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Submitted photo Tony Stirling always knew he wanted to pursue an ag-related career. He enjoys working with young farmers and creating both networking and social opportunities for farmers as the Bureau County chairman for Illinois Farm Bureau Young Leaders Committee.
It all starts with a dream. A dream that typically begins in the mind of a young child and still is there through adulthood. A dream that includes the wide open spaces of rural America. A dream that includes livestock, corn, soybeans, tractors, but more importantly a dream that includes faith, family, hard work and optimism. The dream of the American farmer. However, turning this dream into a reality can get kind of tricky, especially for young farmers who have not yet built up enough equity. Evan Hultine, 26, of Princeton said this probably is one of the biggest challenges young people face today when getting into farming, even if they’re planning on taking over the family farm. “It’s such a huge investment, and I don’t see how anyone could possibly get started if their family’s aren’t farmers,” Hultine said. “Correlate that to the next biggest issue — financing. With the recent economic risks, banks are getting tighter with cash. You need lots of equity, but as a young person you don’t have that. “It would be nice to pick up a few more acres. The prices we’ve been seeing the last few years aren’t going to hang around forever. As margins get a little tighter, it would be nice to get more acres to pick up for that income on a per acre basis.” Productive farm land throughout Bureau County currently is around $12,000/acre while pasture land depends on how many acres are tillable vs. pasture. Land that is 50/50 or half pasture, half tillable is selling for approximately $4,150/acre, whereas land that is 25/75 or a quarter pasture, three/quarter tillable is selling for approximately $8,400/acre. Hultine is a fourth-generation corn and soybean farmer. He graduated from University of Illinois in 2010 with a bachelor of science degree in horticulture. Prior to coming back to the family farm, he worked as a seed salesman at a local fertilizer coop. When asked why he came back to the family farm after working for an ag-business he said, “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do since I was a little kid. I grew up with farming. I started farming fulltime a year and a half ago.” When not on the farm, Hultine serves as District 4 chairman for the Illinois Farm Bureau Young Leader program. The program tackles the unique needs of men and women 18-35 years old, who have a passion for all aspects of agriculture. The state is split into 18 districts and Hultine covers Lee, Bureau, and La Salle counties. Also with the Illinois Farm Bureau Young Leader program is Bureau County chairman Tony Stirling. He helped Hultine and some other young farmers organize the program in Bureau County. He said that not only is the program a great networking tool but it also is a social event for people in the community. “The organization as a whole is getting farmers involved and working together, even if they didn’t grow up in the Princeton area,” Stirling said. “We discuss ag-issues and help former members of the Illinois Farm Bureau with volunteer efforts. The people in the community seem to enjoy it.” “It’s a great organization to be a part of.” Stirling, 27, grew up on a grain farm in eastern Illinois and currently works at an international seed company in the area of corn research. He said he’s always loved working in agriculture. “I work with a lot of young farmers. We try to stay on top of things coming through the pipeline and try to stay innovative in the way we are doing things,” Stirling said. “The younger crew brings in newer technology, but basically we’re all on the same page with how things get done,” Like anything else, finding a faithful mentor can be key in making it or breaking it as a young farmer. Allyn May, who has been farming for the past 45 years, said he honestly doesn’t know if he would be a farmer today if his family hadn’t been farmers to help him acquire equity when he first started out. With a lot of hard work and the help of his family, May was able to continue to do what he loved — farming. He manages a grain and cattle operation just north of Princeton. “I took over the family farm. One piece of advice I’d give to young farmers is be nice to your neighbors and work hard,” May said. “It’ll reward you. Farming has been good.” May sai the biggest hurdle one must jump is acquiring land, so having a strong support system and network will take a young person far., “The one piece of advice I’d give is — find a person to lean on when getting started,” Hultine said. “Someone who has been farming a long time whom you can trust and work with.” Katlyn Rumbold can be reached at (815) 879-5200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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