By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life
Jennifer and Jacob Walker of Dekalb County are both Purdue University graduates with majors in agriculture. They have two kids Ryan, 2 ½, and Leann, 1 ½, who love coming to the farm, because as Jacob says, “It’s special to have them there.” After graduation, Jacob worked off the farm for 3 years before coming back to the farm his grandparents started. “My dad and grandpa farmed separately, but worked together. In 2001, we lost my grandparents in an accident and my parents continued the operation. I was fortunate to be able to come into a rolling operation and have the opportunity to help grow it and continue to be successful in the future,” Jacob says.
The Walkers both grew up on farms; Jennifer hails from a family dairy operation, where she was actively involved in the daily milking and harvesting aspects of the farm. “Growing up on farms definitely has shaped who we are today and we hope our kids continue to have that same opportunity.” On the current farm, the Walkers raise corn, soybeans, and wheat. They also bale large square bales of straw and run a Beck’s seed dealership. Jennifer works as a district conservationist for the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service.
Jennifer and Jacob were the proud recipients of the Young Farmer Achievement Award from Indiana Farm Bureau. This award is based on their efforts in production agriculture and leadership achievement.
“The process for the award starts by filling out the application,” Jacob explains. “There are three finalists that go on to have 20-minute interviews… We appreciated the application process for several reasons: It focused mostly on your accomplishments in your operation with involvements being important as well. The applications get judged blind, so your name and hometown isn’t known until the final three. One of the most difficult things was getting across everything you wanted in a 20-minute interview. We learned a lot during the process and enjoyed documenting our journey.”
Jacob feels the Young Farmer program through Farm Bureau is important because of the demographics of people in production agriculture. “There are fewer young people coming back to production agriculture all the time and this program focus on some of that. There are few other programs across the country that put a focus solely on the next generation of agriculture and that provide a meaningful organization for them. This award recognizes accomplishments of the individuals and promotes the Young Farmer Program.”
Jacob’s advice to a young farmer who is considering joining the family farm, “Go do something else for a while. Don’t come straight back to the farm. Set goals. Make sure you’re able to make your own mistakes and make meaningful decisions without only riding on the coattail of the previous generation. Have something that’s yours and take initiative. Have a mentor. Make sure there’s proper organizational structure and that it’s clear what everyone’s roles are. Learn from the people that helped get you where you are and recognize that through the process.”
To learn more about the Walker's farm, visit their website, www.walker-farms.com.