Joe Bianchi is an unlikely farmer.
Joe grew up in a city and as a young adult worked briefly in an oil and gas distributorship before returning to college to pursue a teaching degree. But Joe’s love for Penny Ohm and their marriage in 1984 changed the trajectory of his life – and he’s never looked back. In 1985, with virtually no farming experience, Joe began working with – and learning from – Penny’s dad, Fred, on his farm in Olmsted County, Minnesota. Over the next 38 years, Joe and Penny transformed the 2,900-acre operation into Bianchi Farms, an agribusiness which now also includes their sons, Tom and John, as well as Tom’s wife, Ashley.
“Our goal from the beginning was to maintain the legacy of family farming that we inherited from Penny’s dad,” said Joe. “Over the years, the farm’s focus has changed from livestock and dairy to corn and soybean crops, but Penny and I have always prioritized family and made all the major decisions together.”
All the Bianchis work full time on the farm, and each of them has the knowledge to back up the others on all aspects of their operations, from running the combine to managing the farm’s finances. “I’ve been lucky to help on the farm for as long as I can remember, driving tractor and helping with field work from a very young age,” said Tom. “Knowing the whole operation inside and out, and keeping everyone aligned, is key to both our farm’s profitability and our family’s quality of life.”
This approach, combined with prudent business and financial decisions, has contributed to consistently strong yields and improved productivity for Bianchi Farms even in years when other farms were struggling. They have been yield mapping since the late 1990s, a technique that has allowed them to use data to analyze yields year over year. Yield mapping was virtually unheard of in the area when the Bianchis implemented it. They have invested in technologically advanced equipment and programs, including a more precise sprayer that reduces cost and chemical pollutants; a new corn dryer that can be operated from the house, car or combine; and tractors with guidance systems. They also have their own top-of-the-line grain storage system, which eliminates local storage costs. And since 2019, Bianchi Farms has relied on Bremer Bank – and banker Ryan Castle – for both trusted advice and essential financial services.
“Meeting employees like Ryan was a big part of moving our business to Bremer,” said Penny. “He was very helpful and gave us a lot of good advice even before we had a formal relationship with the bank.”
Joe agrees. “Our banker grew up on a farm and has such valuable insights. He’s also optimistic and finds the positives every time we meet to discuss the business. His encouragement goes a long way. And Bremer stands behind us with an informed understanding of the ups and downs that are a part of agribusiness.“
Ryan is pleased that he has earned the Bianchis’ trust and that Bremer is able to deliver the support his family and farm need. In addition to providing separate financing for real estate and equipment, Ryan has been able to assist Tom and Ashley, who are building a new home adjacent to their parents, in obtaining a mortgage with a streamlined process through Bremer’s new Farmer Home Mortgage program.
The relationship is a win-win. “The Bianchis are good stewards of their operation,” Ryan said. “They contact me for advice prior to making major purchases, address agronomy issues in a timely fashion, are aggressive marketers, and they carefully assess and manage their risks. More broadly, their focus on profitability per acre and ROI yields favorable long-term financial results.”
For a city-boy-turned-farmer, Bianchi Farms is the culmination of years of hard work and the achievement of a goal that Joe and Penny set years ago: for their family to continue in the farming business for generations to come.
“We wanted our farm to be a true family operation, where we could work together to keep everything going ourselves … and also always put family first,” said Penny. “We’re proud of what we’ve built. We hope our granddaughter, Olivia, will carry on the farming tradition.”
And as this family paves the way for another generation to steward Bianchi Farms into the future, Bremer is proud to be one of the partners helping them make it happen.