LEOLA, S.D. — Christy Kauk, is director of operations for Vertical Solutions, one of the trade names for High Pockets Holdings LLC. Vertical Solutions of Minot, N.D., markets EasyFarm, a farm and ranch accounting software program.
Kauk, 42, lives near Leola, S.D., where her husband works for a feedlot.
She grew up at Rosholt, S.D., where her father was police chief and farmed with a brother.
“I wanted nothing to do with ag,” she laughs, thinking about her high school days.
Kauk went to North Dakota State College of Science and trained to be a paramedic. In 2002, she had one 2-year-old and was seven months pregnant when her first husband, Chris Schmitz, died in a construction accident at Wheaton, Minn.
Things changed in 2012 when she met Herman Kauk, a rancher from Wishek, N.D. The two married in 2013 and she moved to Wishek, where she worked at the local nursing home and did the U.S. Department of Agriculture market news from the sale barn. Christy and Herman have a blended family with seven children, ages 13 to 23.
She took an interest in the farm books.
In 2017, the young couple were enrolled in farm business management training class, where she learned the EasyFarm software.
“I had called into the tech support with a question,” Kauk said. She wanted her reports to work and look a particular way. “I got the company owner (on the phone), and he said, ‘What would I have to do to have you come work for me?’”
That’s all it took. She took the operations job and, in 2019, Christy and Herman sold the farm at Wishek and they moved to Leola, S.D.
These days, Vertical Solutions has beefed up its support group and data entry for customers who don’t have the time or know-how, or just don’t want to do their own bookwork. The company has sold tens of thousands of packages in all 50 states.
Vertical Solutions was started in 1983 by George Spengler, a Minot, N.D., farmer and entrepreneur. In 2015, Spengler sold the company to his lead programmer, Larry Hatfield, of Minot, who hired Kauk. The company has six employees and handles clients across the U.S., Canada and Mexico, with some clients in Africa and Russia. Software ranges from $500 to $1,300 on a one-time basis, with updates of about $150 for tech support and updates.
“Our software truly says you don’t need accounting experience,” she said. “Everything runs as if it’s going through your checking account. It’s a single-entry system that does a double entry behind the scenes.”
Crop software covers any enterprise — cotton to sugar beets and everything in between. For livestock, it allows records analysis on per head, per pen or per herd for multiple species, for everything from cattle, swine, sheep, horses and show dogs.
“It tracks all of the vaccinations, as well, that are given to each livestock head,” she said.
With so much volatility in today’s markets, Kauk urges young people to take finance, economics and farm business management training to go with their agronomic training. Farmers benefit from having tools to control costs and revenue.
One of the biggest “shockers” for Kauk and some of her clients is how much some clients spend eating out.
“If you’re busy in life and you run to town for parts, and you run to this and run to the convenience store and grab a piece of pizza — run to McDonald’s here, in Fargo — it all adds up,” she said.
Of course — if it’s farm related — it can become a business expense.