I have struggled to decide on a topic for my first blog post – so I have landed on providing readers with insight into my life and my journey back to the farm …
I have wanted to farm for as long as I can remember, I have been told I started telling people I wanted to be a farmer when I was 4 years old. I am however, the oldest of four and returning to the farm after high school or college was not an option. As I began the college search my junior year of high school I had initial plans to get a degree in Diesel Mechanics. I have no idea why I thought that was a good idea – I am a terrible mechanic. As luck would have it though my grandparents took me to our family reunion the summer after my junior year. This trip took us to Ohio, specifically Wooster, and I toured several colleges in the area. I fell in love with Wooster the second I stepped on campus. I was home.
Wooster is a private liberals college which changed my degree plans (thank goodness). I arrived on campus with thoughts of pursuing an International Relations degree – however I did not take the advice of my volleyball teammates which was to take the Introduction to International Relations class from Dr. Lantis and chose to take the class that was an hour later (tip to all college students: when upperclassman recommend a professor – take their advice). I hated the class and lost interest in that degree (Dr. Lantis later became one of my favorite professors – there is a reason he is highly recommended). Midway through my freshman year I decided I wanted to become a plant breeder – I was constantly looking for ways to stay involved in agriculture. I should also note that science is not my best subject either – a combination of freshman partying and flat-out being in the wrong class led to a F in Biology. I finally went with a degree in history and added a political science minor. Along the way I fell in love with political theory and policy (thank you Dr. Krain) along with political history of the west (thank you Dr. Roche). None of those were put to any great use in the intervening 8 years but nonetheless the interest stayed with me.
After graduation I returned to Montana to decide what my next move would be and to help on the farm. My next career idea was to get a joint degree: Law and Masters of Business Administration. I was going to work for an international commodities trading firm or something similar. In the mean time I got a job at UPS and worked part-time on the farm. I fell in love with my job at UPS, did not get in to the University of Montana Law School, and began to pursue a MBA. I worked full-time (or some variation of full time) at UPS for 5 years, finished two masters degrees: MBA in Mediation/Dispute Resolution and MBA in Operations Management, moved to Seattle, and finally worked for Amazon.com for a year — when the phone call I had been waiting my whole life for finally came.
My dad called one afternoon and asked out of the blue, “What is your dream job?”. My answer was immediate, “Farming.” As it turned out my dad had been offered a new lease that added roughly 1500 acres to our operation and pushed him to a size that he could no longer operate by himself. I was coming home. There is still a sign on the wall in our basement that says “Life Takes You Unexpected Places, Love Brings You Home.” There are few truer words to describe my life.
Since my return home I have gotten married, had two little boys, and have loved living out my dream. I have also been involved with the Montana Grain Growers Association and the National Association of Wheat Growers. I am currently the Vice President of MGGA and a director on the NAWG Board of Directors, along with a member of the Domestic Trade Policy Committee. I finally get to put my love of research, public policy, and political theory to use. I am coming up on the 5th anniversary of my arrival back home – July 3rd 2012, it was 108 degrees and a 20 MPH wind that day in the middle of the driest year on record – but I was still home and for the first time in my life, I was officially a farmer. Some days I do miss my corporate salary, cheap health care, and the benefits and stability that come with a job in the Fortune 500s — but I would not change my choice for the world. The past five years have been the happiest of my life and I am one of the lucky ones that gets to say: “I am a farmer and I am living my dream.”