Author Archives: Howard J. Hales

About Howard J. Hales

Be Patient, Work Hard, Always Be Honest

I was a guest blogger in my brothers blogger this week.  Just for fun I posted here as well.


I am excited to write a guest blog for my brother Doug who is in the middle of an online accounting firm start-up named  Doug has always been a trendsetter.  He was always trying new things while we were growing up, he had the first motorcycle in our family; he was the first to get into a wreck, and the first to go to Utah State University.

Doug also saw the online accounting trend ten years before it was “trendy”.  When he first started talking about online accounting, “QuickBooks Online” was not even available.  Doug has always been ahead of the curve, and just courageous enough to make things happen.

He taught me a great lesson, when he left a good accounting job to start an online accounting practice.  His actions reminded me of a sign I read recently which stated, “Life is a journey, not a destination”.  To build on this idea, we are all in different locations on our journey, some are nearing completion, others are just starting out and others are smack-dab in the middle.  Along this journey regardless of our location, one thing is for sure, we will all encounter problems, some small ones, some big ones, and some really big ones. In order to overcome these problems we need to do at least two things.  The first is to have access to good information, and the second is to have a good plan of action.  This does not mean to gather the needed information half-heartily, or to put together a poorly thought out plan.  I will address both of these ideas below:

  1. Gather information-This information has to be as accurate as possible, whether it is market statistics, product cost, current break-even costs or the most precise and accurate month end numbers. This information must be able to tell you if you or your business is starting to go down the wrong path.  The sooner you know, the sooner you can make the needed adjustments.

The company I work for was recently acquired, and one of the changes from the new company was an accelerated accounting close schedule.  The new company not only expected the monthly close numbers sooner, they expected increased accuracy.   At first, I resisted this new close schedule, but I quickly learned the importance of the new schedule, and soon realized the Executives were adjusting their plans each month based upon the accounting close information.   There is no doubt the accelerated accounting schedule was more difficult, but the information gathered and changes made to the plan are making the company more successful than ever before.

Another example, on the importance of gathering information, was this spring I was helping a friend sell some alfalfa hay.  We knew the alfalfa market was softening, but we had no idea how soft the market would actually become.   We had an opportunity to sell hay for $30 more per ton than it sold for five months later.  If we had based the decision not to sell earlier in the spring on better information, it would have made a huge difference to the company’s cash flow and its bottom line.  I wonder if I would have made three more phone calls to hay marketing experts, if we would have learned really how low the market would go.

The lesson we learned was to take the time to acquire the best information in order to make the best decisions.  This takes time and is not easy.  Nevertheless, it is possible.  The other lesson learned was to “focus on the problem, not the person”.  When this happens, take the time to learn what happened, find the root cause, and do not make the same mistake twice.

  1. Create a plan-This seems very basic, but every company should have a long-term and short-term plan. Each plan should consist of at least three items: goals, metrics to measure the goals and contingency plans for what may go wrong.  Remember just because we cannot foresee every problem that is coming down the road, we should not stop trying.  One proven method is to write down the problems we encounter, the cause of the problem, what we did to correct the problem and the results of our actions.  In time, this process will begin to teach us what indicators we must watch to identify problems before they happen.  We must be brutally honest when identifying possible problems.   We should never bury our heads in the sand by saying, “That will never happen”, chances are it can and it will.  The Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared” is very fitting for the planning phase.

In conclusion, be patient, work hard, be creative, be realistic and never give up on your plan.  Gather the needed information and compare it often to the metrics identified in your plan.  Do not let the wheels fall off, before you start adjusting your plan.

If you ever need assistance with either of these two items, give Doug a call.

For what it is worth, I have one last thought “The only limiting factor to how far we can go is our own imagination”.  Everyone has far more abilities than they think they have.  I wish we could all remember this old adage “Treat a man (business/company/ or whatever) as he is and that is what he will be, treat a man (business/company or whatever) as he should be, and that is what he will become.

On the next blog, I will dig deeper into the basics of “The Plan”.


Gary Bengochea-One of the Good Quiet Guys

Gary B Beef cow

I have always looked up to Gary Bengochea. He is one of the quiet good guys. He always seems to have everything under control. He is the President of the Nevada First Corporation, a former construction worker, and former owner of a local grocery store.
Gary is one of the few people native to Winnemucca. His father was born in Winnemucca, and his mother in Oregon Canyon, Oregon. Both sets of his grandparents immigrated to the United States from Spain, and they both settled in Humboldt County, Nevada. They were sheepherders, ranchers and miners. Interestingly, his grandfather Thomas Alcorta discovered Cordero Mine in McDermitt Nevada. Gary is currently the president of the quick silver mine.
After Gary graduated from high school, Gary attended Boise College (currently Boise State University) and graduated in 1967. While attending Boise College he met his wife Chris Stoker. After college graduation he decided to join the military as an officer, but was turned down due to health reasons. At that point Gary decided to enroll in the University of Utah MBA program. Upon graduating from the University of Utah he and his family moved back to Winnemucca, Nevada. Upon his return to he was employed as the assistant grocery manager for a local grocery store. After a few years he purchased the “Uptown Market”, a local grocery store. He and his wife ran the market for almost ten years, at which time he sold the grocery store, and began working for the Helms Construction Company. Gary advanced quickly with Helms construction, and was planning on moving to the Reno area, when the construction company went through financial and operational issues and was shut down.
Gary was fortunate to obtain an accounting position with the Nevada First Corporation. Nevada First Corporation was the largest landowner in Nevada aside from the rail road for many years, and operated as a working ranch. Gary was promoted to the President of Nevada First Corporation when the company was split up among the heirs of the owner. Gary has been in this role ever since I have known him. I have always wished I had his same ability to manage financial affairs and people.
Since Gary had not been involved in agriculture up to the point he was hired by Nevada First, it took him a little while to learn the business side of ranching. He put into practice things he had learned in the grocery and construction business, and became very successful. Gary also credits his success to good people working for him such as good farm and ranch managers. He has had the opportunity to meet a lot of many excellent farming and ranching families. Many of these families have been involved in agriculture for generations.
Gary has the knack of combining business and agriculture. He is a natural businessman, and is a great example to many people in Northern Nevada.
Advice, tips and observations
1-People are like ice cream, you like them all but some flavors you like more than others
2-The nice thing about ranching was he was able to get out and see a lot of beautiful country, there are a lot of cool places in Nevada and he has been able to see a lot of them.
3-Whatever you do for work in your life, you better enjoy it. Life needs to be fun
3-If you have a dream you have to work at it. Dreams will not come easy, but can be attained
4-Always be honest
5-People need to keep family traditions
6-Spend time with your family, they grow up way too fast


Dean Ashcroft – A Giant among Nevada Farmers

Dean PU Dean Dog

I first met Dean Ashcroft in 2005. Winnemucca Farms needed some help putting up the 4th crop of alfalfa due to the lingering potato harvest. Dean had time and so he came over and helped put up the 4th crop of alfalfa. That 4th crop was cut just about right, but was rained on a couple of times. I had written it off and figured it would be feeder hay. This was before Dean went to work on it. When he was done that was some of the prettiest rained on hay I had ever laid eyes upon. He baled it perfectly; the leaf pattern on the bale was amazing. It almost made me want to buy some milk cows and see how much milk those cows would give eating that hay. From that moment on I have always thought the world of Dean Ashcroft. He is at least twice my size, and the best guy in the world. He has been working on a couple of farms north of Ely Nevada for the last few years doing what he does best… putting up hay. Dean is always looking on the bright side of everything.
Dean was born in Salina, UT in 1942. His family moved to the Boise, Idaho area in 1953. Dean graduated from Nampa High School. Dean then attended Ricks College for a year before serving a mission for his church in Northern California. Upon his return he met his wife Sherry while attending BYU. Dean tells everybody he meets that he and Sherry have been married for 100 years, he then says 50 years for her, and 50 years for me.
He studied Business/Finance/Banking; upon graduation he accepted a position with Continental Oil and worked there until 1970. He was always a little independent and wanted to work for himself. Dean moved his family back to Nampa, ID and purchased the family business, a local gas station and carwash. However, Dean still could not sit still, and began farming on the side, custom farming and trucking. In fact that is how Dean found his way to Nevada. One of his friends needed some hay hauled from Winnemucca to Idaho. He asked Dean if he was interested, and he jumped at the chance. It was not long before he moved to Nevada to work for the farmer who sold the hay to his friend.
His Nevada employer Eldon Crawford and he began doing custom farm work outside of Dunphy, NV for Newmont Gold Corporation on the TS Ranch. They helped break out the brush ground and helped put in the pivot irrigation system for the mine dewatering. This turned into a full time job for Dean, he stayed right there and farmed and began putting up the hay for them. At the peak Dean was farming 60 pivots on the TS and 12 pivots on the Dean Ranch for the Cortez Mine. Dean worked there for many years, and then began doing custom farm work all over Northern Nevada.
I am very grateful I had a chance to meet Dean; he is one of those people who have the ability to make the whole world look better. There has been many times that I have been discouraged for some reason and had to talk to Dean about something unrelated, and he always helped me get things back into perspective.

Dean’s thoughts about agriculture

1-Farming is a wonderful lifestyle
2-You better be able to thrive on stress
3-No better office than inside a John Deere Tractor
4-You probably need a rich uncle to farm in today’s world
5-He loves the lifestyle
6-Ag is great because you can be your own boss
7-Know the markets
8-Prayer works
9-No more beautiful place on earth than on the hay farms in Northern Nevada
10-Plenty of problems, but well worth it


4-1956-john-deere-520 Milk cow in a pasture

Planning Tips and Tricks

“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now”
Alan Lakein

Ladder wrong wall

Planning is a critical function of business management. Success and failure both start with planning and goal setting. Planning encompasses all the activities which determine the future direction or course of action of your operation. Planning includes what activities will be completed this afternoon to what will be grown on a certain piece of ground in four years. In agriculture the activities of today play a vital role in tomorrow’s success. Crop rotations, equipment purchases, buying livestock, and forecasting future crop/livestock prices are all examples of the importance of planning. We all understand the importance of planning, but what can we do to make planning more effective? The following are a few planning pointers-

1-Remember that any plan can be changed. Do not be stuck in analysis paralysis.

2-Identify a mission statement for you farm or organization.

a.What is the most important aspect of your farm or organization?
b.What do you want your customers to say about you?
c.Know where you want to be in one year, three years, five years, and fifteen years and why.

3-Prepare a farm map; create a historical and projected crop rotation plan.

4-Record the crop history of your farm, analyze key factors affecting crop yields.

5-Keep a record of product costs such as fertilizer and chemicals, even those you did not use this year. There might be a more price effective fertilizer available.

6-Tour other farms, see what they are doing and why. An example, I learned while I was employed with a large farm-

Grain transportation was always a major headache, the grain bin capacity was inadequate, and the farm relied on the railroad to ship the grain out in order to keep the harvest flowing. We always had to stop the harvest and wait for a day or two due since there was no room left in the grain bins, and the railroad cars were late to arrive.
I went back to the farm a few years later and noticed a whole lot of white ag bags full of grain. I was so impressed; these ag bags were actually grain bags, but the same concept. The grain was bagged at the edge of the field and hauled to the grain bins when there was room and trucks available. That one simple exercise lowered the freight expense and kept the grain harvest rolling.

7-Create a marketing plan.

8-Anticipate future problems and solve them now, that way the decision has already been made before the problem overshadows your judgment in the heat of the battle.

9-Remember that every forecast is going to be wrong and that is ok. Even a wrong forecast is better than no forecast at all.

10-Record the difference between the forecast and actual price or activity. Identify the major drivers, in time your forecasts will improve.

In conclusion, have fun with your planning. Think big, do not settle for anything less than what you really want. Be smart and create a plan to achieve those “big ideas”. Take baby steps if needed, and remember that Rome was not built in a day.

A good book I read years ago was “The Magic of Thinking Big”(the author is David Schwartz) it really put things in perspective. I highly recommend it.


Lessons from Valley Forge-NEVER GIVE UP

Frog-chokes-Bird Winnemucca Main Street

Good Morning from wonderful Winnemucca, Nevada. This is my third and final post for the week. The post published on Wednesday July 24, 2013 titled “What I learned from blogging about Farmers!” invoked a conversation with a friend of mine. He asked me what I was doing today to accomplish those hopes and dreams I had mentioned. I gave him the standard “I am still looking for courage” remark, and he shot back a quote from one of his church leaders that really made me think.

“We can think a thought to death, but only when we move upon the thought do we bless human lives” Thomas S. Monson.

I must admit I have killed a few good thoughts just by not acting upon them. It is so easy to sit back and talk about how things should be, but a whole different story to then get on our feet and make those things happen.

I have a picture that hangs on my wall in my home of “The Prayer at Valley Forge”. This picture is of George Washington praying on a cold night when his troops were at a very low point in the Revolutionary War. According to the website the story of George Washington at valley Forge is nothing short of a miracle, and is quoted as follows-

Prayer at Valley Forge

The Eye Witness Testimony of Isaac Potts

“This story is well documented in the historical records. Isaac Potts, 26 years old, was a resident of Valley Forge, and as a Quaker was opposed to the war. He supervised the grinding of the grain which George Washington ordered the neighboring farmers to bring to his army. The fullest account of Potts’ testimony is in the “Diary and Remembrances” of Rev. Nathaniel Randolph Snowden, a Presbyterian minister and a Princeton graduate (Original Manuscript at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Call no. PHi.Am.1561-1568).

“I was riding with him (Mr. Potts) near Valley Forge, where the army lay during the war of the Revolution. Mr. Potts was a Senator in our state and a Whig. I told him I was agreeably surprised to find him a friend to his country as the Quakers were mostly Tories. He said, “It was so and I was a rank Tory once, for I never believed that America could proceed against Great Britain whose fleets and armies covered the land and ocean. But something very extraordinary converted me to the good faith.”

“What was that?” I inquired. “Do you see that woods, and that plain?” It was about a quarter of a mile from the place we were riding. “There,” said he, “laid the army of Washington. It was a most distressing time of ye war, and all were for giving up the ship but that one good man. In that woods,” pointing to a close in view, “I heard a plaintive sound, as of a man at prayer. I tied my horse to a sapling and went quietly into the woods and to my astonishment I saw the great George Washington on his knees alone, with his sword on one side and his cocked hat on the other. He was at Prayer to the God of the Armies, beseeching to interpose with his Divine aid, as it was ye Crisis and the cause of the country, of humanity, and of the world.

“Such a prayer I never heard from the lips of man. I left him alone praying. I went home and told my wife,’I saw a sight and heard today what I never saw or heard before’, and just related to her what I had seen and heard and observed. We never thought a man could be a soldier and a Christian, but if there is one in the world, it is Washington. We thought it was the cause of God, and America could prevail.”

The rebels should have never won the Revolutionary War against the mighty Great Britain, but leaders such as George Washington and others refused to lose. They just did not sit around and talk about how they would win independence, but worked hard, and suffered much to bring these ideas to fruition and brought about the United States of America. Failure was just not an option. What would have happened if these great men did not act upon their thoughts and intentions? How many lives have been blessed by this great country? This is the reason why I have this picture hanging in my home, I need a constant reminder that “failure is not an option”, and that miracles can and do still happen through hard work and patience.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work”
Thomas A. Edison

In response to my friend’s questions “What am I doing today to work toward accomplishing my hopes and dreams? I am trying to better my skills, so I wrote a post about capital budgeting in agriculture; I am going to do one act of service each day. It might be a very small act of service, but it will help somebody. Giving service helps me to stay grounded and focused on what is really important. Make a plan of action, and focus on one goal at a time. It is so easy to start too many projects and then not be able to finish any of them because we are too busy. I will remember that all things are possible, and that failure is just not an option.
If you are struggling to accomplish your hopes and dreams, ask yourself the same question my friend asked me “What are or what can you do today to work toward that goal. Remember George Washington and the Revolutionary War. Make a plan of action, work toward it and never give up!

“They who want milk should not sit in the middle if a field and wait for a cow to back up to them”
Lillian Katz

Milk cow in a pasture


The Basics of Capital Budgeting


Hello again from wonderful Winnemucca, Nevada. Thank heavens we finally received a little rain, the bad part was their was 500 acres of prime second crop on the ground. It has been so dry that it is probably ok,and the ranchers are needing hay and will be grateful for the rain to help their range.

Today’s post is all about the basics of capital budgeting. In the past two weeks I have talked to two different farmers who are thinking about growing additional alfalfa acres. I could not help but wonder if it would be cost effective to purchase hay equipment or if they should contract to local farmers in the area to put up their hay. This seemed like a perfect example for a capital budgeting exercise. I was not too surprised with the results of the analysis, but I was surprised of the high cost of operating hay equipment. In this example, I assumed the farmer would raise 500 acres of alfalfa, and would purchase new hay equipment. The equipment will include a swather, rake, and baler. It is assumed the farmer has the ability to stack the hay, and has tractors and labor available to take on harvesting the alfalfa.

Baler Swather Rake

Please see the PowerPoint link below for all the details. Please download the file right to Powerpoint. The “GoogleDoc” file did not upload the format correctly. The “download” button is in the upper left hand corner of the screen, marked as a down arrow.

It looks like the investment in new hay equipment would be a wise purchase. I would look at other alternatives as well such as purchasing good used equipment to lower the annual equipment payments.

As always-please comment, disagree or ask a question.


What I learned from blogging about Farmers!

kracaw bakewell Dough_fb Jeff Small Picture

I must admit when I picked the “all about agriculture” blog topic, it was purely for selfish reasons. Don’t get me wrong I love agriculture. It has always been my passion for as long as I can remember. I have always wanted to somehow learn from the many great farmers and ranchers of the world, and help them share their stories. This blog has presented a great opportunity to both learn from these great people, and to share their stories. I hope I can become more like them. I hope to find courage to fulfill my hopes and dreams, just like they have. There was an underlying theme of hope, and working through problems in each one of the interviews I completed. It reminds me of what my mom always said “Anything worth accomplishing is going to be hard”. I believe that now more than ever. I wanted to reiterate a few things that made me think from blogging about these farmers.

Don Kracaw and tending to business, watching every penny coming and going, Don is not just talking I worked for Don he lived this principle every day, and he is really good at it. We should always be looking for ways to diversify; even the “big boys”. We should not try and do everything all by ourselves, one person cannot do it all, and it is ok to ask for help. Doug’s post jumped out at me because I knew how much time and effort he put into his guest post. I could hear my grandfather saying “If you are going to do something, do it right the first time”. I know Doug well since he is my brother and he has always followed this principle. Jeff Yeck’s blog post is just like Jeff, he never gives up, and he always chases his dreams and accomplishes them. I have always wanted to be like Jeff ever since we were kids. He always had it “all” together. Jim Thompson made me rethink the importance of priorities, and if mine are in the right place, the importance of a family, and being patient, to never underestimate the value of an education. Roy and Jeannie taught me that when you do something you love you never work a day in your life. These two will never retire; they are having way too much fun.

These values just do not apply to farmers and ranchers but to everyone. I do not own one acre, or one cow but I have been able to apply these principles into my own life. We all have hopes and dreams, and in order to accomplish those dreams we cannot lose hope. If I have learned nothing else from these farmer interviews it is to never lose hope, work hard, and pray always.


BishopT dairy-cows IMG_1625