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Faith of a father

As children grow, they experience many firsts -- their first word, their first step, their first day of school. But for Willie Agner Jr., the most memorable first for him was purchasing his very own tractor.

"I bought a John Deere 7410 in 2002 because I wanted to get my foot in the door of farming. I couldn't wait to put it to work," he says.

During his first year of ownership, he used the $54,000 investment to cover more than 1,000 acres near Lee, Florida. Taking that initial leap into farming was an expensive one, but it was a step that was guided by his father, Willie Sr.

"I've tried to teach my son how to be a good manager and, at the same time, be wise with his money," says Willie Sr. "Without someone to back him financially or to share equipment with, a young person couldn't make it alone."

The lessons his father taught him growing up have carried Willie Jr. through adulthood. Lessons that have helped him steadily build his equity to what he currently owns and aspires to. The younger Agner says whether it's management skills or becoming more thrifty when dealing with financial matters, he's trying to learn as much as he can from his dad as they work side by side. And those day-to-day lessons in the field, his father feels, are the most critical.

"Even though learning in school is important," Willie Sr. says, "I want him to be able to apply the unwritten rules of farming that he wouldn't necessarily pick up in a classroom. I like to say he's earned his career as a farmer instead of learned it."

As children grow, they experience many firsts -- their first word, their first step, their first day of school. But for Willie Agner Jr., the most memorable first for him was purchasing his very own tractor.

Since his initial machinery investment, Willie Jr. has acquired a John Deere 8420 tractor, land, and livestock. He plants 735 acres of his own crops (through rented and owned ground), which include peanuts, peas and corn.

Willie Jr. has learned valuable lessons on and off the farm. He has attended several leadership schools through FFA, served as past president and vice president of FFA, been a Farm Bureau board member, and is currently chairing the Young Farmers and Ranchers group.

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