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Brothers return to family farm, start businesses

Staff writer

When the Hajek brothers were growing up on the farm west of Lost Springs, they helped their father, Ron, do fieldwork and feed cattle. Part of the work was chopping corn and forage to fill the trench silo for winter feeding. Little did they know that they would end up doing it in partnership as their life’s work.

At first, they used a two-row chopper pulled by a tractor and fed into a silage wagon. It was tedious work, taking a week or more. Then they purchased a three-row self-propelled chopper, and the boys thought they were in heaven.

“That machine made chopping fun,” 36-year-old Brent said. “We enjoyed chopping.”

By that time, Brent and his brothers, Darren and Trent, had graduated from high school, had gone to technical college, and had full-time jobs. Brent and Trent were mechanics in Wichita working on big trucks and heavy equipment. Darren was in Salina working in an auto body shop.

They started getting calls from area farmers asking if they would fill their silos. That’s when they began to think of it as something they could do as a business.

“Land prices were high, so we had to do something else,” Brent said.

They had no track record, so they had to rely on their own financing to get started. They invested in a 690 Claus with a four-row header and registered with the state in 2009 as a limited liability corporation. They worked on weekends and any time they could get off work. They didn’t make much money at first because 2010 and 2011 turned out dry, so corn and forage were short and didn’t yield much tonnage. Even beans were chopped.

“We didn’t know they were bad years because we had nothing to compare them with,” Brent said.

In 2012, the brothers quit their jobs and went fulltime in the business.

They continued to expand, moving to a 500-horsepower six-row machine, then a 600 hp 10-row machine, and the latest purchase, an 850 hp Claus with a 12-row header.

“As you make money, you spend money,” Trent said.

Over the eight years they have been in business, they have built a fleet of trucks.

“Everything we buy needs work,” Brent said.

They bought used trucks that were in poor condition and rebuilt them from the chassis up. They have seven silage trucks in operating condition and a few spares. They also have a large service truck.

For large jobs, they usually run four trucks to keep the chopper going nonstop. Darren, 33, is a truck driver; Trent, 30, operates the cutter; and Brent works wherever needed, whether packing in the silo, driving the truck or chopper, or going for parts.

Asked if they get along well, Darren said lightly, “It depends on the day.”

They appear to work well together as evidenced by their eagerness to talk about their business. Brent and Trent do the mechanical work, and Darren does body work such as repairing doors and painting truck bodies. He also is the welder.

“Darrin makes things nicer,” Trent said.

Hajek Enterprises, as their business is known, also has a manure hauling business to serve cattlemen with feedlots that need cleaning out from time to time.

“We needed to have something to do in the wintertime,” Brent explained.

They have four large manure spreader trucks and work throughout the year as needed. Farmers like manure to be spread on open fields after wheat harvest or in the fall and winter after fall harvest.

The brothers said their jobs provided relationships with many kinds of vendors who now supply them with the parts they need to keep equipment going.

They admitted that their mother and father, Leona and Ron Hajek, play a large part in making their business a success by bringing lunch to them in the field or going for parts. All three are married and starting to raise families. Their wives are involved in moving them from place to place.

The brothers also do some farming and recently purchased 160 acres of land.

They all agreed that owning their own business is stressful and requires a lot of hard work and long days. Their profitability is tied to farmers’ profitability.

“How the farmer goes is how we go,” Brent said.

Last modified Sept. 7, 2017

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