Tag archive

social media

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.

Flying High: The Fat Tire Cowboys

D

irt and dried grass swirl in the air as a spring breeze rolls down the runway. The sun is slowly setting in a clear, blue West Texas sky. The low, steady drone of an engine can be heard, first faintly, then much louder. Over a grassy area running between a line of hangars and the Slaton Municipal Airport taxi way, a Cessna 185 Skywagon roars into view. The small, high wing aircraft boasting large tires first flies effortlessly down the makeshift landing strip, 10 feet off of the ground. It then circles back, lands, and comes to rest in the field.

As the airplane door opens, golden light reflects off of the clean, white door. A pair of brown, leather boots step out of the sparkling machine and onto the ground by the large, black tires affixed to the airplane. A group of men, wearing boots and some—cowboy hats, approach the airplane.

An unsuspecting passerby would say the happy banter echoing off of the metal hangars were originating from the group of cowboys standing around the airplane with big tires in a field. For the most part, they would be correct. But they are no ordinary cowboys; they are the Fat Tire Cowboys.

We are not traditional airplane people,” La Rosa stressed. “We love it. We just go out and do it; we live it.”

The Fat Tire Cowboys are a group of Texans, primarily raised on the Llano Estacado, who share a background in agriculture and passion for aviation. What began with a simple YouTube post has blossomed into an international brand under the leadership of Bryan Rosa, from Tahoka, Texas. Rosa is better known as “La Rosa” to the other cowboys and their 28,000 followers across social media applications.

After La Rosa was shown fellow Fat Tire Cowboy Chad Bartee’s new bush plane, he knew he had to have one. Later that year, he bought and modified the same type of aircraft by replacing the standard 8-inch tires with a 31-inch pair, allowing the airplane to land in plowed fields, rock-filled river beds, and virtually any non-pavement runway.

La Rosa said the pair of pilots then took a trip to the Canyonlands National Park in Utah. There, he created a video showing the airplanes flying over striking landscapes. After posting the video and receiving overwhelming positive feedback and views, he created the Fat Tire Cowboys along with a logo and shirt.

“We were doing all of this crazy stuff anyways,” La Rosa said. “Might as well go ahead and post it for other people to see, too.”

The Fat Tire Cowboys’ passion for flying goes beyond a hobby. Although all of the cowboys have careers outside of aviation, the group can regularly be found planning their next adventure in their hangars any given day. La Rosa said flying is more than a form of transportation to the cowboys. The cowboys fly because they love every part of the journey from the moment they pull their airplanes out of the hangar – to the moment their fat tires touchdown.

“Aviation: the essence of it brings richness to your life – it’s unexplainable to most people,” La Rosa said. “It’s the beauty of it all; you have to have knowledge, and you have to master all of these facets of science and the aircraft and how it behaves.”

The spirit of traditional cowboys lives within the Fat Tire Cowboys. The same drive and intensity that is needed to protect a herd of animals or bring a crop to yield can be applied to aviation. Many of the cowboys’ adventurous spirits and passion for aviation can be traced back to their agricultural roots.

A career pilot of 33 years, Scott Lane recalls working on his family’s farm and ranch near Dimmit, Texas. While driving farm equipment at 12 years old, he remembers watching the crop dusters fly by as he sat on a tractor all day.

“I said, ‘That’s what I want to do,’” Lane recalls as he points toward the sky. “So, I went and did it.”

For others, the journey to the sky was not as simple, but the benefit of having a past in agriculture is clear. 

We are not traditional airplane people.

Koby Reed, a fifth-generation cotton farmer from Seagraves, Texas, grew up watching his grandfather fly. He loved everything about the plane – the smell, the look – but he never made the time to learn. After he realized he was nearing the end of his 30s, he wasted no more time and got his license.

Learning to pilot the skies, Reed said, was easy after growing up on a farm. After years of working on farm equipment, he possessed a deep understanding of mechanical equipment that he has carried over into aviation. Most importantly, through farming, he learned to have a determined mindset.

“Growing up on a farm, you’ve got to be out there.” Reed said. “You’ve got to make it work at the end of the year, and somehow make the crop work. That was the drive instilled in me; you’ll never quit keep going.”

Time and technology have changed the landscape of the working cowboy, but the culture and foundation remain the same. As the Fat Tire Cowboys brand grows and their audience increases, they hold on to their roots and their cowboy attitude.

“Every flight is an education,” Lane said. “Aviation is something that you learn from every flight every day.”

The future for the cowboys looks bright, but no matter what, they are enjoying each day, one flight at a time.

“That’s the fun part about it,” La Rosa said. “We have no clue, but we are enjoying the ride.”

Beyond their shared love of aviation, the cowboys share a true sense of community.

After seven years of restoration on La Rosa’s late father’s Piper Cub, a particularly bad hail storm rolled into West Texas. The massive hail punched holes through the hangar’s skylights and into the carefully painted canvas that makes up the airplane’s wings.

Surrounded by shards of plastic skylight and fragments of the Piper Cub, La Rosa stood in his cold hangar. With years of painstaking work seemingly lost, it would be easy for him to walk away from the aircraft, but giving up was not an option.

Just as a cowboy shepherds his herd in all weather – the Fat Tire Cowboys rallied together to rebuild what had been lost. Before long, the hangar was again filled with the group’s usual banter as the cowboys swept up any evidence from the disaster and got back to work.

Today, the Piper Cub again flies through the sky.

Go to Top