Kentucky’s Keith Lowry: Great
appreciation for farm heritage
Kentucky farmer Keith Lowry is known for his high yielding corn and soybeans and for the many ways he supports his community. He lives and farms in the western part of the state, in the Pilot Oak community near Water Valley. His
modern shop building has become a popular gathering spot for
charitable and social events in the community.
He started farming 40 years ago with 250 rented acres, and
from that he has built an impressive 9,000-acre farm. Of that, he
rents 5,000 acres from 58 landlords, and the rest is family owned.
Lowry’s success has earned him state winner honors as Swisher
Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year. He joins
nine other individuals as finalists for the overall award that will be
announced Tuesday, Oct. 18, at the Sunbelt Expo.
In 1976, he joined the family farm full time, and today his
family’s sixth generation is living on the farm.
During high school, his family lived in Birmingham, Ala., where
his father was a trucker. Lowry would get on his motorcycle and
ride to Kentucky so he could spend the summer months working
on his grandfather’s farm. “My granddad helped me buy my first
farm,” Lowry recalls. “In 1980, I rented 80 acres, and Granddad put
down $10,000 so I could buy that land. He also co-signed the note
at the local Production Credit Association.”
OU TS TANDING YIELDS
Last year, he produced 186 bushels of corn per acre on about
3,500 acres, and on another 3,500 acres, his soybeans yielded
59 bushels per acre. Wheat yields from 2,000 acres reached 77
bushels per acre. He plants 75 percent of his crops no-till, and has
had good results with no-till wheat.
“All of our soybeans are grown for seed, as is 80 percent of our
wheat,” he says. He grows soybean seed for Monsanto and grows
wheat seed for Pioneer and Dyna-Gro. Growing for seed earns
premium prices, but it requires separate handling and storage. He
harvests wheat in June and it is gone from the farm by the end of
August so he can then store soybeans.
He uses split
on his corn, and
has used global
positioning and other
tools for about 10
years. His plans call
for expanding the farm’s fertilizer and grain storage facilities, and
adding more center pivot irrigation.
In marketing his grain crops, Lowry subscribes to three
professional marketing advisory services, and makes his selling
decisions based on their advice. His corn marketing is aided by
a strong basis, the di;erence between local and national cash
prices. The basis is strong due to his close proximity to poultry
production, ethanol plants, and river shipping points. He’s able to
store about 500,000 bushels of grain on his farm, which also aids
in marketing for higher prices.
Lowry operates two other businesses — a trucking company
and a construction company. The trucking sideline helps keep
farm employees working full time. The construction business
includes a bulldozer, dirt pan, and track-hoe that are hired out for
“We have a 10-year farm succession plan in place,” he says. “I
lost my dad unexpectedly when he died in a 2001 plane crash, so
I know how important estate planning and planning for business
succession can be.” He’s using life insurance to make sure his nonfarming heirs will be treated fairly when his estate is settled.
His farm hosts a visit from Santa Claus each December for local
children whose families are invited to donate toys to the Graves
Lowry has also helped to auction University of Kentucky
basketball tickets that were donated by local citizens to benefit
Keith Lowry and wife Rita, top, and Keith Lowry
and Randall Heath, who nominated Keith for the
Farmer of the Year award.