EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the introductory column by Erin Holbert, a young woman who was born and raised on a farm in west central Indiana. Given her unique perspective in farming, a career dominated by men, The Daily Republic will be running her column on a trial basis.
I feel like I had a fairly common upbringing as a farm kid in rural America. We went to church on Sunday morning, lived for the county 4-H fair the last week in June, and tried not to cause our parents too much trouble (it’s debatable whether we succeeded at that last one or not). My younger sister, brother and I spent our summers walking beans cutting out weeds since, as my dad always said, “kids are cheaper than chemicals.”
It’s funny how much more cost effective those same chemicals seemed in his eyes when all of us kids had left the roost. Despite all the character-building child labor I endured (I exaggerate of course), I’d have to say that my childhood was fairly idyllic, instilled in me a deep love for farming and the ag industry, and gave me a solid foundation to begin my next big adventure at Purdue University.
My time at Purdue was one of the best of my life so far. After joining Sigma Alpha, a professional agriculture sorority, I was surrounded by other women for the first time in my life who were just as passionate about agriculture as I was whether they’d grown up in it or not. The College of Agriculture also gave me the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to move across the Atlantic Ocean for a semester and attend Aberystwyth University in Wales. It was a long three months without Hidden Valley ranch dressing for this Midwesterner, but I survived and came out of the experience with a different view of the world and the confidence I needed to survive being a full-fledged adult after graduating.
While I’m back on the farm working for my dad now, he always made it very clear that before he would ever consider letting any of us kids come back, we had to work someplace else for at least a few years. With that in mind, I made sure to take advantage of internship opportunities with both Nutrien and Cargill during my summer breaks and was rewarded with a full-time offer as an agronomist in Michigan. My time in the Great Lakes state didn’t last long, but the things I learned there set me up well for my next job as an account manager for a regional seed company. I was very appreciative of the chance to move back home and be able to help my dad in my spare time, but I was even more appreciative when three years later I was able to quit selling seed and go back to the family farm full time.
To me farming is such a rewarding line of work when you are able to see the fruit of your labor at the end of the year and one of the main reasons I love it so much. Being back on the farm has been difficult at times, but there’s nothing that can beat the feeling when those last few rows of corn are run through the combine in the fall.
Let me tell you what, not coming straight back to the farm after college was the absolute last thing I wanted to do at the time, but as much as it pains me to admit it, Pops was right. It may not be the best route for everyone, but working off the farm not only gave me a better view of the other side of the industry, it has helped me to be grateful with where I’m at even when things get stressful (and I think we can all agree that the past couple of years in farming have been just a little bit taxing).
I’ve been back on the farm full time stuck in a steep learning curve for close to a year and a half now, and my dad and I haven’t strangled each other yet, so I guess you could say things are working out.