Jessica Dunbar

Jessica Dunbar has 2 articles published.

For The Love of Farming

Although the market is not always in the farmer's favor, Braden loves what he does every day.
Although the market is not always in the farmer's favor, Braden loves what he does every day.

After graduating from Texas Tech in 2009, Braden Gruhlkey had to make a tough choice: would he be an ag teacher, or would he pursue the difficult and risky lifestyle of being a farmer?

How It All Began

Braden and his two younger brothers, Brittan and Cameron, grew up on a farm in Wildorado, Texas, just west of Amarillo. Growing up on the farm with his dad and brothers, Braden said he never felt like he was just a helper. His dad made him and his brothers feel like one day, the farmland would be theirs if they wanted it—and they did want it. Today, Braden farms in the Wildorado, Center Point, Hartley and Dalhart areas.

While student teaching in college, Braden realized very quickly that education was not the career path he wanted to follow. Actually, from an early age, he knew he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and keep the farming tradition alive. Together with his brothers, they scraped up what money they had saved, and with some help from their parents, bought their first farm while Braden was a sophomore in college.

“I always knew I wanted to farm so I probably wasn’t going to use my degree,” Braden said, “but I thought it might be a good idea to have something to fall back on if anything happened.”

Tradition Continues

Braden said working in the agricultural industry is a tough job that not everyone is cut out to do. When it comes to farming, it is not a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job with free weekends and paid vacation days. He said during harvest season, for a month, he will not get home until 11 p.m. or later every night.

“You think it’s going to slow down, and it doesn’t,” Braden said. “You just have to keep on going.”

Braden’s lifestyle is not easy work or an easy profit, and although farming is his passion, he said he is in the business to make money and provide for his family. Braden grows corn, cotton, wheat, seed milo, commercial milo and sorghum silage on his farms, but corn and cotton are his main crops.

Growing corn as one of his main crops, Braden decided to run for the Texas Corn Producers Board and has been a part of the organization for about a year. He said he did this because he wanted to learn more about ag policy, the organization’s educational efforts, and any issues that may affect him as a corn farmer.

Stephanie Pruitt, communications director for TCPB, said the organization works to make sure young farmers like Braden have the programs and resources, like the checkoff board, they need to be able to go back to the farm.

“The Gruhlkey brothers have really pushed the conservation envelope on their farms to make sure they’re making the land and their resources last for future generations,” Pruitt said.

A Family Affair

Upon graduating from college, Braden met his wife, Lauren, at a church event in Amarillo. After one year of dating, Braden and Lauren got married. Today, they live in Amarillo, have two young boys and are expecting twins in April. Lauren is a stay-at-home mom and stays plenty busy keeping up with the kids and Braden. Braden said having only one income can be difficult at times, but this is the life he and his wife have always wanted.

“We worry about how we are going to make this work, but God takes care of us,” he said. “Because what do you know? We’ve made it work.”

Braden grows six different crops on his farms.

Farming is not only hard on the farmer alone. It demands continuous patience and support from the family back at home. Each day is a new day often requiring a full 15 hours of hard, physical labor. Braden said his wife sacrifices a lot while staying at home with their children while he works.

“I don’t know a whole lot of women who would deal with this lifestyle,” he said. “I am blessed to have her, that’s for sure.”

The three Gruhlkey brothers are all married with children and work on the farm together almost every day. Braden said when they began farming, the brothers decided they would be more successful together than apart—and the partnership has worked in their favor thus far. Working with family on a daily basis has its challenges, but Braden said it is nice to have his brothers around when he has questions or needs advice. Braden said he and his brothers are very transparent and honest with each other and that is what makes their partnership work.

“My brothers are pretty much my best friends and that makes it work,” he said. “We’ve always gotten along.”

Brittan Gruhlkey, who is the middle brother, said going back to the farm was always his goal and he would not change his life for anything else. Brittan said growing up on the farm with his brothers taught them hard work and work ethic. Like his older brother, Braden, Brittan knew he would farm after college, despite knowing the risks and hard work it would require.

We worry about how we are going to make this work, but God takes care of us. Braden Gruhlkey

Brittan said fewer people are returning to the farm because of these risks, but without taking risks, there are no rewards.

“It’s a different type of work that a lot of people are not willing to do,” Brittan said. “The amount of time and effort and risk it takes to farm is a lot.”

Braden said their father, Bill, has had a big impact on his life on and off the farm. Besides sparking his interest in farming, Braden said his dad taught he and his brothers work ethic, honesty and how to do things around the farm.

“We’ve learned a ton from Dad about everything to do with farming—planting, irrigating, and just the whole aspect of it all,” he said. “He was always good at telling us why he did this and why he didn’t do that, and we always listened.”

During planting and harvesting season, Braden said he and his brothers come together to help each other and their dad on their farms. There is a lot of blood, sweat and tears that go into being a farmer, but Braden Gruhlkey has proven that if you love what you do and have a supportive family by your side, being a farmer is pretty darn great.

“It’s not a ‘get rich quick’ scheme, but I think that in the end, we’re going to be all right.”

Farm Bill Frenzy

A group of Texas corn farmers visiting with legislators on Capitol Hill to advocate for their industry. Left to right: Lindsey Bowers, Joe Reed, Heath Hill, Rep. Joe Barton, Aaron Martinka, Dee Vaughan, and Jimmy Wedel. Image courtesy of Texas Corn Producers Board.

As preparation for the 2018 Farm Bill begins, state and national farm groups are ramping up their advocacy efforts. For the Corn Producers Association of Texas, this is when their advocating efforts are put into high gear.

According to a Thrive Market article, the farm bill is a billion-dollar piece of legislation that essentially governs everything from nutrition assistance programs to crop and disaster insurance to governing risk management programs for commodity crops. The next farm bill will be passed in 2018, and officials have begun preparing to advocate for their industry.

The Corn Producers Association of Texas is directly involved in the bill and has begun preparations for the 2018 Farm Bill. David Gibson, Texas Corn Producers Board executive director and CPAT vice president, said the organization will hold multiple regional meetings around the state to seek input from producers.

“We’re asking the producers for their input on what worked from this current bill, what hasn’t worked so good, what changes or improvements they would like to see made, and then we’ll sit down as a board and determine how we go advocate on their behalf,” Gibson said.

CPAT works closely with Texas members of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee including Chairman Mike Conaway, Jodey Arrington, and Filemon Vela. Gibson said Texas, in general, is positioned well for the farm bill because of these representatives.

Braden Gruhlkey, a corn farmer and TCPB member, said the previous farm bill gave him mixed emotions. Gruhlkey predicts the 2018 Farm Bill will look similar to the 2014 Farm Bill.

“I don’t really think they’re going to change a lot, to be honest with you,” Gruhlkey said. “As a whole, the 2018 Farm Bill will look a lot like the 2014 Farm Bill.”

CPAT is also a part of the Southwest Council of Agribusiness, which is a cooperative association between cotton, corn, wheat and sorghum growers, dairymen and cattle organizations, as well as agribusinesses like ag lenders and implement dealers. Gibson said they put things together for farm policy on the federal level and reach a general consensus.

Farm bill hearings will be held around the country and they are CPAT key points for what they want considered in the bill and it is one of the steps in conveying their message and policy. CPAT will send one of their directors and association president, Joe Reed, to be representatives. Gibson said they take growers to Washington, D.C. at least twice a year so they have a presence on Capitol Hill.

Stephanie Pruitt, the CPAT communications director, said it is important for Texas corn farmers to give themselves a voice. Pruitt said it is important for decision makers to hear from people who are directly affected by the farm bill.

“It means a lot whenever legislators and decision makers can hear from people who live in the districts and the regions that they’re from so that they can hear how it’s actually impacting the constituents who are voting for them,” Pruitt said.

Gibson said it is easy for agriculture to be outnumbered and CPAT will continue to work hard for their corn growers and agriculture in general.

“One of the things I’d say we hope is an outcome is that we wind up with a farm bill that will provide some type of safety net that ensures our guys can stay in business,” Gibson said.

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