NAPPANEE — For the third year in a row, a Nappanee couple have been named finalists in Indiana Farm Bureau’s young farmer award for Excellence in Agriculture.
“It’s an honor to be a finalist. Even to be recognized for things that we would do anyways,” Ashley Reed, 28, said.
She and her husband, Brent, 31, are both fourth-generation farmers on both sides of their family and remained farmers due to their love of the vocation and a bit of luck.
“We both have siblings that grew up in the same family and chose not to pursue agriculture, but we just love it. We wouldn’t want to do anything else,” Ashley said.
She grew up on a grain and earthworm farm before earning a degree in business administration. Brent grew up raising soybeans and Polypay sheep.
When Brent’s father retired, he asked his children if they wanted to take on the farm. Brent had worked on the family farm with his father his whole life.
“I have two older sisters that didn’t want to farm, so I had a great opportunity,” he said.
His father still owns a portion of the land the couple farms, but day-to-day operations and management is now fully in the hands of the young duo, and any young farm hands they might hire during the busy season.
“We’re pretty young for running the full aspect of the farm as far as decision making goes. My dad’s fully retired from decision making,” Brent said.
The Reeds raise conventional, organic and non-GMO corn, soybeans and alfalfa on a total of 2,500 acres, which might sound like a lot, but the Reeds say it’s just enough.
“With the ag economy right now, that’s kind of the amount it takes to support us and continue to grow,” Ashley said.
The majority of the land they farm is rented property, which creates an interesting dynamic.
“We don’t know exactly what we’ll be farming from year to year,” Ashley said.
Still, the Reeds are an organized team and they’ve constructed a plan to ensure that things go the way they need them to.
“By the time we’re harvesting, we have a good idea what we’re planting next year,” she said.
They also have reserve crops in storage so that they can sell when other farmers might not have availability.
“You can make more money marketing grain then sweating hard for a long time,” Brent said.
Although they’re good at the financing side of things, Ashley says they’re lucky because they both genuinely enjoy being active in the field.
“It’s a job, but it’s a hobby, too,” Brent said. “I enjoy it and there’s always more to learn, new technology, new equipment. There’s always something to see or do.”
Ashley commends her husband on his mechanical expertise, too, stating that it saves them a lot of money when equipment breaks down.
With an 8-month-old daughter, they’re also enjoying the flexibility that farming offers them to bring her to work or stay home when needed.
The Reeds are among six couples across Indiana honored in the Excellence in Agriculture Award and the Achievement Award. For their part, the Reeds were thrilled every year to receive notice of their finalist status.
“We looked at the application a couple years and we got really intimidated so we didn’t do it,”
They have been named finalist every year since, and Ashley says even the application process has benefitted them. Questions asking their goal, their yields and many other topics caused them to really analyze how they run their business.
“Obviously our goal is to farm, but how are we going to do that and what are we going to do to make that happen. It’s been really helpful to just sit down together and put that in writing. Our application ended up being 20 pages,” she said.
While they’ve never been to the national awards ceremony, Ashley is excited to consider attending it some day in the future.
“Hearing people from Arizona and Louisiana and the crops that they grow and the struggles that they have, we are all very alike in what we do, but we all have different struggles,” she said.
But the Reeds are right at home farming in Elkhart County.
“We love what we do,” said Ashley. “We wouldn’t want to do anything else.”