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KAREN SCHWALLER

By Staff | Apr 29, 2016

Attending ag conferences with your farmer can be a gamble at best.

For most I’ve attended I have chosen to remain in the learning atmosphere instead of joining the band of women shoppers.

It’s made my husband enjoy the sessions more knowing that what he’s trying to funnel into the checking account with smarter decisions and new technology wasn’t being drained out with a plastic card somewhere in downtown, “Wherever.”

But I was once at a soils workshop that nearly turned me into an inanimate object.

This winter, I attended a conference in which one of the sessions focused on the succession of agriculture and helping the Midwest to thrive. Part of that was brainstorming about what it will take to bring young people here to live, work and raise their families.

It really intrigued me. Answers ranged from health care laws to infrastructure to the high-speed internet that will be needed for tomorrow’s farm families to make it all happen.

But as we talked about the importance of connecting with our millennials and helping them want to – or be able to – return to the farm, I also felt like we were missing an important target group – our youngest children.

We need young farmers to stay in – or return to – Iowa to take on the challenge of farming and help our industry to be healthy, but I think we need to start earlier in putting that plan into motion. Here’s the reason why.

My husband lived his early years on a farm. He helped with the pig chores and did all the things kids do on farms for work and for fun.

He smelled the dirt behind the plow and watched the corn grow taller than him – and as a young farm boy he thought pigs were pretty exciting.

He was 7 years old when the farm they lived on was sold, and his family moved to town. His father began a trucking business and my husband spent a lot of time with his dad in the truck hauling grain, honey, trees or whatever needed to be delivered.

It still got him out into the country now and then and gave them time to spend together.

But growing up in town, he always dreamed of being back on the farm. He told me he used to sit in class and draw scale models of hog buildings. There were many versions. And he dreamed not only of driving a tractor, but of driving his own tractor someday.

From his earliest memories, the bigger share of his heart was still on the farm, and he always knew it was where he wanted to live his life.

When he was 14 he got a chance to have an after-school job as a hired man for a local grain farmer, which lasted all through and after high school.

While still in high school he bought a few pigs and eventually a skid loader, putting in the time between high school and starting in on his dream of raising his own pigs.

Financial “starting-out” woes during those early years helped him recognize opportunity when it finally knocked, and he eventually managed his dreams into reality.

But the kicker is that loving it as a very young child made him want to return to the farm when he was old enough to make that decision, even with all those years in between of living in town.

Maybe we really need to be reaching out to our youngest hopes for tomorrow.

Around these parts, people who don’t know my husband’s story assume he has lived on a farm all of his life, and are surprised to know he lived less than half of his childhood years there.

But for him and others like him, those childhood experiences and memories are where it all started. The seed was planted early. And roots reach deep down.

Sometimes it surprises me to think that in the end, I – a farmer’s daughter – married a city boy.

Oh, Ava Gabor would have been so proud of me.

Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at kschwaller@evertek.net

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