For some, fall means changing leaves, bonfires and football games. For others, it’s the only time of year where pumpkin spice everything is totally acceptable. But for local farmers, fall is a mix of long, hard hours, team work, technology, beauty and passion. Otherwise known as:
It’s this culmination of a year’s worth of hard work and the excitement of watching something you planted come to life that drew Muscatine Community College sophomore, Trey Pierson, to the field.
“In one week you can see the whole entire plant change. It’s nice to take that info and analyze it. Knowing what you’re looking at makes it a whole lot more exciting,” Pierson said.
A farm management major, Pierson’s path to the industry has not been typical. For many, farming is a family tradition, passed down from generation to generation. But Pierson’s first taste of the business didn’t come until high school.
“My first exposure to farming was in a high school ag class. I then got involved with FFA and was the test plot manager for my FFA program. It sparked my interest in agronomy,” Pierson said.
Seeing his passion to learn more, when a local farmer called the school looking for help, Pierson’s ag teacher knew just who to ask.
“I called the guy and said ‘I have never worked on a farm and I don’t have any experience, but I’m willing to learn.’ So I went out there, shook his hand and started right then. My first job was unloading seed out of a truck and it just expanded from there.”
From one firm handshake a special relationship was born, and Tom Hotz, who owns a 750-acre crop and cattle farm in Lone Tree, Iowa, has become Pierson’s mentor. It’s an opportunity that has allowed Pierson to dive even deeper into the field he has come to love.
“He’s really taken me under his wing. It’s been good to learn from him because he’s so knowledgeable about the industry and markets. He has shown me spreadsheets, receipts, all the paperwork side of things, and really what the money side is and how much goes into it and what it’s all about…what it takes to be successful.”
Pierson said his experiences on the Hotz farm paired with what he is learning in the Ag Program at MCC have been everything he could have hoped for and more.
“I’m really grateful to have the opportunity to be there,” Pierson said. “Everything you learn, it’s really great because you can directly take it and put it into work. There’s no better way to learn than hands-on.”
For sophomore agribusiness management major Rachel Paustian, harvest time equals family time. The youngest of seven, her family owns a farm in Dixon, Iowa, where they care for a farrow-to finish swine herd, marketing 22, 000 hogs each year, and produce sweet corn. Growing up, caring for the hogs and bringing in crops was a family affair.
“At times it can be stressful because you have different views of how to do things. But other than that, it’s pretty nice working with your family. I especially enjoy working with my brother since we’re so close. We always joke around and do fun things while getting the work done.”
Paustian said as a kid, she had no plans to enter the family business, but as she got older she couldn’t help but be drawn to it. After all, her family has been farming in Eastern Iowa for more than 40 years.
“I liked it a lot because it gave me an idea of where the food we eat comes from and what the by-products of pigs are used for, like in makeup, stuff like that. It’s very interesting.” She said the sense of pride and feeling of accomplishment you get from farming is also something pretty special.
“It is a lot of hard work, but it really gives you a good feeling. You start off and think ‘man this is a lot of work,’ then it’s time to harvest and you get to see the outcome and how well it turned out.”
Plus, food just tends to taste better when you’ve raised or grown it yourself. “The sweet corn…it’s way better than any of the other corn I have had from stores!”
Paustian said she has enjoyed being in the program at Muscatine Community College because the hands-on experience is allowing her to explore all of the career options in the field. She has already completed an internship at Liqui-Grow, where some of her duties included.
Agriculture Programs at MCC:
- Agribusiness Management
- Farm Business Management
- Agriculture Equipment Technician
- Starting Fall 2019 Turf and Landscape
Visit eicc.edu/agprograms to learn more