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Across the Editor's Desk: Can't farm? They don't believe you

Agriculture.com Staff 04/05/2006 @ 8:37am

Being around young, beginning, and aspiring farmers rates among my greatest joys. I'd like to bottle up their determination, passion, and perseverance, then sip on it all day.

Many of our older generation of producers came into farming less by choice than by expectation. Their parents were farmers; male children were expected to follow.

The Great Depression swept many youths off the farm and pulled others in for a lifetime. My farm neighbor, Ralph, is a good example. He had college plans to study architecture until the 1930s Depression forced him to stay on the farm to work.

Still, he practiced his love for design. In the 1950s, he planned with great detail and drawings a grain drying/storage center still standing today. He also drew up similar plans for my dad's ear corn and grain storage building. His pay: A new electric skillet for his wife!

Today's aspiring and beginning farmers come equipped with four-year and two-year ag degrees for a vast array of nonfarm jobs. They know all about the opportunities in global agribusiness. But they feel called to farming careers and dream of nothing else. If the first inch of earth's top soil is the most valuable physical resource in the world, then these young people are the most valuable human resource of future ag production.

In February, I attended the first Beginning Farmer Network (BFN) conference at Iowa State University. Students with a passion to farm created BFN four years ago. The group had great support from ISU ag faculty in organizing its first conference. More than 70 students came.

Session speakers included some of Iowa's well-known ag leaders as well as ISU ag specialists. Perhaps the two most popular speakers, however, were short on experience but long in affinity with the audience.

Dustin Bollig of Fenton and Steve Rachut of Floyd are 2004 ISU ag graduates. They helped start BFN. Now they're involved in family farming arrangements back home.

The original intent of BFN was to bring aspiring new farmers together to share ideas. The conference expands the opportunity to learn and prepare. Imagine a chapter someday at every ag college!

To learn more, contact John Baker (jrbaker@iastate.edu) of ISU's Beginning Farmer Center.

Loren Kruse can be reached at loren.kruse (at) meredith.com.

Being around young, beginning, and aspiring farmers rates among my greatest joys. I'd like to bottle up their determination, passion, and perseverance, then sip on it all day.

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