OMAHA (DTN) -- Clay Pohlmann, a fifth-generation young farmer from Deshler, Nebraska, is in the heart of his first harvest without his dad.
His father, Timothy (Tim) Pohlmann, died on Oct. 31, 2021, at the age of 46, during the middle of the Pohlmann Land and Cattle harvest season.
Working combines, Tim felt ill, so he left the combine and went inside. Shortly after, he was taken to a Superior, Nebraska, hospital and then life-flighted to Lincoln, Nebraska, where he passed away. He suffered a combination of smaller strokes, leading up to a larger one that "set him back for good," Clay said.
Brad and Paula Hobelmann, who are related to the Pohlmanns, became the executors of Tim's will and had to decide if they wanted to take on another farm operation.
"I operate a multi-generational farm operation in Kansas, and the Pohlmann operation adds a considerable amount," Brad Hobelmann said. "We were in a position to help, so I said, 'We can certainly take a shot at it.'"
Clay Pohlmann, 19, left college after his first semester at Southeast Community College because he felt a strong pull to take on the land after his father's passing -- land that has been in the family for five generations.
"Clay's intent was to begin farming after he went to a couple years of vocational school, but he really felt the pull that someone needed to be on site to take care of things," Hobelmann said. "It's not realistic for a 19-year-old to take care of the business management side of the farm; that's why I believe Tim had the foresight to name me and my wife, Paula, as representatives."
The Hobelmann farm operation is about 10 miles away from Deshler on the Kansas border. Although this is Clay's first year on his own, he hasn't done it alone.
"About year or so ago, I was in between hired hands and met a guy named Brandon who wanted to work for a smaller farm operation than what he was working on. He had two small boys and wanted more time for his family, so with that opportunity, I hired him," Hobelmann said.
Two months later when Tim passed, Hobelmann sent Brandon to the Pohlmanns to help with harvest.
"Brandon and Clay have hit it off," Hobelmann said. "Brandon's a great guy, and his help fell into our laps. I'm so grateful for that."
Living in a small community, the question of who would take care of the farm when Tim passed away loomed among neighbors and friends. Making the decision to come back to farming, Clay said he knew he'd have the support he would need during the 2021 harvest when "the neighbors, Brandon, Brad and Paula stepped in to finish that harvest," he said.
"Everyone was assigned a field and we got it done," Pohlmann said.
This spring, Hobelmann said, Clay's grandmother (Hobelmann's aunt) owns land that they jointly farm, so they set it up for Clay to rent his first field.
"We thought it would be good for Clay to have a piece of his own where he can dive into his own management strategies and risk," Hobelmann said.
Pohlmann harvested that field of corn a few weeks back, his first crop.
"When you're that young, people take a chance on you," Hobelmann said.
Although money is tied into everything farmers do, there's something in between the lines that can be read from stories like this.
"Everyone's reason for farming is different," Hobelmann said. "Some people like the incredible equipment and technology that's out there, and then there's guys like Clay who enjoy the work, the structure, the planning, the decision making and growing crops -- he's doing what the good Lord wired him to do."
Looking back at the last year, Hobelmann said, "We see how these things are set in place before anyone knew, and there's a real purpose to it. Even though we're crazy busy, it's been a blessing ... Faith is very important to us, and we credit the good Lord for every blessing we have."
Pohlmann's goals for the farm are to keep it rolling, bring on his brother, Jack, after he graduates from high school, expand the farm when opportunities come and expand cattle herding.
If you are a beginning or young farmer, Pohlmann said, it's best to "build relationships with other people because you never know who can help you in your time of need."
Susan Payne can be reached at Susan.Payne@dtn.com
Follow her on Twitter @jpusan
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