Across the Editor's Desk: December 2007
Do you remember a specific day, season, or year when you knew for certain in your mind and heart that you wanted to be in farming or ranching for your life career?
Think about it for a moment. Some of you may have been pursuing a different career path when you felt the tug to come home and join the family farm.
Many of you, however, knew from your earliest recollection of playing with farm toys in the big tractor tire sandbox that farming was your future. You wanted nothing more than to be like Dad and Mom and to grow crops and care for livestock.
Like many of you, Nicholas Hardesty decided as a young boy that he wanted to be a farmer. There was one major difference.
"My family did not farm, own any large parcels of land, or own any farm machinery," Hardesty says. "Still, I was determined to farm for my living."
His determination has paid off big. Last October at National FFA convention in Indianapolis, Hardesty, 21, of Brandeburg, Kentucky, was named the 2007 FFA American Star Farmer.
"I decided that I wanted to become a farmer even though I have been told every reason under the sun why I should not enter this career path," Hardesty says. "But I have also been told that I can achieve anything I want as long as I set my mind to it."
Hardesty's parents, Eugene and Debra, encouraged him to give it a try and to find a way.
"I talked to local farmers," Hardesty recalls. "One agreed to loan me his tobacco setter if I would help him set his tobacco. Another gave me some land in return for labor on his farm during the summer."
In 2000, the first year of Hardesty's FFA Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) program, his net operating income was $1,381. The next year it grew to $12,461.
"My days of begging for land are over," Hardesty says. "When I started, banks wanted me to put things up for collateral. I could not do that because I did not own anything. After selling my first crop of tobacco, I was able to buy some equipment. Each year produced more cash, and more cash allowed me to purchase more equipment and machinery."
Hardesty has diversified his operation with hay, wheat, and vegetables as well as beef and hogs. His start in livestock was as modest as his start in tobacco.
"I started with one market hog," Hardesty says. "When I sold that hog at the county fair, I invested into some sows. I kept some piglets for me to show, and I sold the rest to local FFA and 4-H members for their projects. Each year I did this until I actually had a small business."
By 2006, Hardesty had grown his owner's equity to just over $100,000 while attending college full time. He intends to get a job in ag business while continuing to grow his farm.
The other finalists at convention for the 2007 FFA American Star Farmer were Nocona Cook of Cordell, Oklahoma; Jon Kahnke of Florence, South Dakota; and Lee Bushman of Fountain City, Wisconsin.
Caleb Alexander of Garden City, Kansas, was named the 2007 American Star in Agribusiness for his custom hay baling and hay sales business. Other finalists were Sarah-Jean Griffin of West Suffield, Connecticut; Michael Schmidt of Fox Lake, Wisconsin; and Neil Veen of Carrington, North Dakota.