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They say 'I do' to farming

Updated: 07/12/2010 @ 1:38pm

The getaway vehicle outside the church was a John Deere tractor with a sign attached that said, "She thinks my tractor's sexy." Their wedding party went to the hayfield nearest the family farm to take pictures. Jamie Hilaman planned a honeymoon trip to Iowa, where she and her new husband, Chris, toured John Deere Waterloo Works. You might say this couple is in love with farming.

It's certainly not infatuation. They've both wanted to farm since their respective childhoods near Wakeman, Ohio. Right now, they grow soybeans, hay, and corn on about 650 acres, most of which is cash rented or on shares with the landowners. Chris, 30, finds this is a manageable amount to work on his own. But his goal is to eventually farm 1,000 to 1,500 acres.

Fortunately, they have the broad family support, resources, drive, and energy to make their commitment work.

Helping to fulfill a dream

Chris's parents, Lois and Terry Hilaman, both had off-farm careers. Though neither one of them cared to farm, they knew how badly Chris wanted the chance. So when Lois's dad, George Dalton, was ready to retire, Lois and Terry bought his place with 105 acres as a bridge solution. When the time came, Chris could, in turn, buy it from them.

That time is nearly here.

"After both my parents retire and Jamie starts working, we'll begin buying the farm," says Chris.

Terry is already retired from the Ohio Department of Transportation, and Lois has less than two years before she retires.

Jamie, 23, graduates this month with a registered nursing license from Lorain Community College in Elyria. She's worked part time since 2006 as a secretary and lab technician at Amherst Hospital in Amherst, Ohio.

"It's typical that most of the farm income goes back into the farm, so an outside income is critical for personal expenses. We couldn't make it without me working," she says.

Besides the investment in Jamie's education, the young couple has also been able to buy a John Deere 8410 (235-hp.) tractor, a 1991 Peterbilt 379 semi, and a big square baler.

Lois says Chris has worked hard to buy that equipment. "I know he's my son, but I do wish more young people were like Chris and Jamie. They have good values and are well grounded," she says. Lois adds that the two usually attend "weekly get-togethers for extended family members. It helps keep the ties," she says.

Lois, Jamie, and Jamie's mom, Sherri Crawford, all help with farm management, chores, and care of family and friends. Sherri also has a full-time job, but she and Jamie raise a very large vegetable garden and put up the produce.

Jamie's dad, Jerry Crawford, bought his farm when he returned from Vietnam. He and Chris regularly assist one another on each other's farms.

"If I ever need anything, Jerry comes over," says Chris. "My water pump quit at the farm the other day, and Jerry was there working on it until late at night."

When Jamie was 10 years old, she told Jerry she didn't want to go to college; she wanted him to teach her how to farm. "He said he wanted me to go to college, but he agreed to teach me how to farm, too," remembers Jamie.

Chris grew up helping his mom's father, George Dalton. "I was always with him," says Chris. First, Chris walked the quarter mile from home. Then when he was older, he rode over on an ATV. "All I ever wanted to do was farm. When I was in middle school and high school, my mother would write my teachers notes so I could miss classes and work on Grandpa's farm."

Until 10 years ago, George was doing everything on the farm that he'd ever done. Now at age 95, "He still likes to go out and look at the cows and make sure the steers have water if I'm not around," says Chris. George has an electric scooter he takes out, weather permitting. Specially placed ramps help him get around.


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