Pictured above: Hinton Mills Farming Supply has always had multiple generations involved in its continued success. Pictured, from left to right: Paula Hinton, Frank’s wife; Frank “Bud” Hinton (72), business owner and father of eldest son Matthew, middle son Adam and youngest son Nathan.
On a warm May morning in Flemingsburg, the sun is out and the skies are clear. That means Frank “Bud” Hinton III (72) is frequently getting interrupted.
Since Bud is the long-time owner of Hinton Mills Farm Supply, they’re the good kind of interruptions. Employees like Matthew, the oldest of his three sons, pop into the office to ask about billing questions. Another employee comes back to confirm an order of 25 bags of product from a loyal customer about 10 minutes later.
Farmers certainly appreciate a sunny day and Bud, along with his family, has appreciated being able to serve the surrounding farming community through Hinton Mills for more than a century. The combination of what Hinton has learned through his heritage and the education he received at Morehead State University has enabled him to serve them even better as times have changed.
Bud grew up about 12 miles from Morehead in Plummers Landing. This is where his grandfather, Frank Hinton Sr., opened the first Hinton Mills in 1918, a country general store selling clothing and groceries that was later run by his father, Frank Hinton Jr. Bud said he had a work ethic cemented in him by watching his father and the minimal staff take care of the store and its customers no matter the circumstances.
“The thing that got us to 100 years was somebody coming to work every day,” he said. “There was few of them that worked there, so they no doubt had lots of bad days, but if they didn’t feel well or were depressed or those kinds of things, they came to work anyway.”
By 1955, Bud’s father decided to change the general store to a feed mill that primarily sold mixed feed and fertilizer to nearby tobacco and dairy farmers, which Bud said, “changed the course of our business.”
“Since food is a necessity for everyone, it’s become a good line of business for us to be in,” he said.
While Bud had a need to work hard and serve the farming community through his father, the value of education came from his mother Maxine, who was a school teacher. Even though he went to school seeing fellow classmates drop out to work on the family farm, Bud attended the Breckinridge Training School on the Morehead State campus and later enrolled at MSU. He earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and economics in 1972 and remembers getting to do hands-on work both at the University Farm and at the farm of one of his professors, who took Bud and the rest of his class out there for a day.
“That’s the one kind of thing that really leaves an impression on a student, that teachers go a little bit out of their way to make the class better,” he said.
Bud said while he may not have realized it at the time, many of the lessons he learned in class at MSU have served him and his business to this day. He said that as farmers have gone from working the land and getting their hands dirty to spreading fertilizer through GPS, soil mapping and genetically modified seed, having extra knowledge through education is even more valuable.
“I also believe, because of my heritage, that education is the only way for a group of people to differentiate themselves from their competitors,” he said. “Today, there is nobody I know that needs a better, more diversified education than a farmer.”
Hinton Mills has both changed and grown with the times. In addition to its Flemingsburg location and one across the street from the original Hinton Mills in Plummers Landing, Hinton Mills also has stores in Ewing, May’s Lick and Cynthiana. Bud said the hallmarks of his business are his knowledgeable and loyal staff and a desire to see the farmers they serve succeed.
“All business, especially our type of business, is based on personal relationships. That’s what sets us apart from chain stores that we compete with,” he said. “We have to sell them a product that can improve their business before we can be successful.”
For Bud, one of the things that gives him the biggest fulfillment as the owner of Hinton Mills is that it will continue through the next generation. While Bud’s youngest son Nathan came to work for his father straight out of college, Matthew and the middle brother, Adam, have all come back to Flemingsburg and have come on board to help take Hinton Mills to the next level.
All the sons got to help at an early age. Adam recalls manually unloading trailers containing tons of bagged fertilizer in middle school. Adam and Matthew both moved away to pursue their respective careers after they graduated college. Now, Adam handles public relations and recruitment and retention of employees, Nathan deals with product decisions and inventory and Matt handles the business’s finances and anything tech-related.
“We had the opportunity to be a part of something special. Not just a multi-generational family business, but a special business in and of itself,” Adam said. “Since we’ve been involved with the business, I think what it’s done is it’s given dad new energy. He’s always had people that’s passionate about it but now, he has three people, his children, that are also passionate about it.”
“At my age (70), the best thing that’s happened to me is my three sons working here,” Bud said.
As Hinton Mills enters another summer season, Bud has plenty of reasons to be optimistic. His sons are in offices right next to his. The grandkids are close and make frequent appearances. The business continues to grow and expand to serve more customers in different ways. Through humble beginnings, hard work and education like the one he received at MSU, Bud has adapted with the farming industry while always putting the farmer first. The future looks bright, and when he and his family contemplate it, the success of Hinton Mills owes plenty to its past.
“I think we’re proud of our heritage. We’re proud of all of the time and the effort that so many people have put in our business over the years, not just family members,” Adam said. “We’re just proud of who we are and how we got to where we are today and knowing what it will take to get to where we want to be in the future.”
“The fact that one generation helped the next got us to where we are,” Bud said. “We are a family business and that’s the thing that keeps this business going is that it is a family business.”