Small Business Building Fencings

Young farming couple starts a fencing side business to help make ends meet with supplementary income.

| September/October 2016

Will and Becky Roberts, current owners of Rawhide Ridge Farm in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, initially met at a local cattle show at the Olde Dominion Agricultural Complex in Chatham. Becky, who currently works as an assistant principal at the Pittsylvania Career and Technical Center, was helping several students show livestock, and Will was a volunteer. While it took them awhile to start dating, they quickly discovered they shared a deep love of agriculture and helping others.

Like many young farmers, early on Will and Becky struggled with how to make farming pay, particularly with increasing costs in family healthcare. For some time to come, Will says he sees the couple having one spouse working on-farm and one spouse working off the farm in order to make ends meet.

But the couple is working hard at making their on-the-farm dream a reality. Will, a native of neighboring Caswell County, North Carolina, went to college with the hopes of working in forestry. When job opportunities weren’t available close to home, he began working as a farm manager for a beef and Boer goat operation in Pittsylvania County. “I didn’t have a lot of guidance,” he laughs, “it was basically a learning and growing opportunity.”

By 2012, through savings, business planning, and financial help from the Chatam branch of Farm Credit of the Virginias, the then-28-year-old purchased his own farm. It included two parcels of noncontiguous acreage amounting to just under 160 acres.

Creating complementary revenue

With Becky’s help, Will now runs a small beef operation of 34 cows, two bulls, and eight replacement heifers, alongside a haying operation. Including rented acreage, the Roberts farm about 500 acres total. Recently, in an effort to increase ag operation revenues and hopefully one day get Becky on the farm full-time, the Roberts started a fencing and custom gate building company known as Rawhide Fencing Services, LLC.

It seemed like a logical extension to the couple’s beef cattle operation, particularly since Pittsylvania County is one of the largest dairy and beef producing areas in Virginia. Plus, it offered the Roberts an opportunity to provide a service that is in demand to producers just like themselves.

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