"I think that when farmers farm for the lifestyle and for being a shepherd for God's creation, then they are doing it right."
HOMETOWN: Brighton, Iowa
FARM TYPE / CROPS: 7th generation 800ac corn, soybeans, rye, barley, mustard farm
FARM LOCATION: Ainsworth, Iowa
FARM NAME: Precision Partners Corp
- Music: Classic Rock
- Food: Prime Rib
- Drinks: Busch Light
- Blue Jeans: Every day
- Thing to do AFTER work: Listen to Field Work, duh
- Movie Stars: Will Ferrell, Chevy Chase
- Tractor: CASE!
- Mantra: huh?
What do you think a big MISCONCEPTION is about farming?
That farmers are hillbillies that don't care about water, the environment, or their impact on the planet. That farmers don't want to share their data and that they are closed off to connecting with the consumer or changing for a common goal.
What's your relationship status?
Married for 2 years
Do you have children?
Nope, just dogs and a pile of cats
What is your attitude about money?
I've heard of it. Hoping I will have some someday but now is the time to be head down, working.
Where is the farthest you have traveled to? Where would you like to go?
I've been to South Africa twice. It's about a 30hr trip. I would like to travel Europe.
If you could meet a few famous people, dead or alive, who would they be?
Jesus, neat. Meeting The Rock would be pretty cool too.
TELL US ABOUT A DAY ON THE FARM: When does your day start and end?
I spend my time split between working on my soil health data company, Continuum Ag, and working on the farm. I typically get up around 6:30, tweet, work from my office or have meetings during the day, then go to the farm and work. My dad runs the small family farm full-time. So my work is to help with data, trials, and the busy times in the spring or fall. I could easily spend over 12hrs per day at the farm then, often getting to my office around 7:00am for meetings in the morning then work at the farm until at least midnight. When the farm isn't super busy, I often stay at my office until 8:30 to get home and make dinner before my wife gets home at 9:30. She owns a dance studio and often doesn't get home until 9:30. When I'm traveling with meetings and speaking engagements it isn't uncommon for me to get home around 2:00am. Again, working hard while we are young and don't have kids.
What makes you HAPPY in a day on the farm?
WORMS! Finding worms, soil aggregation, soil fungi, and biological activity is an indicator that we are moving in the right direction.
However, what makes me the most happy is to see my Dad happy and learning. He is clearly where I get my passion for ag and drive to learn and do things better. I find extreme joy in watching him learn, discover, and share his insights with visitors we have to the farm, or while he and I are working or checking on fields together.
What makes you FRUSTRATED?
Honestly, what made me frustrated this spring was watching farmers keep making tillage passes. I'm not sure what they were going for.... dry the soil? No, it was dry. Warm the soil? No, it was plenty warm. Rid the field of weeds? No, I often saw a sprayer and a chisel in the same field and there were not weeds coming at any kind of pressure anyway. I'm not frustrated about the fact that they are tilling, hurting their soils, or causing erosion from wind and water. I'm frustrated because they are burning their own money and in turn harming their ability to invest in their farm and family.
What's the BEST part of a day?
Seeing my wife of course. I love meeting with individuals or groups to progress strategy and innovative efforts towards a more sustainable future that ensures profitability for family farms. There are a lot of groups who want to implement sustainability systems, I like being a catalyst to bring those efforts together in a harmonious system.
What's the WORST part of a day?
Seeing misconceptions and misinformation spread from groups with authority and the ability to help farmers change. Universities, government agencies, and ag groups should help encourage innovation, not keep farmers sticking to the status quo. The biggest piece of this is around cover crop termination and rates. Watch the farmers who are succeeding, not a 1 year trial.
Do you wear sunscreen?
Only when I have to. My skin shows the sun's impact quickly and tells me to get covered up. I usually burn and peel once per year then I'm good.
Are you happy with what you farm?
Getting there. I think we need to keep focusing on profitability for every acre. Companies function with their bottom line as the top priority. Farmers don't do that.
What was the HARDEST part getting started?
No, I've always been a self-starter and we've put ourselves in a position to be forward thinking and open to opportunity. Saying Yes is most often a good thing.
What SURPRISED you about farming?
The lack of farmers who understand their cost of production. The lack of land owners who know anything about what is happening on their rented land.
What do you LOVE about farming?
I think that when farmers farm for the lifestyle and for being a shepherd for God's creation, then they are doing it right. The key is to make sure that the farm is a business though too. I love being able to carry on my family's legacy and care for land that has been in my family for 150 years.
What lessons have you learned on the farm?
How to work! That is for sure. One of my key qualities is that I know how to work and I dedicate that fully to working on the farm and wrestling.
Do you have any advice for fellow farmers?
Understand where the puck is going. The consumer is going to see exactly what we are doing on the farm. Everything will be more transparent. I don't agree with all of their perceptions, but a lot of what we do on the farm is perceived as bad in the consumer's eyes. We need to continue to educate and show why we use technology, but we also have to understand how to work with the consumer and consumer facing companies.
Anything to say to those who aren’t farmers?
I welcome all of you to our farm or to talk to other farmers. We want to be transparent and show you why we do the things we do. I hope non-farmers look in to where their food comes from. Support your local family farms.
Where do you think you'll be in 5 or 10 years?
I think I will be involved in a couple different companies and involved in the farm. Dad will still be running the farm full-time. I hope the farm will be more diversified and larger based on our enhanced positioning to purchase land and rent from landlords who want to make a positive impact. I anticipate building companies who help the farmer be more economically resilient and environmentally sustainable. Also, I see Zach and I in a helicopter!