Moving Cattle and Chasing Dreams
For a farmer with dreams as big as the Texas panhandle, hard work pays off.
There’s something about Nazareth, Texas that renders the small, panhandle town a world apart from its comparatively metropolitan neighbor, Lubbock. Just under a two-hour drive away, the landscape changes as you move north: beige farmland giving way to yellow-green plains that stretch all the way to the horizon.
The sign on the road reads “Welcome to Nazareth: Population 311.” This is the place that Wayne Wilhelm has called home his entire life. His family’s land, marked by an antique thresher adorned with red and white lettering that reads, "Wilhelm Homestead" is striking. The white house his grandfather built sits historically untouched along a line of trees he planted as a child, next to a towering red hangar flanked by state-of-the-art farming equipment. The setting is as humble as the man himself.
The first things you notice about Wayne are his captivating icy-blue eyes and hands that reveal the years of hard work raising his herds and tending to his land. When Wayne tells you that he watches Rocky clips every day, you believe him. After all, he’s been underestimated his entire life. It’s no wonder that Wilhelm Farms was born as a rude gesture to all the people who didn’t think he could make it. Wayne Wilhelm has proved everyone wrong.
“I wanted to farm. My dad wasn’t crazy about that idea. He said there was no future in it. But I’ve always had this, ‘I’ll show you’ attitude.”
Farming was always the dream. Even when his father advised against it; even when the naysayers discouraged him; even when another bank denied him a first loan.
Wayne marched down the road and learned all he could from a family of farmers for nearly a decade. When his interest turned to cattle, they were happy to help. His first purchase was a group of 55 head of cattle on a piece of borrowed land. Though he’s not much of a sentimentalist, he still has the first dollar he made off that set of cattle hanging in his house.
“I thought if I ever got to 500 head, that would be incredible. And one day we just blew past it and I never looked back.”
When asked about the specifics of his business’ growth, Wayne blushes, looks at his shoes and kicks the dirt a little. He won’t get too granular with the numbers, but he’s willing to estimate he has somewhere between 2,500 and 4,000 head of cattle at any given time. Safe to say he’s met his goals and then some.
“You gotta have a knack. It’s like trading futures and options. They say the best way to learn is to get in there and lose some money, and you can only lose money for so long. I try to stay in front of things. I look to the future. You gotta be willing to change, you gotta be willing to ask questions and not be too stubborn.”
Wayne’s curiosity served him well. He studied different genetic profiles, bought some bad and some good and eventually taught himself what to look for. As he describes it, the roots and subsequent growth of his cattle business is all fairly low-key. But his farming business? That required a lot of capital in order to grow. After all, that fancy crop sprayer idling outside the workshop cost as much as a house.
“The biggest obstacle was having enough capital to afford the equipment. I had to travel up to 20 miles to go borrow a piece of equipment that nobody close by had. I kept telling myself that one of these days, I’m gonna own that.”
He describes approaching Centennial BANK as a natural next step. His first loan officer was a brother of the farmers that he spent nearly a decade learning from. Not only did he know Wayne could work hard, he knew exactly the potential growth he was sitting on. Together they expanded the operation, adding thousands of acres of new farmland and pastures.
“The farming part I would not want to get bigger, because it takes more equipment, more employees. The cattle side of it I’d like to get bigger. Marty is working on a note for me so I can buy some cows off a ranch in Nebraska. I’ve bought ‘em in years past and they’re the best cows that I have.”
Wayne’s not a man who chalks his success up to luck. He defines luck as putting yourself in the position for something good to happen. His success begins and ends with hard work. His is the quintessential underdog story: even with all this success, he still feels he’s got something to prove.
“I told the wife, ‘We’re gonna set the world on fire this year.’ And she goes, ‘I have no doubt you will, Wayne.’”
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