seed sales is his “hobby job.” When he accepted the offer to sell, he viewed it as a good way to learn more about seed. It’s much more than that now, and he’s having a blast.
Right out of the gate, his “hobby” was growing by leaps and bounds for a few reasons: excavating, trucking and custom work.
“I might be in a customer’s driveway five days a week doing five different jobs and wearing different hats,” he says. “When you’ve got a guy working on your farm who’s also the local seed dealer with a reputable product, it’s almost like being the final piece of the puzzle.”
Customers know what they’re getting in Toby, namely outstanding service. Ryan Durrant, his Dairyland Seed District Sales Manager, says Toby has the drive, the compassion, the knowledge, and the respect of others. He studies the products. He accepts any challenge. “It’s an exciting partnership,” says Ryan.
But all Toby really cares about is serving customers at the highest possible level. That, and making friends. His fellow Dairyland Seed reps have become like another family. He counts many of them among his closest friends.
“I’m fortunate to have several families. My wife and kids, our excavating and trucking families, and our Dairyland Seed friends.”