Kansas couple works to provide a future for their three young sons
Third-generation farmers, Austin and Kendall Heiniger farm nearly 2,300 acres of corn, soybeans, and winter wheat; maintain a feedlot operation and hog barn; and raise their three boys, Caleb (9), Jackson (5), and Simon (4).
Although Austin grew up on the family farm, he didn’t intend to return home. After graduating from Kansas State, he went to work for PepsiCo. However, with the demanding travel schedule and odd hours, the Heiniger’s picked up their lives in the city and returned to Austin’s family farm.
Making a farm girl out of a city girl
Kendall grew up in Kansas City and after moving to the farm, she quickly realized how little her friends in the city knew about agriculture.
“We started Facebook videos called Farm Chats to educate and advocate to people just like me,” says Kendall. “We really enjoy sharing our family story to be more transparent to consumers about a typical Kansas farm. Doing so, we are also able to provide a future for our sons as well.”
The Heinigers have attracted nearly 400 viewers and counting on their FarmChat videos. The videos have ranged in topics from women farmers, swine management, hormones and antibiotics in livestock and more. Kendall says the overall goal is to educate consumers on the ‘why’ behind the farm.
Optimistic for 2021
“As a farmer, we’re always optimistic. That’s the nature of our job,” said Austin. “There’s hope for us as young farmers and there aren’t very many of us left.”
According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, the U.S. has 321,261 producers who identified as a young producer (ages 35 or younger) accounting for 9% of the country’s 3.4 million producers. The state of Kansas had just 9,616 young producers in 2017.
Austin says his continually looking for opportunities to diversify the farm.
“We’re living in the golden year of technology with precision agriculture,” said Austin. “We can manage more acres than ever before and see satellite imagery from anywhere in the world. The technology we use gives me hope we can produce more efficiently than we ever have.”
The Heinigers continue to expand their acreage to provide a future and legacy for their family.
“Our oldest son is nine this year, and he continues to show more and more interest in the farm,” said Austin. “Our goal is to continue to expand the operation so if all three boys wish to return to the farm, we can find a place for them.”