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Kirk Martin: Young Farmer Here to Stay

Fifty-nine years and five generations later, the Martins have maintained their family namesake. They continue to be stewards of the land almost six decades after their patriarch began to farm. Since 1961, the Martin family has farmed in different areas of land in Terry County, Texas. Today, the youngest of the bunch, 25-year-old Kirk Martin, is continuing the family tradition.   

It would be really hard for me to figure out what to do if I wasn’t a farmer, because I can’t see myself doing anything else. 

Kirk Martin

What was once a past time for Martin has now become a way of life. Born into a farming family, Martin recalls some of the earliest memories as a five-year-old spending time with his dad in a tractor or in a field. 

“Sometimes, I would get bored and antsy just sitting in there,” Martin said. “So my dad would get me down, and I would sit in the middle of the field and play in the holes until he finished up.”

As he grew older, Martin said he went from riding in the tractor, to driving it alone, experiencing the long days and hard work he would encounter himself in the years to come.  

“It would be really hard for me to figure out what to do if I wasn’t a farmer,” Martin said, “because I can’t see myself doing anything else.” 

In 2016, he had the opportunity to pick up some land, so he decided to return to the farm and start producing his own crop. Through mentorship and partnership, Martin has helped grow Martin Family Farms. Five years after his first crop, Martin continues to farm alongside his father and older brother, both whom he credits for his success. Martin said he attributes his grandfather as the sole pioneer who kick-started the family farm. 

“Working with family is always hard,” Martin said, “but I greatly appreciate having my dad, my brother and my grandpa, because without them I would be no where near where I am today.” 

As a young farmer, Martin believes he is receptive of new innovations and technological advances within the farming industry. Understanding the importance and need of technology and sustainability on the farm, he stays informed on such systems that allow for farming to be more profitable and efficient. 

Martin said his father had learned about different methods of water conservation and soon after decided to take on a project with the help of both of his sons. They built a water harvest system that would filter rainwater that sat on the top of their barn roof. The system collects fallen rainwater, filters it and stores it. The Martins then use the harvested water to spray their crop. 

“We had drilled a well, and there was no water in there; barely enough water to run toilet and sink,” Martin said, “so we had to figure out a way to harvest some water.”

The Martin’s rainwater harvest system is placed along the top of their 19,000 square foot barn roof along with the filtration system running along the sides of the barn. Martin said they are able to supply up to 30,000 gallons of reusable water with only two and a half inches of rainfall. 

While he stays up to date on different farming technologies and innovations, Martin also has developed interest in agricultural policy. He acknowledges the importance of technology on the farm, and on the media, which in most instances, is politically centered. Several years back, Martin was encouraged to join the West Texas Young Farmers Association, by then-president and fellow Terry County farmer, Mason Becker. In March, Martin was elected as the association’s newest president.

“Kirk is a great young man and he has always had a passion for promoting agriculture,” Becker said. “He has been heavily involved in the West Texas Young Farmers Association for several years and I am confident that he will lead the group in a good direction.”

The West Texas Young Farmers Association works to not only inform young farmers on issues surrounding agriculture, but also to implement positive change within the farming community, whether by sharing information with non-agricultural audiences, giving scholarships to high school students, or collaborating and learning from other producers.

Over the course of several years, the association has strengthened its once loosened ties. Starting as the Terry County Young Farmers Association several decades ago, sons of those who were once members decided to start the association up again. Becker said he hopes that the new leadership understands the difference they can make in the community and across the nation.

“It is my hope that the association continues to educate as many people as possible to what it takes to become a farmer in West Texas,” Becker said. 

Martin said he was interested in joining because Becker explained to him that the only way for his voice to be heard was to get involved.

“I liked being involved from the get-go because I realized that I could be the voice of change in some way or another,” Martin said. 

The association will occasionally meet with congressmen, state representatives and other political figures, to discuss their relevant issues and address questions and concerns. Although the association’s primary goal is not focused on informing the public on policy, they still share information from time to time and stay in touch with members of the community through social media.

“Facebook has been our way to communicate with the public,” Martin said, “and on Instagram we try to share the images of others to not only promote, but also share knowledge that other people might benefit from.” 

Martin said he hopes audiences outside of agriculture will benefit from the association’s efforts on social media. 

The young farmer believes that staying involved and staying informed are ways to share and pass on knowledge and constitute change.

“If we can use our platform to inform and teach others, why wouldn’t we?” he said.

Passing Down the Robe: Legacy, Family and Law

Carruth Portrait
Ann-Marie Carruth wears the judicial robe her father once wore when he was a judge.

I

n the middle of a burglary trial in a small West Texas town, the 19-year-old defendant is asked by the district attorney if he was in town the night the crime occurred. On the front row of the courtroom, invested but not attached to the case, sat a local attorney and his young daughter. When the defendant responded, ‘No,’ the girl stood up and in a loud, confident manner said, ‘He’s lying!’”

Judge Ann-Marie Carruth said she always knew she wanted to pursue a legal career. After graduating from Texas Tech University in 2004 with a degree in agricultural communications, she attended Texas Tech School of Law.

Carruth said the speaking, research and writing skills she developed through FFA and the agricultural communications curriculum prepared her for her journey to becoming a judge. She said the support system at Texas Tech provided a great foundation for law school and her career.

“If I told someone that I wanted to go to law school or this was my career path and these are my goals, I was just always encouraged by everyone,” Carruth said. “Someone would find a way for me to do an internship that I wanted to do or locate a mentor for me to talk to.”

Although Carruth may not have chosen a traditional agricultural path after graduation, she said she is proud of her agricultural roots and the opportunities and skills it provided her.

“There was something about growing up in a small agricultural community that defined who I was,” Carruth said. “The work ethic, the caring for others, being responsible for others in the community in the sense of stewardship, I just don’t think you can get that anywhere else.”

Carruth said although agriculture helped prepare her for a legal career, it was her parents, Sam and Sylvia Saleh, that were the biggest influence in her life. Her parents were both in the legal profession and owned their own law office. Her father was a judge twice; once as a special district judge and then as a constitutional county judge.

Carruth said she spent much of her childhood at the law office from the day she was born.

“I was born in Lubbock, and whenever my parents drove back to Lamesa with me in the car headed home from the hospital, we went straight back to their law office,” Carruth said.

I saw it every day, and I knew it was something that I wanted to do.

Carruth said it was her time spent at the law office, seeing steady streams of her father’s clients come in and out, that helped her discover her desire to give back to the community by helping those in need. She said it was this passion that gave her the motivation to overcome any difficulties she faced in law school.

“I don’t think I could have had any better role models because I really just got to experience it firsthand,” Carruth said. “It wasn’t something that I thought about in theory or hypothetically. I saw it every day, and I knew it was something that I wanted to do.”

Carruth’s mother, Sylvia, said when she was young, she would crawl down the long hallway in the office when a client would come in. As she got older, she would help file documents at the courthouse and eventually help answer the office phone. But like any good aspiring attorney, she had a few questions first.

“She wanted to know how long did she have to work, how many days that was going to be, and she wanted to be paid in cash,” Sylvia said.

stephens_courtroom
Ann-Marie Carruth wears the judicial
robe her father once wore when he was
a judge. Image courtesy of Ann-Marie Carruth.

Carruth’s father, Sam, agreed her involvement in the law office at such a young age helped her realize the impact she could make with a legal career.

“She saw that people came in with big, big problems with a frown on their face, and when they left, they had a smile on their face because we were able to help them,” Sam said. “And I think that has influenced her tremendously seeing what lawyers can do to actually help people.”

That young girl in the front row of the burglary trial, Sam said, demanded the defendant tell the truth is still trying to help everyone reach the best solution to their problems, which Carruth said is her favorite part about being a judge. She said she still pays an homage to her parents and the impact they had on her career by wearing the judicial robe her father once wore when he was a judge.

“When I got sworn in four years ago, I asked if I could wear his robe. So I had it tailored. It was a little bit too long, so I had it shortened and taken up just a bit, but I get to wear his robe,” Carruth said with a smile. “It’s something that we share that I love.”

The Balance of Farm and Life

  • The alarm goes off. Annette swings her feet off the bed and places them into her work shoes. She walks into her kitchen and makes a pot of coffee for her husband Mike. Annette calls for her trusted dog, Jackie, and walks down to her barn. She hears a faint cry in the distance and smiles in relief. As the barn door opens, a new kid goat is spotted laying in the hay.
T

he alarm goes off. Annette swings her feet off the bed and places them into her work shoes. She walks into her kitchen and makes a pot of coffee for her husband Mike. Annette calls for her trusted dog, Jackie, and walks down to her barn. She hears a faint cry in the distance and smiles in relief. As the barn door opens, a new kid goat is spotted laying in the hay.

Annette Coursey and her husband, Mike, have hit kidding season. Every morning when she awakes, she comes upon a new member of their herd. 

The Courseys run a dairy goat operation on the outskirts of Lubbock, Texas, called Coursey Family Farm. Originally from Millsap, Texas they have ran their operation since 2009.

The couple became interested in raising Nubian goats after they both retired. 

“I was a vice president in a banking situation,” Annette said. “I couldn’t physically deal with the stress anymore, so I needed something that still felt purposeful, but not stressful.”

The Courseys interest in raising dairy goats sparked after viewing a video project over a diary operation made by Annette’s niece. 

Bottle Baby
Annette Coursey bottle feeds a kid goat while her spouse, Mike, milks the mothers.

 “She had done a documentary on a little family farm up in Ohio where they raised dairy goats,” Mike said. “We just kind of looked at each other, and said ‘Hey, we could do that!’”

“We really felt like it was something that God was directing us into.”

Since learning about the dairy goat industry, the couple has faced several challenges as they began their operation. The farm is now home to 10 does and numerous kids. 

“We would anticipate having one to four out of each doe,” Annette said. 

The farm produces raw milk, and Annette also produces her own line of soaps that funds the purchase of feed for the livestock. All of their operations follow health department standards. 

The beginning goal the Courseys strived to achieve was to produce a sustainable farm. They achieve this goal by exchanging products between different farming industries. 

Mike milking
Mike Coursey takes the responsibilty of hand milking all the females. Before they begin milking they clean all the udders to make sure the milk does not get contaminated with any bacteria.

Through the years of following their dream, the Courseys have developed an understanding of how to balance their life and their livestock. Although the well-being of the livestock is No. 1 the couple still strives to have a life outside of the farm. 

“On Sundays, we do our chores, what has to be done, but we don’t do extra stuff,” Annette said. “We take time, go to church and spend time with family, and just rest and watch the Hallmark Channel.”

Annette said they received some advice that was really beneficial from a man who was still involved in his church and had a successful dairy.

 “He said, ‘You have to remember that you own the animals and they don’t own you, you have to have balance,” Annette said. 

 “It’s a big responsibility to make sure that they’re happy and healthy,” Annette said.

The Courseys have created a farm that has incorporated their health and the happiness of the livestock they herd. 

Close up shot of goat
The females​ being milked by Mike Coursey come up to the stand voluntary​ and enjoy alfalfa during the experience.

Mike said that being flexible with their schedules and being aware of what is good for them and the animals has benefited their operation. 

The goats each have a name and come to the milking stand voluntary, which has become Mike’s favorite thing about his small operation. 

“What I really enjoy is we teach them their names early on, but when you call their name, they come in and they just go do whatever like,” Mike said. 

With balance becoming the No. 1 component of Coursey Family Farm, Mike and Annette have found a new hobby and happiness. 

“I still believe we’re where God wants us to be, and so I’m excited to see what our future is,” Annette said. 

Coursey Couple
Mike and Annette Coursey are the owners of Coursey Family Farms. They live in New Deal, Texas where they care for their Nubian​ dairy goats.

Growing a Love for the Lifestyle

A couple of cowboys were riding the canyons off the caprock in West Texas before daylight to bring in cows and calves for a full day’s work of branding. As the cowboys sat on top of a hill looking out over the canyon, the sun slowly crept above the horizon. Warm oranges and golds filled the early morning sky.

One cowboy hollered over at the rest, “Isn’t this just beautiful?” When it started to sink in what he was referring to, he said, “You know, there’s not very many people in the world that are doing what we’re doing this morning.”

At that moment, those cowboys realized how fortunate they were to live and love life on the ranch.

The Great American Cowboy

The cowboy way of life can be tough due to the unpredictability of weather patterns, market prices and external parties involved in running a successful ranching operation. The dawn-to-dusk nature of the ranching lifestyle takes a toll on those whose livelihoods depend on it.

Bedford Jones, owner and operator of the Jones Ranch near Spur, Texas, understands the impact and responsibilities associated with this specific lifestyle.

“There’s always a challenge,” he said. “I think adversity is something we put up with, endure, and try to overcome. This isn’t just what we do—it’s our identity. It’s who we are. We’re here 24/7, and that’s not bad, but it sure can be tough on a family.”

The Jones Ranch is a thriving horse and cow-calf operation ranch in the West Texas counties of Borden, Crosby, Dickens and Yoakum, covering over 32,000 acres of rangeland and several thousand acres of wheat pasture. Bedford and his wife, Michele, live on their ranch with their four children, Henry, Ruth, Jettie and Susannah.

Not for the Faint-Hearted

Bedford, 45, said he found his way back home to begin ranching alongside his family after graduating with a master’s degree in 1999. Though he was never pressured or forced to come back home, he said he always felt returning to the ranch was his life’s calling.

“With a family operation, I grew up helping because that’s what we did,” Bedford said. “I always felt like that was my obligation. That was my responsibility to help. And I loved it. This is always what I thought I would do.”

Bedford said his love and passion for his family’s operation and the amount of time and effort invested into their ranches is what keeps them operating today despite the hardships encountered throughout the years.

The persistence of drought over the last two decades has forced ranchers to use all of the creative techniques they can muster to survive. For some, it has meant knowing as much about land management and grass as they know about the bloodlines of their herds. For others, it is knowing the right moment to sell cows and calves.

We’re so blessed, but it’s very slow coming.

Michele, Bedford’s wife of 17 years, grew up showing cattle, but did not come from a ranching background. She said the adjustment of becoming a ranch wife was extremely difficult. The family aspect of the operation proved difficult, too, she said, because things were not just about her anymore. However, nothing could have prepared her for the heartbreaking decision that had to be made when it came to selling some of their cattle.

“We’re so blessed,” Michele said, “but it’s very slow coming.”

Michele said she will never forget in 2011 when they were forced to sell part of their herd due to the drought and lack of water and grass. She was pregnant with Jettie, their second youngest child, as she tagged along with Bedford, Henry and Ruth to take their cows to Caviness Beef Packers.

“I just bawled the whole way,” Michele said, “because you don’t ever expect that you’re going to have to get rid of the majority of your livestock, but we did. We had to do that to survive.”

Bedford said West Texas is currently in a similar situation to 2011. He said the land is extremely dry again, and the absence of rain and vegetation leaves most ranchers questioning what is best for their practices.

“It’s one of those things,” Bedford said, shaking his head. “You just never know from one year to the next.”

Inspiring the Ranching Industry’s Future

Running a successful ranching operation takes a little bit of faith and a little bit of luck, but ultimately, ranchers are at the mercy of Mother Nature. Those families who root their hope and faith in the Lord tend to have a more positive and respectful outlook for this specific way of life.

Though the ranching profession and lifestyle have their fair share of ups and downs, Bedford and Michele love what they do and hope to inspire their four children to feel the same. They said it is their job as parents to make the kids’ daily tasks and chores around the ranch fun and enticing to keep them intrigued and to foster a love within their children for the ranching lifestyle.

“They all have an interest in this,” Bedford said. “They enjoy it. I’ll take the little girls to go feed, and they like it. Henry knows he has responsibilities. We have to be careful because we don’t want chores to become a burden on them, but they need to understand those responsibilities. The way we try to do it is to make it enjoyable for them. As a matter of fact, they all four do all the chores together. It’s a team atmosphere around here. We are Team Jones.”

Michele said one of her major prayers is for her kids to have a passion for the ranching lifestyle and to be close and understand each other enough to incorporate the team atmosphere throughout their lives. She said Bedford and his parents have worked very hard at putting together a whole lot from nothing, and it is her goal for her children to continue running the operation smoothly one day when she and Bedford transfer over ownership.

“We want them to understand how fortunate they are to be in the position they are,” Michele said. “They are all landowners, and it’s scary that anyone can own a piece of land nowadays without knowing how to take care of it.”

Bedford said it is a big responsibility for him and Michele to raise their children this way. He said his family has always felt it necessary to take care of their property and ensure the land is still usable and in good shape for the next generation. In doing this, there comes a great level of satisfaction being able to look back at what has been accomplished while cultivating the land, raising livestock, and raising beautiful children who love the Lord and have a passion for ranching.

“For me, there’s a lot of little things that make it enjoyable and rewarding,” Bedford said. “I think you have to appreciate those things or you wouldn’t do what we do.”

Conservation of Land & Heritage

Dan and Tom Griffin stand strong on their family ranch in front of angus cattle.

 

On the Griffin Ranch, family traditions are a blueprint for decisions about college, livelihoods and ranch management, but are difficult to amend. Tom, Dan, and Ben Griffin graduated from Texas Tech University like their father and are the fifth generation to manage a portion of the family ranch in Borden County, Texas.

Tom and Dan perpetuate stewardship attitudes they learned from previous generations, but have fostered a stronger relationship with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to improve their conservation practices.

Dropping off the cap

The Griffin Ranch is about 30,000 acres in total and lies right off the caprock, a stunning 250-mile-long geographic border marking the end of the Southern Plains. They also have another portion of the ranch around Channing, Texas.

“You drop off the cap, and it has a lot more character as far as up and down, breaks and creeks,” Tom said. “Every pasture is a little different.”

Tom, Dan and Ben take care of separate portions of the cow-calf ranch. However, the Griffins act as a team during times like branding and weaning and will help each other take care of the ranch regardless of whose “portion” they are working. They treat the ranch as one cohesive family business and “plan to keep it that way,” according to Dan.

The family has been managing the land since 1926 when Thomas Louis Griffin first established the ranch.

Taking back the land

Based on stories from his grandpa, Tom said the landscape was completely different back then. It would’ve looked more like the Rolling Plains with a few short mesquite trees, if any.

“It has changed quite a bit I’d say,” Tom said and chuckled, “but I think it’s always been dry.”

Thomas Lane Griffin, the brothers’ dad, began battling mesquite on the ranch, a struggle that has continued into the next generation. The trees, a problematic invasive species, suppress grasslands and dominate water resources. They are hard to eradicate, but spread easily.

“Whether you get governmental assistance or not, you have to fight it,” Tom said, “or else it takes over. It crawls through and spreads like wildfire.”

Dan and Tom said they administer brush control through aerial spraying, grubbing with a tractor or excavator, and have recently experimented with prescribed burns collaborating with the NRCS.

Firm foundations

“Since I can remember, Dad pretty much took care of the ranch himself with a couple of hands from time to time,” Tom said. “He’s done more on this ranch than we’ve done together.”

Tom explained Griffin Sr. is not resistant to new ideas and management practices, but he is a careful and cautious, especially not wanting to detriment the ranch’s grazing capability.

“He’s seen a lot more drought in his lifetime than Dan and I have,” Tom said. “He has more experience and is still the final say on a lot of things.”

The brothers consider drought a family hardship along with the passing of their grandfather.

“Paw Paw died in 2010,” Dan said, “and then it didn’t rain.”

“Paw Paw died in 2010, and then it didn’t rain.”

Since 1996, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service reports droughts have taken more than $38.5 billion from the Texas agriculture economy with farm and ranch losses totaling $21.62 billion.

Tom said 2014 and 2015 were positive years for the ranch. Since the “worst” drought Tom has ever experienced in 2011 and 2012, the ranch’s populations of quail, deer, and bobcats have skyrocketed, largely due to the conservation work the Griffins do with the NRCS.

NRCS conservation partnership

With their increasing roles as ranch managers, Tom and Dan have brought new ideas to the table by working closely with the local NRCS’s field office to improve the ranch using conservation enhancements through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

The Griffin brothers are able to enroll in NRCS programs as Young Farmer and Ranchers. This incentive gives young families like the Griffins, who are beginning to establish or expand their agricultural operations, a slightly higher cost-share rate on conservation practices and improvement projects.

Dan said the NRCS has helped cost-share projects on the ranch including building fences to help prevent overgrazing, spreading out water sources for cattle, and building a water storage system to save water for drought years.

“Because these improvements are cost prohibitive, we would’ve had to get loans,” Tom said. “The financial assistance from the NRCS makes it easier to do these conservation enhancements.”

The NRCS provides technical and financial assistance but also supports ranchers as an educational resource with a team of district conservationists, water quality and grazing land specialists, and agricultural engineers.

Dan has worked with Matthew Coffman, the NRCS Southern Rolling Plains grazing lands coordinator, to formulate a prescribed burn plan for the Griffin ranch.

“Matt made the entire fire plan, and it didn’t cost us anything,” Dan said. “The prescribed burns have helped with productivity of the grasses and brush control and has made our pastures healthier.”

Dan said working with Coffman and other NRCS staff has sparked his interest to learn more about grasses and how to keep the land productive.

Coffman said he began working with Dan in 2014. He said he is inspired by the large-scale impact on the health of the land from work his NRCS predecessors did nearly 20 years ago.

Coffman said goals for the ranch include building the burn program to the point where the Griffins have applying prescribed burns “down to a science” with a regular rotation of acres and are able to take more control of the process.

“They are just great guys,” Coffman said. “I enjoy working with them, and I can tell they want to benefit their land. They’re working really hard.”

Strong family bonds

Responsible stewardship is one of the many Griffin family traditions that the brothers said is “in their blood.”

Tom said his wife and kids enjoy Texas Tech football games and are able to sit in the same seats that Tom and his brothers did growing up. Tom and Ben were able to get the season tickets their grandparents used to have.

Gloria Griffin, the brothers’ grandmother, still lives at the homeplace and celebrated her 87th birthday in October. Tom said she has plenty of great-grandkids who visit her daily. The brothers indicated their strong ties to their family motivated them to return to the ranch after graduating.

Overall, Tom describes the Griffins as blessed to be able to continue living on the ranch and passing down family traditions and values down to the next generation.

“We grew up riding horses, working cows, hunting, fishing, and going to church,” Dan said. “Visiting grandma next door seem to be about as good a lifestyle to raise kids in as we can think of.”

 

 

Back To His Roots

Jeremy Brown is a steward of the land.
Jeremy Brown is a steward of the land.

Returning to the farm meant living out a life-long dream for Jeremy Brown. Yet, it was risky. He had a dependable desk job, but that wasn’t the life he wanted. Brown not only continued on the legacy of being a fourth generation farmer; he also attended college at Texas Tech University.

He was the first generation to attend a university and he knew that college would be a completely different world than farming. Jeremy’s parents wanted him to attend college to experience something outside the farming world. He knew that he would be returning to his roots, but had no expectation of what could be in store for his future.

While choosing Texas Tech, Jeremy had no idea on what he wanted to major in. He knew he wanted to do something along the lines of agriculture, because that was all he knew. Finally, Brown found an interest in the College of Sciences and Natural Resources, in agricultural education and communications.

“For a guy that really didn’t know what he wanted to do except farm, it was a great fit,” Brown said.

Barnes_FeaturedPhoto
Jeremy Brown uses compost to fertilize the ground. It is the natural route, with no tilling  involved.

 

He received a degree in agricultural communications in 2004. While attending Texas Tech, he was not only involved in CASNR, but he was also student body president. This achievement gave Brown the opportunity to work under United States Congressman Randy Neugebauer as an intern.

“The reason I wanted to do it was because my dad had just recently got out of farming,” he said. “So, my opportunity to go back and farm had to come to an end, the doors closed.”

Brown was able to stay in the Lubbock area while working for Neugebauer. He completed the congressman campaign for representative Neugebauer in the time span of four years, only having to go to Washington D.C once a month. This made it easy for him to keep farming on the side, it made him realize he missed it.

“Working with Randy Neugebauer was a neat experience,” Brown said. “It was really fun, and I learned so much about the policy side of agriculture.”
When Brown was not working on the campaign, he was spending every spare moment he had on the farm with his now father-in-law, Mark Furlow.He enjoyed his time being in a suit and tie behind a desk, but he knew he wanted to get back on the farm as soon as possible. Brown always knew he would return to his farming roots, but he didn’t have the opportunity.

I don’t think people truly understand the risks that American farmers take when making decisions.Jeremy Brown

He grew up farming, and he knew that was where he wanted to end his career. His career has always wanted to be in the field doing what he loves to do.
“I am a fourth generation farmer, I grew up on a farm,” Brown said, “I love farming, it’s everything I’ve ever wanted to do.”

Furlow knew how much he loved the farm. Every time Brown would help out around the farm, he felt comfortable and knew that is where he needed to return to. He knew Brown had a passion for farming, he knew he was that was what made him happy He didn’t have that opportunity to do so, because his family was out of the farming business at the time. Furlow decided to go out on a limb and help Brown find his own land and lend him equipment. Brown knew that he wanted to take this opportunity, but had many different plans in how he was going to go about farming this time around.

Brown was studying how to make a difference in the farming of today. He wanted to find different ways to farm and feed the soil. He wanted to expand the way farming was done. He was able to learn different from people’s opinions while off the farm. He had ideas that were different from the old farming tactics. Brown wanted to become a steward of the land.

“Looking back, I am thankful that I took a step back from farming because when I came back, I came with a more open mind,” Brown said. “Maybe there is a better way of doing it.”

Brown believes if you take care of the land, it will take care of you. Brown and his company, Broadview Agriculture, are committed to this goal by focusing on two main practices, soil health and water efficiency.

Barnes_Roots1
Jeremy believes that if you are good to the soil, the soil will be good to you.

“We work at building the soil health through the use of compost, minimum tillage or no-till, crop rotation” Brown said, “and high residue multi-species cover crops that help build soil organic matter.”

Broadview Agriculture grows conventional cotton, organic cotton, wheat, rye, grain sorghum, peanuts and sesame.

About 1,000 acres are used for growing organic, non-irrigated cotton. Farming can be done in different ways, not just traditional farming. He believes individuals have to take risk to see what works.

“I don’t think people truly understand the risks that American farmers take when making decisions,” Brown said, “if you never take risks, you will never know.”
Not only is Brown experimenting with different farming method for farming, he has also recently been nationally recognized for his efforts. He was nominated to be one of the eight Face of Farming representatives.

The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance is made up of many affiliates. To be selected as the Face of Farming representatives you have to be affiliated with an organization that is related to agriculture, and Brown is currently members of many different organizations. Brown is a member of the Plains Cotton Growers executive committee, Mary Jane Buerkle is thrilled to have Brown as a member.

“He is a fantastic producer, and we really enjoyed having him be a part of Plains Cotton Growers,” Buerkle said.

This gave Brown the opportunity to start his business of Broadview Agriculture and explain what the business is doing.

“I am thankful to be able to have the opportunity to be able to educate the uneducated,” he said. “I want to be able to represent West Texas in a positive manner.”

Brown said he thinks it is important to understand what Broadview is doing on the farm. He also thinks it is important to show what practices are being used.

Barnes_Image4
Jude loves helping his dad on the farm. Jeremy believes without God and family, this operation is not possible

He said none of this would have happened if it wasn’t for his family and God. Brown is thankful he is able to return to his roots and continue the farming legacy. He said he loves that it is a family business. Brown’s son, Jude, who is young, gets to learn life skills and the values of hard work at the young age of six. Brown has continued to educate the uneducated about agriculture, because he loves farming and is passionate about what he loves.

“One thing I love about farming is that it is like a canvas,” Brown said. “You are constantly trying to create something and it is a lot of fun.”

 

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.”

Dunbar_wheatphoto
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.”

The Canyons Called Them Home

The sun begins to peek over the caprock of the Tule Ranch in Briscoe County, Texas. Cooper Cogdell walks out his front door, coffee mug in hand, ready to face the full day ahead of him. A warm golden glow begins to fill the deep canyons where Cooper heads to gather cattle, living out his dream.

A PASSION FOR RANCHING & HORSES
Since Cooper was a little boy, he knew he wanted to be a cowboy like his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather before him. But, he also dreamed of being a Red Raider. While at Texas Tech, Cooper studied agricultural economics and was a member of the Texas Tech Ranch Horse Team. During his undergraduate education, he spent three years on the winning collegiate ranch horse team and coached the team for two years while getting his master’s degree.

“It was probably the most rewarding experience that I’ve ever had,” Cooper said, “The opportunities it presented were something I’ll never give up. The people I met through coaching, and the things I learned while coaching my peers, were beyond beneficial. It was challenging, no doubt. I learned some very good life lessons.”

Holly Cogdell, Cooper’s wife and fellow Tech alum, says her husband definitely used his gifts while coaching the ranch horse team.

“He’s good at teaching people,” Holly said. “He’s good at explaining things, and he’s patient. I feel that being the coach he got to share some of those gifts. He did a good job.”

Cooper worked with many leaders in the stock horse industry including Kim Lindsey and the late Kris Wilson. He credits his experiences with the team to helping him become a better horseman and rancher, which would come to play a larger role down the road.

THE REAL WORLD
In January 2013 while Cooper was coaching and finishing out his last year as a graduate student, he and Holly got married. After graduation, the couple stayed in Lubbock and Cooper accepted a job with Plains Capital Bank as a credit analyst.

“I never thought I’d be in an office, wearing a suit every day,” Cooper said. “But, I worked with a lot of great people and learned a lot from that side of the desk.”

Although they cherished their friends and jobs in Lubbock, Cooper and Holly ached to be on the Cogdell family’s historic Tule Ranch where Cooper grew up.

“I really wanted to be a part of that,” Holly said, “a part of raising my future children on the ranch, in the home, but also on the ranch with Cooper. I wanted us all to be together,” said Holly with a grin. “After we got married, all I wanted to do was be a ranch wife. I was just so excited about that. I think I had a very picturesque idea of what being a ranch wife meant.”

Doors opened and closed, not allowing an opportunity for the young couple to move back to the ranch until the spring of 2015.

“We just didn’t have a peace about coming back here yet until April of 2015,” Holly said. “I remember the specific weekend we came home and were helping brand calves. Cooper and I both had the same feeling of ‘It’s time to come home. We’re ready.’ That next week I found out I was pregnant. It was meant to be.”

RETURNING TO THE CANYONS
Cooper is the fourth generation of the Cogdell family to return and continue the family’s ranching legacy.

“I feel like in the population as a whole, we’re definitely seen as a minority,” Cooper said. “There are not many young people wanting to come back and do this anymore, just because it is so hard – the financial burden of it and the resources available.”

Cooper understands why young adults have a hard time returning to the family operation.

I feel like in the population as a whole, we’re definitely seen as a minority.
Cooper Cogdell

“With the estate taxes and other expenses, it’s just so hard to keep ranching anymore,” he said. “A lot of people work all their lives to get to this point. They want to retire and buy a ranch and raise cattle. For me to have the opportunity to come back home after college and ranch as a living, I feel very blessed.”

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Cooper saddles as the sun peeks over the horizon.

Cooper and Holly run their own commercial cattle and also have a partnership with Cooper’s brother, Blaze and his wife Lottie, while assisting their father, Dick.

“We’ve been talking a lot about simplifying things,” Cooper said. “Buying more land is expensive. It’s not always easy to make it work. This is why we’ve thought and prayed about it so much, about partnering and trying to be more effective in the way we run a business and the way we ranch.”

Not only have the Cogdell’s been a successful cattle ranching family  for over 100 years, but they also raise their own ranch horses and have produced many great cutting horses for the show pen.

Cooper said one challenge that comes with a family ranching operation is the lack of separation between work and home, making it easy to drag work problems into family problems.

“But we’ve been blessed,” he said. “Our family gets along really well. When we’re working cattle, it is usually just family. Nowadays, we’ve got so many cousins and aunts and uncles. Everybody just jumps in and helps out.”

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS
The original Tule Ranch, founded in 1954, is currently supporting seven Cogdell families. Many evenings you can find a handful of grandkids gathered at their Nana Bette’s home, discussing cutting horses and old family stories, or at one of the aunts’ and uncles’ houses for supper and a highly competitive pick-up basketball game on the caliche drive way. The care and mutual respect that runs through the family is beyond evident, as well as their love for the ranch and the land they call home.

“Being amongst the Lord’s creation, the land becomes a part of you,” Cooper said.

“Especially these canyons. They’ve always been special to our family. They’re so tough on cattle, vehicles, people, and horses, but there’s something majestic about them – just the ruggedness of them. It’s an art form that God created and we get to live in them.”

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The canyons that run through the Tule Ranch are considered part of the eminent Palo Duro Canyon.

“The stuff that you experience out here are things you can’t experience anywhere else. Dealing with animals, the joy and pain of life, learning responsibility, and work ethic, you just don’t see that much anymore,” Cooper said.

Stirring a pot of soup on the stove, Holly paused looking down at her 10-month-old daughter, McCrae, playing on the floor.

“I think agriculture, in general, really requires you to trust in a higher power and trust in something bigger than yourself, because you don’t have control of the animals, or the rain, or the grass growing, or any of that,” she said. “All you can do is your very best to be a good steward. It makes you realize that there’s something bigger going on and to trust that God is in control of it.”

I think agriculture, in general, really requires you to trust in a higher power.
Holly Cogdell

The young couple agrees ranching is not where their hope is found, but where their joy is found. No matter how challenging it may get, ranching is what they love to do, and it’s a desire the Lord put in their hearts.

Spurs scraping against the porch steps, Cooper swipes off his hat and shuffles his way inside his simple ranch home. Kissing Holly on the forehead, he scoops up his baby girl and says a silent prayer of thankfulness for the life he feels blessed to live and the dream he gets to live daily.

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Family Tradition Turns Success

Brand and Barb Bouma with their two sons and their families.

Being in the dairy industry is all Brad Bouma has ever known. Brad, a fifth-generation dairy farmer, grew up in southern California on a dairy farm with his parents and two siblings. In 1981 at the age of 25, Brad moved to El Paso, Texas, to start on his own dairy. Little did he know, he would soon play a major role in what is now one of the quickest growing milk companies in the country.

“I was born into it,” said Brad. “My grandfather, my great grandfather, and my father were all dairy farmers in California.”

Brad has lived in West Texas ever since he left southern California in 1981. Brad and his wife, Barb, have been married for almost 40 years, and are now enjoying their retirement living on the waters of Ransom Canyon, near Lubbock.

Like Brad, Barb was also born into the dairy industry. She too comes from a background of many generations of dairy farmers, going all the way back to the early 1900s in the Netherlands. Her father immigrated to the United States from the Netherlands and raised his family on a dairy farm in California. Barb still has a cousin living and operating a dairy farm in the Netherlands.

“It’s pretty much genetic,” said Brad. “We both come from a background in the dairy industry.”

With so much family history in the dairy industry, it was no surprise the Boumas decided to raise their children on a dairy farm and continue the farming legacy. Although they live in residential Ransom Canyon, Brad and Barb still own dairy operations in Abernathy and Plainview, Texas. They also have partnerships with dairy farms in Northwest Ohio and Northwest Indiana at Fair Oaks Farms. Their two sons, Brent and Brandon Bouma, completely operate and manage the dairies, feed yard and other farming operations in Plainview and Abernathy.

“Dairy farming has been passed down from generation to generation in our family,” said Brent.

The Boumas established Legacy Farms 13 years ago in Plainview. Legacy Farms is an open, dry lot dairy farm, which currently has 150 full-time employees with one on-site veterinarian. The farm occupies about 16,000 cows and calves, with around 30 new calves being born each day. Legacy Farms can milk 160 cows at a time, and each cow gets milked twice a day. The farm produces about 60,000 gallons of milk per day, which is all sent to Gandy’s in Lubbock.

Both Brent and Brandon, currently live on their father’s 4,000-acre dairy farm, Legacy Farms, with their wives and children. Brent is the general manager and oversees all dairy operations at Legacy Farms. Brandon operates the feed yard just a few miles down the road in Abernathy and oversees all other farming operations.

It’s just in my blood. It’s just what we do.Brent Bouma

Brad still travels to his dairy farms multiple times a week to make sure everything is running smoothly like it should be. His wife, who the grandchildren call “Ya-Ya,” likes to come along to spend time with her boys and the six grandchildren who live on Legacy Farms.

“I love being able to work hand-in-hand with my kids and my grandkids,” said Brad.

While Brad’s passion and love for the dairy industry has always been strong, it has recently led him and his family to business success. About 15 years ago when the Boumas still lived in El Paso, Brad and a couple of his dairy farmer friends founded Select Milk Producers, a small group of family dairy farmers who believed in the same pursuit of perfect milk. Select invented a process where the dairy farmer used a filtration system to remove water from milk so dairies could transport milk further distances without having to haul the water. During this process, they started to play around with the idea of creating drinks out of filtrated milk.

Six years later, Select Milk Producers had developed and was selling a drink called Core Power, a high protein milk shake for athletes, and was in the process of launching Fairlife, an ultra-filtered milk. Fairlife, compared to regular milk, has less sugar, more protein and calcium, no lactose, and an extended shelf life of 90 days, according the Brad. Fairlife milk comes in reduced fat, chocolate, fat-free and whole.

“Fairlife and Core Power are 100 percent milk,” said Brad. “There are no additives. If you look at the label on the bottle, there’s just milk and then whatever sweetener or flavor we decide to put in it. There are not big words that you and I can’t pronounce.”

Select Milk Producers sold Core Power and Fairlife online and through word-of-mouth for a few years, but they soon decided they needed to get their products into grocery stores. At the same time, The Coca-Cola Company was looking for a partner in their health and wellness platform. Select Milk Producers entered into a distribution partnership with Coca-Cola in 2012 to form Fairlife, LLC. Currently, Coca-Cola distributes all of the products Fairlife creates, markets and sells. Now, Fairlife is available nation-wide in many retail stores such as Target, Kroger and Wal-Mart.

“We were able to broaden our market tremendously and get coast to coast over the course of our first year of our partnership with Coca-Cola,” said Brad.

Fairlife is projected to complete close to $350 million in sales this year alone. The Fairlife fluid milk business has grown exceptionally fast, much faster than any other business Coca-Cola has been involved with in the past few years, according to Brad.

“We believe and Coca-Cola believes that Fairlife is a billion dollar brand,” said Brad.

Select Milk Producers owns half of Fairlife, while Coca-Cola owns the other half. Brad is currently one of three members of Fairlife’s board of directors and was one of the first five founding members of Select Milk Producers. He currently serves as the chairman of their board of directors.

Select Milk Producers is currently the fifth largest milk marketing cooperative in the U.S., made up of over 90 members, two-thirds of which own and operate their own dairy farm in West Texas. Collectively, they own Fair Oaks Farms, Fairlife’s flagship farm.

Fairlife milk products are sold in every venue and store on the Texas Tech campus. Fairlife also sells and delivers truck loads of Core Power shakes to the Texas Tech Athletic Department about every other month at wholesale cost. Tech’s athletic nutritionist uses Fairlife and Core Power products for the athletes’ high protein shakes and smoothies. Texas Tech is only one of four universities in the country who has a wholesale contract with Fairlife.

“Texas Tech has been a great market place for us and a great advocate for us,” said Brad.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Fairlife’s massive success is that dairy farm families built and own the company, and each dairy farmer still milks the cows that produce the milk used in Fairlife products, Brad explained. Each dairy farmer raises his own cattle, grows his own feed, and creates his own electricity by methane digestion. The Fairlife dairy farmers are in control of the entire production system.

“We at Fairlife say that we can take you from grass to glass, and very few people can do that,” said Brad.

Although Brad wears many hats in the dairy industry and plays a major role in one of the quickest growing milk companies in the country, he says he is a, “family farmer first,” and that is where his heart has always been.

 

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Grazing a Gold Mine

 

Born and raised in Burkburnett, Texas, Keith Easter said he is a rancher/farmer or vice versa. While attending Texas Tech University, he worked for a friend who farmed and ran stocker cattle.

“I had always wanted to run cattle on my own wheat,” Easter said. “That’s all I have ever really wanted to do.”

Once ready, Easter was given the chance of a lifetime.

“I was very blessed to get the opportunity to buy the ranch I grew up on,” Easter said. “My wife says it was God’s hands that did it, and I believe it.”

The ranch came with quite a bit of farming, Easter said. However, he was excited to be in control of his own operation and his source of feed and wheat.

My wife says it was God’s hands that did it, and I believe it.
Keith Easter

Hard Work and A Lot of Faith

Wheat is a cash crop in the region. From mid-fall until late spring, Easter said, wheat provides a good source of protein for stocker calves.

Easter said the great thing about wheat is that it enables ranchers to have an opportunity to have cattle on high protein forage, and do well, through the winter months when warm season grasses are dormant.

“Wheat is a dry land crop, but it is also a cool weather crop,” Easter said. “It is well-suited for our area. If we can get the wheat planted and established early along with some timely rain, it’s hard to beat.”

For farmers and ranchers to depend on wheat for a forage supply, wheat must be planted early. Early planting allows the plants to get a good start before cold weather and short days set in.

“TAM 401” and “Razor” are the beardless wheat being used by farmers in the region. This type of wheat matures earlier, and it has proven to be a good fall and spring grazer.

Easter said once cattle ship in the spring, he starts running the chisel on his ground, to break it up.

Easter uses two four-wheel drive tractors, a chisel plow with a disc, and an air seeder.

“Once you get it broken up enough,” he said, “you are then able to fertilize and sweep the ground through the summer to keep summer annuals from growing up and robbing your moisture.”

The objective is to get the ground in better shape to have a good seed bed in the fall.

Any time after the first of September when there is an adequate amount of rain, he will begin to plant his wheat. If no rain is in the forecast by the first of October, Easter will dry sow his wheat.

“It is all dictated by weather,” Easter said.

While there are many variables, time and rain are key for a successful wheat crop.

Firm, wet ground is desirable for sowing wheat. “You want your moisture, but you don’t want to get it so shallow it’ll dry out,” Easter said.

Wheat: A Rancher’s Gold Mine

Owner and operator of the Wichita Livestock Sales Company, Billy Joe Easter, said he uses wheat as a source for economical weight gain through late fall, winter, and early spring.

Keith and Billy Joe are cousins who both grew up with agriculture. Their dads are brothers who were raised on a farm.

“Our dads’ good reputations have helped both of us in starting and growing our businesses,” Billy Joe said.

Through the years, they have stayed in close contact because of their interest in the stocker wheat grazing.

“Wheat pasture is a very suitable cool-season grazer that one should take advantage of for fall weaning calves,” Billy Joe said.

Along with his cattle auction, Billy Joe runs his own cattle/wheat operation.

“I use wheat to grow stocker calves into yearlings ready to go to the feed yard,” Billy Joe said. “Along with that, wheat allows me to grow breeding bulls for resale.”

If the market allows, Billy Joe said, he will put first calf heifers on wheat to give the young females a better opportunity to breed back and raise their first calf with ease.

Since Billy Joe does not harvest, he plants a wheat and oat mix to improve grazing.

“I want a variety of wheat that puts out lots of leaf,” Billy Joe said, “and is late maturing so it will last longer.”

Depending on moisture, Billy Joe said his cattle will graze on wheat from December until May.

Right now, the expense to harvest wheat for grain is far too high for farmers to take that kind of loss.

By grazing your wheat you’re taking away your harvest expense and in its place selling it in pounds of beef.
Billy Easter

Billy Joe said thousands of wheat acres are strictly used to grow grain outside of Texas.

Local wheat prices may see a slight impact (slightly higher prices due to less wheat being harvested), but globally it does not affect the price of wheat.

“By grazing your wheat you’re taking away your harvest expense and in its place selling it in pounds of beef,” he said.

Billy Joe is thankful to be able to grow his cattle on wheat pasture, which allows stocker calves to spend less time in the feed yard.

“Wheat is giving us an opportunity to make money,” Billy Joe said.

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Mothers, Daughters, and Wives of Farmers

As a daughter, wife, mother, and grandmother of farmers, Dean Huffaker has her fair share of experiences. “We had one little irrigation well, and we had to water through ditches,” said Dean Huffaker as she recalled a lifetime of farming that had not been talked about in years. Over the years, she has seen many changes in farming, but one thing that has not changed is the families themselves.

Where it all started

As Dean began to think back, she explained that her parents gathered maize with knives and threw the maize into a wagon where Dean and her brother would stack it.

“No one today could have realized what we were using for equipment,” said Dean.

We would have to cook for the workers who gathered the broomcorn, said Dean as she continued to remember all of the things that her and her mother did for her father’s farm. Growing up in farming, it was a natural transition when Dean married a farmer she met at Texas Tech. They started out with little, but they made it work.

“We were newlyweds and it didn’t matter.  We farmed with borrowed equipment and $1,500 we borrowed from the bank.”

When Dean and her late husband, Donald, started farming, they had 80 acres, a $1,500 farm loan, and borrowed two-row equipment. They watered with ditches, and the best method for stopping the water in a broken ditch, according to Dean, was to stand in it while her husband threw dirt around her feet.

“Everything has changed so much,” said Dean.

Over the years, Dean and Donald acquired more land and equipment and continued to grow their farming operation. Eventually, Dean’s husband bought out her father and continued working the land with his son. Today, her grandson runs most of the farm. Dean said that there is a clear reason why the farm was continually passed down.

“Its in his blood,” she said.

We farmed with borrowed equipment and $1,500 we
borrowed from the bank. Dean Huffaker

Where they are today

Dean is not the only one who believes that. Dena Huffaker is Dean’s granddaughter in-law. Dena said her husband would always farm.

“It’s in his blood, and he will never sell any of this,” said Dena.

While this has stayed the same, times have changed.

“Everything has changed,” said Dena. “The prices of equipment, the practices, and all technology have changed.“

“When I was growing up, we didn’t have pivots. We had ditches and pipe that had to be laid. We also had lots of water, and that has changed a lot. Now we have gone from ditches, to metal pipe, to poly pipe, to pivots. And that’s not to mention drip irrigation.”

Dena married into the Huffaker family in 1999 and was also raised on a farm. Growing up, she can remember the three-seated sprayer they used to spray the crops. When she got married, they had a slightly larger sprayer with only one seat and pedals you steered with. Now, they use a giant spray rig with sensors and GPS.

“Pretty much all of our machines have GPS,” said Dena.

The Huffaker’s have seen commodity prices change through the years as well.

“Labor cost, employee taxes, and seed have gone through the roof,” said Dena. “Today, you get a $50,000 bill and that is just for one month.”

As Dena thought about Dean’s stories, she laughed at the initial loan that started the family farm.

“That wouldn’t even cover a bag of seed,” said Dena with a smile. “Today the loans are more like $800,000 for some people.”

She acknowledged that some people think the trick is to get more land, but she believes it is all about how you manage it.

What has not changed

One thing has not changed, and that is what it takes to be a farming family. Both Dean and Dena shared stories about supporting their farmers.

“You just have to really be there for each other,” said Dena. “That’s why God made a man and a woman.”

Dean said you had to be a certain kind of woman to be a farmer’s wife. She talked about the schedule that goes with farming and the responsibilities to children and family that were required to keep everyone where they needed to be.

“Its not always an easy life, said Dean. “You don’t have income coming in regularly and not until the end of the year many times. Other times not even then.”

Dena said faith was the key.

“We always just fight for it and have been very blessed to have made it through when a lot of people didn’t,” she said.

Dena and Dean both kept the books for their husbands and continue to support their farms in any way that they can. Dena has two children and her oldest son helps on the farm during the summer.

When asked if he would farm, Dena responded,

“I don’t thing that he will, but it’s in his blood.”

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