For Clare Schilling, coming home to the family farm wasn’t a straight line from point A to point B. She hadn’t even planned to become a farmer. She earned a consumer and textile marketing degree from the University of Illinois and her brother earned a degree in agricultural engineering. But during her junior year, her parents talked about selling the pigs. “That just hit me and tugged at my heart,” she says. “I decided I would take over.”
Even though she had the support of her family and dad, who continued to manage the grain operation, Clare’s new role proved to be a baptism by fire. As soon as the sows were in the barns, she took control.
“I was overwhelmed, to say the least,” she says. “It’s a 24/7 weight.”
Clare worked with her older sister, Lindsey, to learn the production side and develop a core team of advisers. The farm’s veterinarian as well as her nutritionist and Land O’Lakes representative provide her with the latest production and market information.
Drew joined the farm full time in 2010. He oversees the grain operation, manages trucking, manure handling and the feed mill, and oversees major projects, such as facility upgrades or expansions. He leads a team of four full-time and two part-time employees.
Sister Emilie went to school at Texas A&M University where she earned a veterinary medicine degree. After working in a small animal practice, she returned to the farm operation, where she manages payroll, farm records and office work formerly done by their mom.
Her skill set is an asset to the operation, as she handles the needed veterinary feed directive paperwork and other health paper requirements, in addition to working in the hog barns.
Lindsey is now based in Chicago, where she works as a property manager.
Whether talking about employees or the family business, Clare feels it’s important to have defined roles and responsibilities. For the farm, Drew’s and Clare’s management and personality styles are complementary.
“We have very different personalities,” she says. “I’m very high-strung most of the time, and he’s very laid back and calm. He brings me back to reality, and I think we balance each other very well.”
Drew adds: “We still bang heads occasionally. But you have to separate work from family, as hard as that is to do. You have to turn off those problems you have with each other at work during family time.”
“Obviously working with family can be challenging, but overall we have been pretty successful at keeping things professional,” she says. “Drew and I don’t work together a lot, since I spend the majority of my time in the barns, and he is working in the grain operation, feed mill or in the office most of the time. We both enjoy what we do, and at the end of the day it comes together as a business.”
On the other hand, Clare says it can be challenging when their roles in the operation are so different.
“Sometimes I am overwhelmed in my segment or he is in his segment and we don’t always quite grasp each other’s stress with the division we have,” she says.
They help avoid those situations by doing a recap every day, providing quick updates on their portion of the business.
And bottom line, it’s all worth it.
From the beginning, their dad took a transparent approach when speaking with them about the operation. That has been key in making the management transition successful, says Justin Knobloch, the family’s lender and a regional manager for Farm Credit Illinois.
“A lot of times, you see that ‘dad’ runs everything,” Knobloch says. “With the Schillings, Ludger was willing to share everything and have Clare and Drew in on all the discussions. Because he is so in tune with the markets and believes in good financial information, his kids are both very analytical and understand the financial piece.”
The senior Schillings spend part of their year in Arizona, knowing the farm operation is in good hands. They’re in the process of developing a succession plan to make sure the legacy continues.
“The most rewarding aspect of the family business is knowing that our grandparents and our parents worked very hard to establish a farm/business for future generations,” Clare says. “We both strive to make the generations before us proud and to grow it into something our children can be a part of if they wish to do so.”