Millers:?‘You’re not alone’
ARMSTRONG – Ryan and Mindy Miller know how tough it is to uproot from an urban life to farm.
They said didn’t know where to turn for help and advice for beginning farmer financial issues, about approaching the steps for succession into the family farming operation, and about connecting with the right people in constructing a new egg-laying facility. “We felt alone,” Ryan Miller said.
That’s why they were excited about being appointed last month to represent District 3 of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmer Advisory Committee. Their duties begin on July 1.
The program is intended to build a network of young farmers providing them with opportunities to become active within the IFBF.
This appointment, the Millers agreed, is something they will use to reach out to other young farm families who need guidance and advice on how to get started with their farm business goals.
That guidance and outreach is something they wish they would have had long before they received it, while transitioning to Ryan Miller’s family farming operation.
“We had the same struggles as other young farm couples, coming home and starting to farm with the family,” he said.
To help themselves along financially until the transition becomes complete, they’ve constructed a 40,000-chicken egg-laying facility.
When in full production, the business could produce up to 33,000 fertile eggs daily, selling them to a local chick hatchery. They began with an open house in July 2012, which drew 350 local people.
As they were in the process of building the facility, ran into family friend Jay Gunderson, president of the Emmet County Farm Bureau, who told them they should be active in the IFBF organization, and told them about the Iowa Coalition to Support Farmers.
Before moving to Armstrong, a small town in eastern Emmet County, Ryan Miller, who has a construction management degree, was working for a company in Ankeny. Mindy Miller was a registered nurse after her time in the U.S. Air Force as a medic.
He manages the laying facility, while she is a stay-at-home mother to their son, Kaiden, 10, and newborn twins- – Timber and Brox, 2 months old. They also rent 100 acres of row crop land.
“It’s a lot of stress on a family to make all of those changes,” said Mindy Miller. “We moved from all of that hustle and bustle of the big city to come to a small, rural area.
“We both had good jobs there. We moved from a nice newer house to an old house and were paying on two mortgages at one time.
“But we have a lot of support from friends and the Farm Bureau.”
The Millers attended the IFBF’s Young Farmer’s Conference in January and learned there was an opening for representatives for District 3, which includes the northwest Iowa counties of Lyon, Osceola, Dickinson, Emmet, Sioux, O’Brien, Clay, Palo Alto, Plymouth, Cherokee, Buena Vista and Pocahontas.
Their new roles include helping educate the public on the things this committee does and how the IFBF can help farm families, along with establishing relationships with young farm families, linking them with groups such as the Iowa Coalition to Support Farmers.
They will encourage other young farm families to get involved with this committee and the IFBF so they know what resources are out there for help when families need it.
They will be leading and advocating on both local and state levels throughout their three-year terms.
They feel like the days of not knowing where to turn for help are now gone.
“We close to giving up altogether,” said Ryan Miller. “We were about 90 percent done with our livestock (egg-laying) facility by the time we found out about IFBF’s Young Farmer Program.
“It would have made that process so much easier had we known about it earlier. We appreciated that Jay Gunderson reached out to us. That one phone call made such a difference. People don’t know what a resource it (IFBF) is.”
Mindy Miller added, “There are so many people who want to come home and farm, but there is no handbook that tells them (how to do that). We felt like there was nothing out there (to help) and we made a ton of phone calls.
“We want to help other young farm families to know that there are resources out there for them, and that they’re not alone.”
The Millers said they are excited to begin their new responsibilities, and said they will remember what it was like for them as they worked initially through the farm transitioning process.
“I think it will be fun to help get more people involved,” said Mindy Miller. “We’ll help lead Farm Bureau events and find fun ways to educate people about what we do.
“It will be exciting to meet with other young farmers in Iowa who are going through the same thing we went through, and be there to support each other.”
Miller also wishes to have something special for farm women so they can have a network of support for each other as well.
For Ryan Miller, it was a matter of keeping on track with his family’s long-term goal of returning to the family operation so their children could grow up on a farm.
“I wanted to return to be close to my family,” he said. “My grandmother was very integral in my life and I wanted that for my kids, too, to have grandma and grandpa close by like I did.
“I also wanted to spend time with my dad while he is healthy, and to work beside him in the next few years before he retires. Before we moved back, we might have come back to see them four or five times a year.”
The Millers are concentrating their efforts on refurbishing the appearance of their acreage and be good neighbors toward other homesteads with their livestock business.
They recently received the Green Partnership Award for a windbreak they planted near their egg-laying facility.