Barry and Kent Holden work hard to be transparent about their business with the next generation. “We talk openly with our kids, and we’ve been very transparent about what’s happened in our past,” Kent says. “But unless you’ve dealt with it firsthand you don’t have the same feeling about it.
It’s obvious the five members of the fifth generation are comfortable with one another, and with their father-owners. A friendly camaraderie permeates the meeting room where they’re gathered to share their roles in the operation.
When asked what they like best about being part of Holden Farms, Nick, who was the first of the next generation to join the operation, says, “Look around the room—I really enjoy working in a family business. The challenges that come with it are worth it. We’ve been able to address issues as they occur and work through them.”
After graduating from St. Johns, Nick spent some time abroad before joining the company. His brother Nate also went to St. Johns, and worked in the banking industry for three years before joining Holden Farms.
“Like Nick said, there are challenges working with family, but it’s also one of the best things. We all have skin in the game. It’s a good feeling to know everyone is going to be here in the future.”
Their positions have changed over the years based on their individual skills and the needs of the company, but everyone pitches in as needed, Nate says.
“For almost everything we do, someone is willing to step in,” he says. “Everyone helps with whatever issue or task we face daily.”
The youngest of Kent’s sons, Tyler, came to the operation 11 years ago, after college at Bemidji State University. He likes the opportunity to “figure it out.”
“To me, it’s fun to … learn and challenge each other, and figure out what we’re going to do next,” he says.
Barry’s son, Blake was next to join the business. He went to college in Colorado and worked in Chicago in the banking sector for several years.
“My impetus for joining was the opportunity to continue to build the business—and I knew I had a good team to do that with—people who shared the same long-term goals as I did,” Blake says.
The other big factor for Blake was the desire to continue the family’s legacy.
“It was a daunting task to make the decision,” he notes. “In some ways, there was pressure to do it, even though our parents didn’t pressure us, because we wanted the family business to keep going.
“The turning point was that I knew it didn’t have to be forever,” Blake says. “I knew that if I didn’t absolutely love it, I could do something else. When I was younger, I thought it was an ‘in or out’ decision. I had support from my dad to come back and try, and if it wasn’t the right fit, I could do something else. It speaks to the support I got from my family.”
Kyle (Barry’s youngest son) has been back for two years, after graduating from Prescott College in Arizona.
“My dad encouraged me to have other experiences before I came back. I lived in Colorado and California, and worked in the banking industry as well,” Kyle says. “My motivation is similar to Blake’s—I wanted to be part of the family’s business and history. The team was well established and I wanted to be a part of that.”
Pride emanates from Barry and Kent as they listen to their sons’ comments, and plans are in place to move the operation to the next generation.