In each edition of Montana Grass Roots it is our pleasure to share the story of one of our members. This month we highlight the Hoven family who continue to make a tremendous impact on Montana agriculture and the business community.

1.Can you share with us your family background? Sean was born in Alexandria, Louisiana and raised in Great Falls Montana.He graduated from Great Falls High and Montana State University. I was born in Highland, Illinois and raised in Duluth, Minnesota. I graduated from Central High School and the University of Wisconsin at River Falls. We ended up in the Saint Paul, Minnesota area after college. In 2008, we adopted our son Lawrence from Ethiopia who is now 9 years old. In 2012 we adopted our daughter Olivia from Shanghai, China who is now 6. In 2014 we adopted our son Henry from Huainan City, China who is now 8. We have two dogs named Massey Ferguson and Sophie, one cat named Zona, and one fish named Goldie.

2.)How did you meet? We have been married for 13 years and met on Match.com while living in Minnesota. We had a lot in common, skiing, traveling, and a love for the state of Montana. Sean was working as a chemical engineer at 3M and I as a flight attendant for Northwest Airlines. After dating for a couple of years we decided to get married and move to Montana where Sean grew up. Sean wanted to work in his family’s business and I was able to work for Northwest Airlines by commuting to work a couple times a month.

3.) Hoven Equipment has been a staple in our community for decades, how has the business evolved over time?
Brian and Barbara Hoven started Hoven Equipment Company in 1978 selling Allis Chalmers tractors and Gleaner combines. In 1978 there were 38 equipment dealerships between Cut Bank, Havre, Lewistown, and Great Falls. Today there are only 14. During this period of consolidation taking advantage of various opportunities presented was the key to survival. The last 39 years have seen the shift from 100% mechanical farm equipment to highly electronic farm equipment. Today’s farm implements, which do not have engines, typically have at least one computer. Modern combines have numerous computers and any one of them can stop the harvesting process. The modern farm equipment dealership has to embrace technology in all departments.

4.What advice would you give someone looking to get into agriculture? The agriculture economy is cyclic and does not track with the national economy. If you are planning on making your living in agriculture you are part of a very small group of people in this nation. Less than 2% of the United States population is involved in direct for profit agricultural pro duction. The secret of success is to be extremely fiscally conservative. The great time we experienced during 2008-2014 allowed many producers and supporting business to update equipment and facilities, but more importantly many improved their balance sheets and equity positions. Unfortunately commodity pricing fell to historical lows and are slow to rebound. The plan for the next several years will be aggressively managing expenses and exploring new revenue sources. Many producers are utilizing pulse crops to bolster profitability.

5.What makes Hoven Equipment so successful? Hoven Equipment is a doing organization. We utilize process and procedures to ensure positive outcomes, but things happen which are outside of normal operation of daily events. When these situations arise the team is expected to make the best decision they can with the information they have at the time and do whatever it takes to make things happen. We are in the business of solving our customers’ problems with the products we represent and the services we offer. Hoven Equipment Company is only a building without its strong team members. Hoven Equipment is blessed with great people who really care about the company and its customers.

left to right: Henry(7); Olivia(5); Lawrence(8)

6.What is the key to staying in business despite the ups and downs in commodity prices and limited access to financing? Hard times breed good habits. Good times breed bad habits. It is very important to remember the lessons learned during the hard times. Most long term producers are fiscally conservative, but are always looking for new sources of revenue, efficiency improvement, and cost cutting This also includes trying new processes, crops, or marketing strategies via baby steps to determine viability. Not every new idea is right for everyone.

7.What do the Hovens like to do for fun? We are avid alpine skiers. We also enjoy spending time with both sets of grandparents.The kids enjoy participating in sports. Lawrence went to his first overnight camp at Arrowpeak Camp this past summer and absolutely loved it!

8.Anything else you would like to share with our members? We are very thankful for the gifts God has given us and feel blessed to be able to live in Montana and work with great teammates who support the people who feed the world.

*** A big thank you to Sean and Andrea for sharing their story with us!