Celebrating Ag Week
CORRECTIONVILLE – Vernon Knaack looked across the feedlot where a portion of his Angus stock cow herd awaits the filling of feed bunks. He recalls hearing his father reminding him of how, as a 3-year-old, Vernon could be found “leafing through the pages” of a farm magazine.
Knaack, 34, also remembers walking beans, wearing an open-at-the-top garbage sack allowing him to see out and to keep him dry in the early morning moisture.
He said he still enjoys being a family farmer.
His dual role as a family farmer and insurance adjuster working out of his home has worked well for him. His farm goals and appreciation of agriculture are symbolized across the nation during National Ag Week, and internationally as the United Nations declared 2014 International Year of Family Farming.
A U.N. press release said the international agency’s tribute is to promote new development policies at multi-levels to assist smaller, family farmers in eradicating hunger, reducing rural poverty and to continue filling a major role in global food security.
Knaack said that his success in making two jobs into one is because it’s how he grew up.
His parents, Robert and Denise Knaack, who farm eight miles away from their son, set the example balancing their farm work with their additional jobs as school teachers.
“It worked for them, and it seemed only natural it could work for me,” he said.
The farm operation, he said, is worked by several family members – his father; his uncle, Ray Knaack; and his brother, Andrew, who occasionally comes up from Florida to assist.
His uncle farms “down the road” on land purchased by an earlier generation following emigration from Germany in the early 1900s.
“You don’t have to worry about hiring outside help,” Knaack said. “And come spring, it really doesn’t matter whose farm you’re on when you’re planting, but it’s a matter of who has time to do what and when.
“It’s the same when it’s time to harvest. We all take turns helping one another out.”
The ability of family members, he said, makes it possible for new equipment purchases by one member and shared use.
Such was the case with a silage chopper and bagger, Vernon Knaack said, which meant “less labor and less (silage) loss.”
Adding to his adaptability of two jobs, Knaack aid, is his rural internet connection.
“The service is definitely a plus for farm families such as ours,” he said, adding it also allows his wife, Karla, to work as a medical coder for Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City, out of the couple’s farm home.
“Such service has definite advantages for young Iowans like us being able to stay in the state and give back to the rural economy,” Knaack said.
In Karla Knaack’s case the service means additional fuel savings from eliminating a daily 65-mile drive to her job.
The adaptable work schedules, Vernon Knaack said, offers valuable time with their children – Andrea, 6, and Wyatt, 3.
“They like living here,” he said. “We feel farm life will, and is, giving them the opportunity to learn early the importance of good work ethics.”
Knaack said following his graduation from the University of Northern Iowa, in Cedar Falls, he opted to stay in agriculture and has no regrets with his decision.
He said the 340-acre farm, purchased in 2003, close to his parents is where he wants to be.
Being a family farmer, he said, is a lifestyle patterned with practicality.
“You learn a lot of things that have been helpful,” Knaack said, like “how to do your own mechanical work; the simple things like turning a wrench or fixing tires on your own, how to work with livestock and your cropland.”
His farm, he said, is based on an 85- to 90-head Angus stock cow herd with calves sold as feeders with approximately 160 acres in row crops, with cover crops.
They also have pastures for the stock cows with timber acres.
Knaack said he appreciates the family’s exposure to wildlife on the farm.
“We’ve seen just about every animal here,” he said. “You name it – deer, turkeys, raccoons, everything but a moose or mountain lion. There’s even a pair of bald eagles. And we can listen to our owls in the night.”
Knaack is a member of the Woodbury County Farm Bureau board, participates in the organization’s young farmer program and is active in the United Methodist Church in Correctionville.
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