From Farmers to Friends
Farmers naturally find plenty of common ground when it comes to discussing their occupations. But Minnesota farmer Bob Worth and Kansas farmer Keith Miller have cultivated a bond during the last 17 years that runs deeper than most.
The two farmers participated in DTN's View From the Cab series in 2006. They came to know each other by reading the weekly installments of the diary-like features that follow two farmers throughout the growing season.
Still, it would be several years before they finally met in person and that meeting was also remarkable. "We were in China -- I was representing the American Soybean Association and Keith was representing the U.S. Meat Export Federation," recalled Worth. "We found ourselves sitting at the same table and realized we had gone half-way around the world to finally meet."
Since then, the two men have remained in contact -- most often crossing paths when tending to commodity organization responsibilities. This past week the two farmers sat down with DTN during Commodity Classic to reminiscence about the changes in their lives and the miracle of becoming and remaining friends thanks to a long-ago project.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Technology that allows farmers to fine-tune operations and be more efficient has changed the farming landscape, both farmers agreed. But their focus these days is working to find fair and equitable ways to transition to the next generation.
Since 2006, Worth has intentionally scaled back operations slightly. He and wife, Gail, packed their bags and moved to nearby Lake Benton to allow son, Jon, and his family, the opportunity to live on the homeplace.
"Getting him in the middle of where everything is happening was an important part of our succession plan," Worth said. "I'm still actively farming when needed, but I felt it was important for Jon be in a position of leadership from early on." He's still working through some of the particulars on how to treat an off-farm heir.
Miller, who farms near Great Bend, Kansas, has almost quadrupled the size of his diversified livestock and cropping operation since 2006. A good chunk of that growth has been on the haying side of the ledger.
His daughter, Dara, and her husband, Jason Prescott, and a nephew, Brad Birzer, have been assuming leadership roles in the farm enterprises during the past few years. Miller also has off-farm heirs and is still weighing how to deal with the fairness issue. It's a topic that is close to home.
"All three daughters, their families, which includes seven grandchildren, live within 10 miles of the farm. We talk all the time. We are together all the time. When it's time for harvest, we may have 10 people working in the fields and only one be someone from outside the family," he said. "Those that work off the farm often take vacation just to help."
TAKE TIME TO TALK
No farmer discussion is complete without an eye toward the weather. Last year, rains pushed Worth late into the season with planting. Meanwhile, Miller was gasping for moisture -- a situation that hasn't improved much.
"We put in a new weather station last year and since June 2022, it had recorded 4 inches and 20/100ths," Miller said on March 10, 2023.
The stress of drought and what comes with it can take a toll. Both Worth and Miller aren't afraid to talk candidly about the mental health issues that farmers face. They urged farmers feeling overwhelmed to find someone to talk to and seek professional help.
"I've been very open about my bouts with depression," Worth said. "Life got better when I found professional help and I'm happy to talk about that if it helps just one person to hear it."
Finding a bond with a fellow farmer that understands and will listen is also invaluable, they both agreed. "It's amazing that we have this relationship from a story done years ago," Worth added.
Editor's note: Watch for additional updates from past View From the Cab participants and the new 2023 View from the Cab series to launch in May.
Pamela Smith can be reached at email@example.com
Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN
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