A Publication of WTVP

Growing up in Lincoln, Nebraska, I looked forward to spending summers “on the farm” in central Nebraska with my great aunt and uncle. Many of life’s valuable lessons were learned there—patience, understanding and teamwork, to name a few.

Other lessons were learned, too, some humorous, and some not so humorous. Like how to milk a cow by hand, including getting kicked off the stool; combining small grain with a pull-type combine; stacking hay in the heat of the summer; scooping—no augers on this farm—the small grain from the wagon to the grain bin; heading to the underground storm cellar during hail storms; and learning how to drive a tractor before learning how to drive a car.

No doubt my early experiences on the farm helped to shape my values and character. Much like my own experience, agriculture has helped build the character of America.

In 2007, about one third of the world’s workers were employed in agriculture. In 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were about 1.2 million farmers, ranchers and agricultural managers in the United States. And even though technology plays an essential role in farming today, the work is still rugged and the hours still long. About 80 percent of farmers are self-employed. Most grow crops.

“Farmers often find themselves working around dangerous moving parts on machinery and equipment, unpredictable livestock, and work-robbing weather. Farming can be a stressful job,” said Patrick Kirchhofer, Peoria County Farm Bureau manager.

Stark County Farm Bureau Manager Jake Anderson reminds us of some of the things we may take for granted. “All of the food we eat, the milk we drink and a majority of the clothes we wear all originated on a farm in one form or another. Farmers play an important role in our daily lives, and they should be recognized for that as well as their perseverance.”

Created in 2007, Proctor Hospital’s Outstanding Young Farmer of the Year Award recognizes young farmers for their continued faithfulness to this American legacy—farming. “Young farmers are the future of agriculture,” reminds Kirchhofer. “Their work feeds a growing population.”

Proctor’s Outstanding Young Farmer of the Year Award is presented in 11 area counties: Bureau, Fulton, Henry, Knox, Marshall-Putnam, Mason, Peoria, Stark, Tazewell, Warren-Henderson and Woodford. Nominees must be between the ages of 18 and 35 at the time of nomination. They must be proven leaders within the agri-community and demonstrate a commitment to agricultural health and safety issues. All nominees, whether individuals or families, must be members of their respective county farm bureau.

“Young people entering agriculture today are faced with many obstacles. The high cost of machinery, extremely high input costs and the cost or even the availability of land to farm make it difficult for any young person to begin farming,” said Doug Godke, manager of the Tazewell County Farm Bureau. “When you consider the risk of weather, low commodity prices and government regulation, it is a gamble for any young person to even consider entering farming. Most young people do not have the resources to generate the needed capital to fund the high cost of starting a farming operation on their own.”

Programs like the Proctor Hospital Outstanding Young Farmer of the Year Award help recognize the efforts of these young farmers—quite often husband-and-wife teams raising their children, farming, and serving their communities through PTOs, church groups and professional organizations.

Tazewell County Award recipients for 2009, Gretchen and Nick Uhlman, help produce corn, soybeans, wheat, hay and pumpkins, and farm alongside family members. Their nomination stated, “They are one of the couples that will be leading Tazewell County agriculture into the future.” Nick is an active member of the Tazewell County Farm Bureau Young Leaders Committee.

“I want to thank Proctor Hospital for awarding my family and me the Outstanding Young Farmer Award. It’s an honor to be recognized for the hard work and sacrifice that we put into our everyday lives,” said Nick Uhlman.

Curt and Angel Jacobs, award winners from Henry County, exemplify what the award is all about. They are members of the Henry County Farm Bureau and the Henry County Farm Bureau Young Leaders Board of Directors. Farm safety is a concern for them, and both are involved in teaching farm safety education programs to school and community groups.

Curt Jacobs was also happy to receive the award. “We feel that these programs are important to young farmers because they help inform the public of their goals and achievements. These programs also help remind the public of the young men and women who are out working to provide for everyone. We’re proud to be the recipients of the award this year.”

Saying “thank you” to these young people can make a real difference on a day that’s not going your way and is completely out of your control.
At Proctor Hospital, it’s our hope that the Outstanding Young Farmer of the Year Award, and recognition programs like it, can in some small way make a big difference. Because at the end of the day, when that young farmer or farm couple sits back and reflects upon the day, we want them to know that they are appreciated. iBi