On a country-bound drive to shoot some .22’s, young Randy Hill shared with his Grandpa a desire to have their own land to shoot on. “I had the chance to buy a farm once,” his Grandpa replied. “But I didn’t take it.”
In that moment, Randy resolved to never in his life say “I had the chance to do something, but didn’t take it.”
Since then, Randy has bought, developed, and sold over 10,000 acres of Texas ranch land, created a revolutionary tool for the peanut farming industry, and now enjoys helping others experience life on Texas farms and ranches.
Randy sat down with us to discuss what led him to “revolutionize” the peanut industry (and how Ranchers can learn from it to improve their livelihoods), his personal experience as a ranch owner in Texas, and his perspective on how the world’s perception of rural living is changing.
Let’s dive in…
In 2002, Randy sold his first company, a storage trailer rental business, and used the capital to purchase his first Ranch land in Titus County. His philosophy with land was simple: leave it better than he found it. First, he’d purchase a property. Then, he enhanced it with water wells, deer feed, produce, and foliage (among other investments). He’d also acquire neighboring tracks of land to expand the size, then sell the new & improved ranch to someone else who could reap the fruits of his labors. Why? While there are many people interested in owning a farm or ranch, most new-comers to the industry are unfamiliar with what it takes to tend to the land. So, Randy figured it would provide a lot of value to new ranchers to provide a “turnkey” ranch that could easily be managed after he sold it. To illustrate… In 2005, he bought roughly 1,050 acres of land in Fisher County. Following the same land-improvement process he applied with his other ranches, he transformed the land into 1,980 acres of hunting property. It was a great escape for him and the people close to him.
When his work on the property was complete, he sold it and moved on to the next one.
Randy believes there is always a deal waiting to be found. A deal you can pounce on, improve, and either enjoy for yourself or sell to someone else to enjoy.
How exactly did Hill fund these land investments?
Shortly after graduating from Abilene Christian University with a degree in Mass Communications, Randy went to work at GE Capital’s semi trailer rental sales and leasing division Transport International Pool (TIP) (Whoof… that’s a mouth-full). TIP owned thousands of semi-trailers that were being rented and leased to the largest transportation companies in the world.
While there, Hill saw a niche opportunity. He explains: “I recognized the emerging market for using the older retired trailers in the GE Capital TIP fleet for storage and local cartage. After just 8 months I left the security of a stable job at the mighty GE to start my own semi-trailer rental and sales business in Irving, Texas. The business plan was simple: buy older retired semi-trailers from what was my previous employer (GE Capital / TIP) and focus my sales acumen on rental and sales of cheap inexpensive semi-trailers.” Within a few years, Hill became one of the largest buyers of GE Capital’s retired semi-trailers in North America.
Soon after opening his new business across the highway from the old Texas Stadium, Hill was approached by a peanut farmer with an idea: what if you could use an old semi trailer to house, dry, and transport peanuts? This work was normally done with inefficient wagons, but the farmer figured that maybe, just maybe, an old semi-trailer would do the trick.
Randy ran with the idea and started testing out different floor materials and drying systems that could convert these semi-trailers into peanut drying trailers. After numerous tests and iterations, Randy discovered the perfect flooring material that would allow for a fan to heat and dry the peanuts in the trailer with 14 times the efficiency of the traditional wagons.
On one occasion, a farmer in Florida ordered 200 trailers. An order so large that the company responsible for transporting the retired GE trailers from Chicago to Hill’s manufacturing plant in Vienna, Georgia couldn’t deliver. So, Hill decided to rent an entire train himself to ship the empty semi-trailers to get them there on time.
By the time Randy sold his company in 2011, he had sold over 4,000 trailers to the American Peanut Industry alone. Now over 80% of the peanuts harvested each year in the US are transported and dried using his trailers.
Listening to his story is fascinating, but what’s more fascinating is the lessons in it for every-day and future farmers and ranchers.
This theme became clear in listening to Randy’s experiences on his own ranch and in serving other ranchers. A good rancher knows that when conditions are right to harvest, you ought to harvest right away. Some ranchers put off the day of the harvest only to have their crops killed by an oncoming natural disaster. This is what it means to get the most you can out of all you’ve got; you have to strike when the conditions are right.
As a rancher, Randy’s goal wasn’t just to take care of his land. He saw his land ownership as a stewardship, an opportunity to “strike” and increase its value. It was a constant investment in the future.
To illustrate this mentality further, after optimizing his drying trailers technology for peanuts, he tested it with other farmed goods: grass, seeds, almonds, wood chips, and even mesquite trees for biomass. He figured that there were even more ways this technology could be used to improve the efficiency of the farm and ranch industry.
If you’re in the market for a ranch, this is the mentality to approach your purchase process with: a long-term, growth mindset focused on getting the most you can out of all you’ve got. Focus not just on “making it” with your ranch, but on increasing its value over time. This mindset will help you ask the right questions when viewing available land; questions about the land’s potential, its historic value, and what you may be able to do with it in the future.
If you’re a selling agent, you build more trust and credibility with buyers and sellers by focusing your marketing on long-term land value. Assure your clients that your goal is to help them get the most they can out of all they’re going to get.
Did we mention the importance of getting the most you can out of all you got?
As someone who has bought, grown, and sold thousands of acres of ranch land during his career, we asked Randy what advice he would give today’s ranchers. In three words? Don’t be discouraged.
Ranching is among the most fruitful of American dreams. But, it can be overwhelming to some. The weather can be brutal, and the future uncertain. But “don’t be discouraged” says Hill.
We live in a unique time in history. This is a time where more and more people are looking to rural life for joy and wealth. Entrepreneurs who are ready to “get out of the rat race” and into a fulfilling life are selling their companies and buying ranches (just look at Hill). And since RV and camping trips are becoming the vacations of choice for many Americans, they are discovering that life on the ranch provides many benefits the suburbs just can’t give.
“It’s one of those lifestyles that many dream of as a child but don’t chase initially” Hill said as he explained how that reality is changing.
The data confirms this: since 2011, the number of Americans living in and moving to rural areas has steadily increased. In 2016-2017, more than 33,000 people made the move to the wide open plains. And while many of the people making this move are trying to stay relatively close to urban cities for access, the trend shows that people are finding more and more value in farm and ranch land each year.
“Don’t be discouraged.” If you’re in it for the long-game, there is plenty of reason to be optimistic about rural life in 2020 and beyond.
When COVID-19 broke out in the United States, Randy and his family decided to shelter in place at their ranch on Lake Nocona. With state-mandated shutdowns and quarantines affecting every part of life (especially urban life), the family decided to extend their lake-side stay and opt for the safety and security of a rural community, far removed from the risk of exposure and surge in cases seen in metropolitan areas like Dallas.
Hill shares: “Soon friends and family started recognizing our outdoor activities and looking for an escape themselves. This led to a friend inquiring about renting a boat which then developed into another entrepreneurial business venture for us. In early May we started a boat rental business.”
It was the perfect opportunity at the perfect time, and business has been “so good that we are now looking into other business opportunities including a lodge and retreat center on our existing property.” Today Randy and his family own Good Times Brands, a conglomerate of entrepreneurial endeavors including Good Times Vans and Good Times Adventures, a boat rental business on Lake Nocona, two hours Northwest of the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex area. 
Only about 10% of adults work the job they dreamed of as a teenager.
It seems most of us wind up settling for a “stable” career, not our original Astronaut and Rancher dreams. There are, however, many people who realize at a certain point in their lives that life is both too short and too long to spend it without doing what you dreamed of as a kid. So, they make their exit from the “stable” life and chase that long-lost dream.
That’s what Randy did, and his story shows that it’s possible for others to do too.
Remember, don’t be discouraged, invest with the long-term in mind, and get the most you can out of all you’ve got.