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The Truth About Farming: Kieth and Karen Penry

Kieth and Karen Penry

Kieth and Karen Penry

Age: 50 and 46

Most Joyous Moment:

I (Karen) can’t really say that there has been one hardest moment; farming is a hard life. A life that I ran from for many years. A life that my mother cautioned me to avoid. A life that my mother-in-law abandoned as soon as she married. A life that my husband’s grandfather tried to discourage my husband from taking on. And yet, here we are.

We have experienced death and broken machines, spoiled feed, broken fences, and oh so much more. We’ve bought animals with implied promises from customers, only to be left holding on to unsold stock when those promises are broken.

This is my story—as a wife that didn’t really want to go down this road because I knew how hard it would be and also as a wife that loves and supports her husband and believes 100% in the family farm.

Here are some truths about how hard it has been:

The truth is… My family does without before my animals do without.

The truth is… We sell our products to customers before consuming them ourselves.

The truth is… Between the ranch and teaching and homemaking, I feel like I work two full-time jobs and then some.

The truth is… We are often tired, wet, cold (or hot), dusty, dirty, and smelly.

The obvious question is, “Why do you do it?” That answer is as complicated and many faceted as the number of things that can go wrong in one day on the ranch. I do it because I love my husband. I do it because I feel like the earth is a gift from Heavenly Father and we need to manage it responsibly. I feel a responsibility to protect the earth and give back to nature. I feel like learning to live sustainably and sharing my story is my calling. I do it to preserve the family farm. I do it because it is the right thing to do.

The truth is… we are doing the best we can to be true to our beliefs while trying to stay afloat.

The truth is… We do get discouraged. There have been many times when we have thrown up our hands, ready to quit. Luckily, most times one of us is up when the other is down.

The truth is… We will never give up. We believe in what we are doing. We hold tight to our faith and to little moments of joy–like the joy I felt yesterday when I saw not one, but two herd of deer grazing on the side of the road as I was driving to work. Joy, faith, a desire to do the right thing; those are the things that sustain us. Sometimes, it is all we have. Sometimes, I pray with all my might that it is enough.

Most disappointing moment.

Our most joyous moment was buying our own, albeit small, family farm. After spending 14 years living in town and working on another property, we were finally able to buy 40 acres. There are so many times when we walk outdoors–winter, spring, summer, and fall–and breathe in the fresh air with a smile on our face. We say to each other and ourselves, “This is it. We own this. We are living our dream.” Our life is hard every single day, but we are so grateful for the opportunity to be here. We love this hard life!

Resurrection! Hands of a Farmer is Back.

Resurrection:

1. Rising from the dead.

2. The rising of Christ from death after his burial. From the early latin, to rise again.

As Brandon and I prepared for Easter this year with our families we had been focusing on our jobs and lives away from HandsOfAFarmer.  We were content with the fact that, due to our busy schedules, our dream of telling the story of American agriculture through the hands of a farmer had died.  Over the past two years we have yearned to start again, to bring back from the ashes the blog which once inspired us and many of you to believe in the American farmer and rancher again.  But our lives were so busy. Brandon had embarked on a new career in the oil and gas industry. I had moved to a new town and was trying to rebuild a FFA chapter and we both were having kids and it appeared as if the final resting place of this blog would be somewhere in cyberspace.  We still got the occasional comment about the blog or question, “Whatever happened to that blog you guys did?”  But things all changed a week ago.

We were approached by one of Brandon’s former students, Tyler McCoy.  Tyler is an Ag Ed major at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Tx (which just so happens to be where Jeff teaches high school agriculture).  Tyler had a brilliant idea for our first post back; a resurrection of Hands of a Farmer to coincide with Easter and the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and the homecoming of one of the leaders of agriculture science in the United States.  Sort of a cool coincidence.  Tyler has decided not to tell his own story just yet since he is young and still writing it.  Instead, he will tell the story of one of his personal mentors and heroes in agriculture. With that I will turn this post over to Tyler.

Should you have any other stories you would like told, please let us know!

The HandsOfAFamer Gang!

Dr. Dean Hawkins

Featured Hands: Dr. Dean Hawkins. (As told by Tyler McCoy)

A Farmer: a person engaged in agriculture, raising living organisms for food or raw materials.

The word farmer is a noun that could be one of the most meaningful words to some, a title for others, a stereotype, a hero, or just what you call the old man that lives down that old county road outside of town. It is a word that means different things to every person, every culture, and every generation.

Isn’t it crazy how a word as simple as “farmer” have so many meanings and be so opinionated as to the meaning, but in all reality have one simple meaning? It is a person engaged in agriculture, raising living organisms for food or raw materials. The term is so broad, but has been given such a narrow perspective by most. The term can be that old man that lives down the county road, it can be a title of a person, it can be a stereotype given by judgmental eyes, it can be the most meaningful word to others, but it can be so much more. There is very good possibility that you are a farmer without even knowing it, just by simply buying that live herb from the grocery store to use as needed for cooking, or even watering the grass in your yard. This simplest everyday practices would qualify you as a farmer, your growing herbs to flavor your dishes, and growing the grass to feed wildlife. A person can live in a packed suburb with a gap of only 5 feet between their home and the next, and by definition would be considered a farmer.

I have been blessed the past few years to work with a person whom I believe a farmer. No, he doesn’t live down that old county road. He doesn’t grow any crops or fibers, and besides the occasional show pig his daughters are raising he doesn’t raise any livestock.  Though by definition he is a farmer, one that is truly paving the way for the future by planting a different kind of seed then any would ever imagine. This seed is a very special seed. It is a seed that he does not have to water or needs soil. A seed that produces growth that is un-measurable, and will grow for a lifetime. What he is planting is called the seed of knowledge, and every year he and his department plant it in a very special place that no other farmer has access to. He plants this seed in the future.

To raise living organisms for food or other raw materials, again this is the definition of a farmer. So how does this man qualify as a farmer? This man is a farmer because he is planting knowledge, he is planting education in the minds of hundreds of young men and women every year. He is planting this seed in the future; he is planting this seed in students. These students are the most essential crop in our world. Students whom will be future leaders of our country, future scientist that make life changing discoveries, future producers of food and fiber, and countless other aspects that make our daily lives possible.

Dr. Dean Hawkins is the Department Head of Agriculture Sciences at West Texas A&M University. He and his team have taken the oath that less than 1% of all the people on the earth have. They have taken the oath to grow, educate, and nurture students. While educators are not exactly what most people think of when you hear the word farmer, they in fact are. Humans are living organisms, and Dean is the best of the best at growing them. He grows students that you could call raw material, because they will inevitably be repurposed upon gradation of college. These raw materials may become producers of food and fibers, the may discover the cure for cancer or how to end world hunger. No matter, they will be repurposed into a usable product this is crucial for every human’s life. Life that will soon be exceeding 9 billion in world population, life that will need medical advancements, life that will need to be feed and sheltered, life that Hawkins is preparing his students for.

While being an educator is not at the top of most peoples career list, Hawkins chose to follow this path. A path that has affected thousands, and a path that people are very grateful he chose.

While cultivating the minds of these young people and fertilizing the future of our world, Hawkins has been busy in other aspects as well. He is a leader in the ground- breaking study that may increase the quality of beef for the rest of our lives; he is spreading the word of the importance of agriculture, and being a hero for many.

As many of you may know, Dr. Hawkins found out in early January of 2015 that he had a cancerous brain tumor the size of an avocado.

This reality check would have been devastating to most, but not for this farmer. He continued to push forward and ensure that his crop continued to grow. He may not have been at his field, but he was still calling the shots. Many would not have done this, and some do not understand how or why he did, but if you ask him he a very simple answer. It is what god wants him to be doing. He truly handed over the wheel to the lord and let him steer him in the battle, and together they came out victorious! Hawkins had little effects from the battle and has recently even returned to the farm. He could not wait to get back to his projects and to his most valuable crops, his students.

He gave all of the power to the lord, and it is incredible to see his healing powers in action.

Paul Harvey wrote a poem call “So god made a farmer”, and there is a line that truly speaks of Dr. Hawkins. It is a powerful bit of diction that says “And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain’n from ‘tractor back,’ put in another seventy-two hours.”” So God made a farmer.”” This could not more accurately resemble the reason that god put Dr. Hawkins on this earth. God made him to plant this precious seed, no matter the cost.

Dean has a strong relationship with the lord, and he knew his work was not yet done, he knew that more seeds were to be planted, and more minds needed cultivating. He gave god the wheel of the tractor while he hopped off to get his hands dirty in the production of the future. He has dirty hands, but a clean soul. He is a hero, a leader, a mentor, and above all he is a farmer.

I would like to express me deepest gratitude for reading this article. While Hands of a Farmer has not been very active the past few months, I hope that this story will get you excited about not only the celebration of the resurrection of  our lord but of this blog. I appreciate you and would ask you to keep Dr. Hawkins and his family in your prayers today as you celebrate Easter with your family, because his battle is not yet over and he still has work to be done.

Thank you and have a blessed Easter,

Tyler McCoy

#dirtyhandscleansoul

Jeremiah 3:15

“Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding.”

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Hands of a County Extension Agent! Go Team Ag Ed!

Today, handsofafarmer would like to honor another group of agricultural advocates in our community.  National 4-H week is October 7-13, so today, we honor county extension agents; specifically in Randall, County, Texas!  As an agricultural science teacher, I have heard horror stories from “experienced” ag teachers about their work with agents.  The agents have all heard the same stories about ag teachers.  The Texas FFA and Texas 4-H (Team AgEd) are working hard to change that perception…and the county agents in Randall county are leading the way!  Two of the greatest people to work with, two of the most caring individuals when it comes to kids, and parents, and two people who truly care about agriculture and telling the true story of American agriculture.  They have made my transition to becoming a new ag teacher in Randall County amazing and have helped in many situations!

Today, we present the hands of Kim Peters and J.D. Ragland

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Kim Peters, age: 25

Involvement in Agriculture: My involvement in agriculture now began many years ago. The four generations preceding mine in my family on all sides were agriculturists involved in  the cotton and commercial cattle industries. I myself grew up on the Yellow House Ranch, a commercial cow/calf operation that was once headquarters of the southern division of the XIT, where my father was the foreman. My brother and I did not spend our summers at the pool or the mall; they were spent helping our dad. Whether that was horseback gathering cows, fixing fence, or repairing work trucks, we were with him. As a kid, that’s hard to appreciate, especially when your peers aren’t raised in the same environment; enter, 4-H. 4-H was where I truly felt I had a niche in the world. I was involved in projects ranging from, but not limited to, boer goats, public speaking, commercial cattle, and food and nutrition. I went on to study agriculture education and natural resources management at Texas Tech University, and completed two degrees there. Shortly after, I began my career as a 4-H & Youth Development Extension Agent for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in Randall County. So, I would say my current involvement in agriculture would be cultivating kids. I assist the 4-H members in Randall county as they complete their projects, and while they feel pride and accomplishment for what they’re doing in that moment, I feel pride knowing what kind of citizens they’ll become.

Most Difficult Moment in Agriculture: Like most people involved in any aspect of agriculture, drought is one of the most difficult periods to endure. For my family, the drought of 2011 was particularly devastating. One day during grad school, my mom called in a panic saying a fire was rapidly spreading across the ranch. Because we face everything as a family, I raced the hour home to find countless BLM, Texas Forest Service, and local firefighters doing their best to head it off. Dad was on the maintainer pulling fire guards in an attempt to save homes and livestock stationed at the headquarters. Because of their swift action, the damage could have been much worse. However, after that, my father developed respiratory problems due to smoke inhalation and passed away suddenly a few months later. Because the rains obviously weren’t coming for a while, we sold the herd he had spent years building. His employment at the Yellow House began in his early 20’s and lasted his entire life. He lived for that land and knew it better than anyone else; losing him was definitely my most difficult moment in agriculture. He was and is the driving force behind my 4-H career and my passion for agriculture and natural resources. For that I miss him all the more, but am eternally grateful.

Most Joyous Moment in Agriculture: My most joyous moment in agriculture has lasted nearly an entire year. That’s how long I have been in Randall County. To me, it’s a joyous moment when 4-H members celebrate what they have done, win or no. Whether it was a first year member celebrating their third place slot in the county show, or senior aged members winning a national speaking contest; seeing their pride in what they’ve accomplished gives me joy. 4-H isn’t about winning. It’s about learning from failures so you’re better able to prepare for the next round. That makes winning all the more special. Seeing these kids learn about the world around them is fascinating. While a member’s projects may not even focus in agriculture, I believe the neatest thing about 4-H and FFA is leaving those programs with an understanding and appreciation for agriculture and natural resources and with the knowledge that the world all but literally revolves around those two things.

J. D. Ragland, age: 48

Involvement in Agriculture: I have been involved in agriculture for my entire life. For 26 years now, I have been a county agent and have served Castro, Floyd, and Randall Counties as an agriculture and natural resources extension agent. Growing up, we farmed cotton and wheat and ran a commercial cow/calf operation. I worked side by side with my family during every event from planting to building fence, and they were very instrumental in developing my work ethic. I also became heavily involved with 4-H and FFA where my projects focused around cattle, swine, sheep, and leadership. As a result of this experience, I was able to serve as chapter and area president through FFA, and in 1982 I was elected State 4-H Council first vice president. Along with my wife Angela, Marketing Director at the Tri-State Fair, and my son, Brady, graduate student in animal reproduction and Assistant Livestock Judging coach at Texas Tech, I own and operate Ragland Herefords. We run 60 registered and commercial Hereford cows, concentrating in club calf production and sell approximately 15 calves annually. Watching Brady grow up through 4-H was rewarding, especially the livestock aspect of the program. With my guidance, he won several titles at shows like the State Fair of Texas and Ft. Worth and in 2008, he won high individual at not only the Texas 4-H Livestock Judging contest, but the National 4-H Livestock Judging Contest. I am very passionate about not only agriculture, but youth agricultural education as well.

Most Difficult Moment in Agriculture: Personally, I would have to say the drought has been most difficult for me to deal with. Because of the lack of moisture, I was forced to sell part of my Hereford herd with bloodlines that I had been developing for 30 years. That was devastating because those animals are irreplaceable. Professionally, seeing what the producers in my county have faced with drought has been tough as well. Another aspect of my career that has been difficult has been leaving one county for another. In this job, you build strong relationships and bonds with producers and families that are not easily broken.

Most Joyous Moment in Agriculture: I am very proud of the quality of Hereford cattle I’ve been able to produce over the years and the success exhibitors have had with them at shows. In my career, I was able to reach a milestone with a group of 4-H members. While in Floyd County, I coached the 2008 Floyd County 4-H Livestock Judging Team to the state champion title. They worked relentlessly at reaching that goal, and to this day I am extremely proud of what they accomplished. Every year, I am given the opportunity to teach young people about agriculture and that is an extremely rewarding thing. Most importantly, I find joy in serving the communities and counties in which I’ve lived and working to make a positive difference in their lives.

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Hands of a 5th generation farmer: Scott Stedje

Name: Scott Stedje
Age: 33
Involvement in Agriculture: Last year my family celebrated 100 years of farming and ranching. I am the 5th generation to farm and the 4th to live in my house. Not only do we farm cotton, wheat and corn but also run yearling cattle and cow/calf pairs in the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles. I live in a small Norwegian community north of Gruver, TX called Oslo. For some crazy reason my family sold land in Iowa and moved down to the wide open spaces and break out farm land; land that was said to be unfit for human life in a report sent to the President of the United States at the time.
My grandfather had two brothers and during WWII they drew straws to see which two would go to war and who would stay home- and we wonder why they were called the greatest generation. My grandfather drew short straw and he stayed as the other two went to war. One brother was KIA in war and the other came back after it was over.
Another crazy idea they had was to drill water wells and irrigate farm. So this is why I spend hours working on sprinklers and irrigation motors.
What is Your Most Difficult Moment in Agriculture: This is a loaded question because we all know there are discomforts in agriculture. Droughts, bug infestations, and the rising cost of equipment and inputs are just part of the game. Last year we had 3.29 inches of moisture and this year we have had .02. So I am not sure if I have had my most difficult moment, Lord I HOPE SO. 2011 will go down as the worst year farming since my great-great grandfather Stedje. We have no dryland crop, the pasture country never turned green and we could not keep irrigated crops from burning up from heat and wind. We all lost a lot of equity and banks started using a 4 letter word that is a little longer than four, Liquidity. But just like every other farmer, we pray for moisture and prepare to give them hell in 2012.
Another difficult moment was I had to take over the farm when I was a Jr. in college. My father made me pay for my own college so that means I was broke just like 90% of all other college students. The day before he passed away, December 23, I had given plasma to have enough money to go to penny beer. Boy is college rough. A week later, I remember sitting down and paying end of year bills. I broke down and cried like a little girl because I have never seen numbers that used that many commas. My family pushed me to graduate and 1 ½ years, later my uncle came up and handed me a check to pay off student loans. He said as he gave me the check “This is what our family does, your father would have paid off your college just as his father did when he graduated.
What has been you most joyous moment in Agriculture: I find joy when I wake up and look across the open prairie and see a momma cow drop a calf out; to smell the moisture in the air and know God is sending rain; to walk out into my field and pick sweet corn for super. Things move a heck of a lot faster now, but also a heck of a lot slower than other parts of the country. In the winter 2007/2008 we had 4 inch rain and then a foot of snow, good wet snow and stayed white till spring. I hit my first “home run” that summer; we averaged 66 bushels on dryland and 74 on irrigated. The original Stedje section 93, a dryland farm, did 83 bushels across the entire 640 acres. It was a great feeling knowing I was feeding more people than I ever had.

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Hands of a Farmer: Thomas Epting

Name: Thomas Epting   Age: 26
What is your involvement in agriculture: I teach agriculture science in a far West Texas town where each day seems to move at a pace that reminds me to enjoy God’s gifts and blessings.

I have been involved in some form of agriculture my entire life. I was fortunate enough to be raised on a 365 acre piece of land that has been in my family for more than 150 years and has been used for production agriculture the entire time. I have seen the area around my families land turn from fields of grain and pastures full of fat calves running around, into gated communities, apartment complexes and one acre ʺranchettsʺ.

I decided while in high school to become an agriculture science teacher because I understand that the majority of the population has little to no knowledge of where their food and fiber come from and I want them to! My mission is to give students the gift of knowledge about agriculture, and also to become great leaders who work hard, are ethical, fair, and honest in their life.
What has been your most difficult moment in agriculture: My most difficult moment in agriculture has been the death of my mom in August of 2002. I lost someone who was very important to me. After she passed away, I kept looking back at my past and I was angry. In my mind, I was at a stock show every time I got bad news about my mom and her fight with a horrible disease. From the time she got sick until she died, I felt like if I hadn’t been at a stock show, I could have been helping her fight. So I lost my passion for agriculture and what I was doing in it, I lost my goals. But with the support of my family and with God, I was eventually able to pick myslef up and get back into the way of life that I knew I was meant to live, and the way of life I had dreamed of.

What is your most joyous moment in agriculture: Like a lot of others, I have experienced several joyous moments in agriculture. One is know that I help provide opportunities for students to learn about the greatest industry of all and expressing that it is a great way to live. Others included knowing that every morning when I wake up, drink my coffee and listen to the sounds that God gives us, I am going to have a great day. The experiences in agriculture have taught me to work efficently, be independent and to live my life so the preacher doesnt have to lie at my funeral.

Isaiah 41:10 – So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strenghten you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

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Hands of a Farmer: William P. “Billy” Hallman

 

 

An interview submitted by Cara Scogin Olson, of her granddaddy, William P. “Billy” Hallman: A man who is washed by the blood of the lamb, and is living proof of the abundant grace given by God.

Involvement in Agriculture: “We’ve always been involved in agriculture. I was born in 1917. When I was a child, just a little boy, we picked cotton on our farm in Grandview. Dad had a cotton gin. We had 5 or 6 Jersey cattle. My brother, LeRoy and I milked cattle all the time. We’d milk that many, you know. We’d bottle the milk, and then deliver to people’s houses. Some people wanted pints, some wanted quarts, you know. One time, we made chocolate milk, half pints, and ooh, it was good milk. We’d buy Hersey’s chocolate syrup; buy it by the gallon jug. You’d just add to it what you’d need, and pour it in the little half-pint bottles. We’d sell them to the café’s for a nickel and they sold them for a dime. During the depression, Leroy and I would pop popcorn and sell it at the rodeo. At the end of the night, LeRoy and I would go into the bathroom and lock the door, and sit on the floor and count all of the nickels and dimes we made. We could make more money than a grown man with a week’s wages sometimes at those rodeos, popping popcorn. Later on, I went to school at the University of Texas in Austin and graduated with a business degree in 1938. I got a job over here in the Court House in Cleburne on the 1st of January, 1939. Stayed here three years and worked in the tax office. That’s of course, where I met Momma. The first time I saw her, she was sitting on top of a desk with her legs crossed and I thought those legs were the most beautiful legs I had ever seen. I said hello and learned her name was Ida Ruth James. I went home that day and told my mother that I was going to marry Ida Ruth and of course, we did marry two years later in 1941. But I guess that’s beside the point. We moved up to Amarillo, after we were married. That Amarillo job was a land job, see, with the Oil Development Company, a division of Santa Fe. We had thousands of acres, or I don’t know how many there were, but most of them were wheat or corn and we got a 1/3 of everything and keep all of the minerals, and then would sell the land for Santa Fe. Santa Fe owned barrels of money up there; no telling how much. Did that for about a year, and then came back and worked for Trader’s Oil Mill out of Fort Worth. Trader’s Oil Mill bought cottonseed all over the country. Manufactured the oil, and pressed the oil out of it and used it for cattle feed… you know what cottonseed cake is, don’t you? It’s just cottonseed meal cake. They press all of the oil out of the seed and then they take the seed and grind it up into meal; had the consistency of flour, what it was. It was good. They would make ProFlo; protein flour made from cottonseed meal. I sold that darn stuff out as far as Atlanta, Georgia, and let’s see, North Carolina, and I’d be gone about three weeks on those trips. After about a year for working for Trader’s Oil Mill, I entered the service for WWII, as Lieutenant JG Officer of an LST Naval ship. After the war in 1946, I came back to work for Trader’s Oil Mill, and then got a job with National Cash Registry, selling accounting machines. That was a good job. I quit that to start my office supply business I had here in Cleburne, TX and had Hallman Office Supply until I retired in ‘68. First Angus Cattle I ever bought were in 1967. We had Angus cattle and cut and sold Coastal Bermuda hay up until we finally sold out of all of the registered Angus in the mid 90’s. My son, Jim and I still have Coastal Bermuda hay that we sell on our farm here, south of Cleburne.

We’ve had a good life, we’ve enjoyed it… I’ve had a great life, myself, personally. I mean, I’m just thinking about Momma, with her, that’s been the best part of it. 70 years; I can’t believe that. Very blessed in many, many ways, and I’m grateful for it.”

Most Difficult Moment in Agriculture: “And the worst time; I don’t know when that would be. I imagine the worst time would be this dern drought we had this last year, summer 2011. By far the worst time, because hay was so high, and we didn’t make a bale of hay. It was a hard time for a lot of people.”

Most Joyous Moment in Agriculture: “In 1969, we drove down to a ranch in Grandview, drove in on top of hill and you could see the whole darn ranch from that hill. Prettiest ranch you ever saw. All 738 acres of solid Coastal Bermuda pasture, divided up into 12 pastures, and every one of them had water in it. I just knew I had to have it. So my brother, Leroy and I bought it together. Put some good registered Angus cattle on it and then sold out in 1980. But that day on that hill was probably the happiest memory in my farm life.”

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Hands of a Farmer: Gina Kelly Ellis

Gina Kelly Ellis“The strength of a woman is not measured by the impact that all her hardships in life have had on her; but the strength of a woman is measured by the extent of her refusal to allow those hardships to dictate her and who she becomes.”    ―      C. JoyBell C.

Name:  Gina Kelly Ellis    Age:  56

What Is Your Involvement In Agriculture? I have been involved in agriculture as long as I can remember. First moving pipe, hoeing and driving the tractor on my daddy’s farm. Then, later as a farm wife raising a family to love the farm life and all that it represents. My children, Kristy and Kyle were both raised to love the farm and to work on the farm.

What has been your most difficult moment in agricululture?  My most difficult moment in agriculture is also my story. In July of 2000, my husband, Mike and my daughter, Kristy and I were at the lake taking a few days off for the holiday weekend. My 20 year-old son had stayed home to watch the irrigation systems. On July 1st, My husband and friends were on the lake on Jet-Ski’s when his was suddenly struck. He never regained consciousness. We spent the next couple of days in the hospital watching drips and monitors and then finally, signing organ donation papers. I walked into that hospital on July 1st a farmer’s wife. I walked out on July 4th, the farmer. My son, Kyle was immediately made a man as he stepped into his dad’s very large shoes. He has been my rock since that day. I have been amazed at how much he had learned from his dad in such a short time.

This truly was my most difficult moment in agriculture and today, nearly12 years later, through hail and winds and drought and price drops, I recognize that the God who carried me through the worst of times is the same God as the One who carries me through all the other trials on the farm and in life.

What has been your most joyous moment in agriculture?  It is so hard to point to one moment as the most joyous. Life on the farm is so wonderful, even when things are not good. After Mike was gone, my task on the farm became managing the cattle operation while Kyle managed the row crops. There were wonderful days, when I would sit on the fence and just watch the black cows in the wheat and think about how gorgeous a sight it was. Those cattle became my therapy! There was that one year when the cotton just turned snow white and we couldn’t believe the yield! There were precious times shared with my son and daughter on the farm. There were those wonderful days of spending time with Mike’s granddad who had broken that very land out with 2 mules and a plow! Listening to his stories. Refereeing the “discussions” between this 90 year old and this 20 year old as they decided whose way would work best on the farm. Our mantra became, “What Would Mike Do?”

Watching my two grandsons who never got to meet their granddad, Mike. Watching them as they run and play on the farm or ride the tractor with Kyle. I can watch them and just imagine the joy Mike would have gotten from this. The joy of watching my son, who looks so like his dad, on the farm is certainly at the top of the list.

A Little Promotion for a food cause never hurt! HOAF has been out of touch with technology for a weekend…we are back and should have more fascinating content up soon…in the meantime, figure out what you plan to do to help the Ag Development Committee, gentlemen get ready for a day of horses and racing, and get your Derby Hats ready ladies!

Hands of a Farmer: Wayne Cheney

Sometimes, opportunities come along that spellbind us, change the way we look at life and agriculture, and enrich our lives beyond measure.  Today, we honor Wayne Cheney.  A strong man who is a great depression survivor, WWII Navy Vet, former farmer, former ag teacher, proud husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather.  59 years of marriage, 85 years of agriculture, and our first video submission.  Thanks to Brandon and Sheila Williamson for submitting this video.  Keep in mind, Mr. Cheney is in a hospital bed only because he was about to go into surgery.  He is fine, and should be back to himself in no time! I love the impromptu discussion that breaks out after our typical questions have been asked!  What a pioneer for agriculture! Below the video is a personal note from the Williamson family.

Tonight’s post has a dual purpose.  As always HOAF seeks to share the stories of the American Agriculturist, however this post has special meaning to us.  We post it as a continual legacy to the wonderful man we know as “Pappa” in hopes that one day my two year old son, Blake, can look back at the wonderful example of Christian leadership, hard work, and fatherly love portrayed by his Great-grandfather, Wayne Cheney.


-With love, Brandon and Sheila Williamson

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Hands of Farmer: Denver Kelly

The passion for agriculture often comes from the elders who came before us.  Tonight’s featured farmer is a prime example of that concept.  Tonight’s featured farmer:  Denver Kelly

Hands Pictured Above:  Denver Kelly  Age: Would be 102, Died at 99

Involvement In Agriculture:  The land my great-grandson now farms, I broke out with two mules and a plow. I farmed actively until I was 97 years old, even hoeing in the fields in the heat of the day. I never wanted to leave the farm. It was my life.

Most Difficult Moment in Agriculture:  In over 80 years of being involved in agriculture, it would be hard to point to a most difficult moment. Perhaps, the years of the dust bowl, or the depression, or the years of failed crops, the years of barely making it. The year I lost my daughter to cancer. The year I lost my young great-grandson to a drunk driver, or the year I lost my right hand man, my grandson Mike who farmed along side me for over 25 years.

Most Joyus Moment in Agriculture:  Rising up each day, knowing the farm was my world brought me the most joy a man could experience. Watching 80 years of seed be planted and harvested. Each day in farming is the most joyous ever, no matter what the weather or the market is doing. When the dirt is under your fingernails at the end of the day, you know you have been with God.

The Farmer and the Sabbath!

Good Shepherd Catholic Church - Lometa, Texas

Good Shepherd Catholic Church - Lometa, Texas

Blessed is anyone who does this, anyone who clings to it, observing the Sabbath, not profaning it, and abstaining from every evil deed. ~ Isaiah 56:2

Even the work of advocating for agriculture should take a rest in observance of advocating for God!  The Hands of a Farmer Blog will take a break on each Sunday in order to allow each of you to spend the time you would use reading our blog with your families, in quiet prayer,

I remember reading a story about my maternal great grandfather…that he was the type of man who would be out walking through the pasture and when he observed something particularly breathtaking, or had a thought he believed to be inspired by Divinity, he would remove his hat, drop to a knee, and thank God for his beautiful creation.

HOAF will take that same attitude.  We are so thankful for those of you who have viewed the blog, we are unbelievably thankful to those of you who have submitted your stories, and we look forward to telling the story of American Agriculture through your hands!

May the Blessing of the Lord be upon you all!

Hands of a Cotton Farmer: Matt Caswell

Matt Caswell Hands

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, some have greatness thrust upon them! ~ William Shakespeare 

Today’s farmer fits all three. Today we honor a young man who exemplifies greatness in every fabric of his life.

Hands Pictured Above: Matt Caswell  Age: 30

Involvement in Agriculture: I am a fourth generation cotton farmer on the plains of West Texas. I live south of Lubbock,Texas on the Lubbock and Lynn County line with my beautiful wife of eight years and two gourgeous daughters who will certainly make mel pay for my raising.

A cotton farm in West Texas is an everchanging world that can show you the best days you’ve ever had and take everything away from you that very night. We live and die by Mother Nature with decisions we as farmers have absolutely zero control over. With growing costs and unstable markets throughout the world, farming is a gamble few can stomach and most don’t understand. Increasing costs and advancements in technology make the present day farm a never ending process of learning and concern.

Most Difficult Moment in Agriculture: My worst day in agricuture came the day after the funeral of my Dad, Jimmy Smith, in October of 2011. I have never felt more alone on the farm than that day when all the decisions came crashing down in my hands and panic set in. If it were not for the agriculture community that surrounded me, i might have sunk. The group that i am proud to call farmers, agriculturists and my friends kept me afloat until i could gather myself and get both my feet securely underneath me. Everyday is a struggle without him but if not for him i would not be where i am today with the knowledge and skills that he instilled in me. Thanks Dad!

Most Joyous Moment in Agriculture: One of the scariest times in a young farmers life is when he has to go to bank and ask for astronomical amount of money that he only prays he can pay back by the end of the year. I payed off my first bank note in the winter of 2009. I swelled up with pride as i strolled out the bank with a huge feeling of accomplishment. Their is no greater satisfaction than knowing that you survived the year and put money in the bank only to do it all over agian the next year.

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