Every month, we shine a spotlight on a Farmer Hero who inspires us as we build a vibrant, family farm-centered system of agriculture in America. So far, we’ve profiled more than 150 family farmers from all over the country. They may look different, sound different, and raise different foods from each other, but they share a common commitment to care for their land.
Our readers have nominated Farmer Heroes for the past year, and with Valentine’s Day coming up, we thought it would be fun to highlight a few of their stories revolving around love. The farmers below show what is possible when they have love of family, love of farming, and love for their communities.
Leah Winchel wrote in to tell us about her Farmer Hero:
My boyfriend, Kyle, is the hardest working man I know. At only 30 years old he took on the responsibility of his family farm that has been in the family since the 1700s. He owns 100 acres and has about 40 cows.
He has loved his family farm since he was a little boy. At the age of 9 he knew farming was what he loved to do and he has been taking care of and involved in the farm all of his life because of it. Before he took over the farm, his grandparents owned it and ran it as a dairy farm all of their lives. But as his grandpap grew older Kyle knew he couldn’t do it on his own anymore, so Kyle and his dad committed themselves every day to coming over and helping his grandpap milk the cows twice a day (before and after work).
Kyle was in his 20’s at the time and could’ve been out doing what 20-year olds do with their free time. But his heart is with his family and their farm and he took on the responsibility of milking the cows for his grandpap when he could no longer do it. Now he works full time as a field mechanic and comes home every day to take care of his farm and animals with help from his dad.
He grows about 5 different crops including wheat, oats, soy beans, hay and corn. Most nights he doesn’t come into the house until 9pm where he throws together a quick dinner at the end of the day. Additionally, he has a German Shepard to take care of and he spends his evenings making sure he has time to play and get his exercise. Somehow every night he still makes time to call me for an hour to keep our relationship strong.
This man never gets a minute to himself. He’s thinking of everyone else and everything else first. Kyle wants to be able to farm full time, but just hasn’t found enough acreage to buy or at the right price. To fully commit yourself to such a sacrificial lifestyle has only made me adore and respect him more then I already did. Most 32-year old men are not carrying this type of responsibility on their shoulders. His farm absolutely comes first, always. I only get to see him once a week because of how much work and responsibility he has every day, but it is worth it to know I am with a man of such integrity and devotion to keep his family’s farm alive and staying strong and active. He does all of this with a humble heart and never wants patted on the back for it.
I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to be with such a loving, honest, hardworking, strong, compassionate, passionate man. He deserves all the respect and adoration in the world. It’s men like him that keep family farms going even in the year 2017 where it might not be the popular thing to do. And for this reason, Kyle Suter is my farmer hero.
With all my heart, Leah Winchel
And here’s a happy ending; after we emailed Leah to let her know that we were going to publish her story, she sent an update letting us know that she and Kyle plan to get married in June. She says, “We can’t wait to spend the rest of our lives together making memories on the farm!”
Paula S. nominated Art, writing:
Art King of Harvest Valley Farms in Butler County, Pennsylvania, brings fresh locally grown vegetables to our community. But the reason for me nominating him is the other thing that he (and his family) does for the Pittsburgh Food Bank. I read a recent Facebook post that blew me away:
40,000 pounds of fresh produce donated! I find this inspirational and making this farmer worthy of the title of “Hero.”
Our last Farmer Hero comes to us from June, who wrote about her husband:
My Hero is my husband Donald Woods of rural Albion, Illinois. Don works as a tool & die maker at the local factory Champion Laboratories. He has worked there on third shift for 33 years. He has chosen third shifts so he could keep the family farm going through the day. We are grain and livestock farmers.
Don has worked hard at both jobs to support our family, we have four beautiful adult children and four grandchildren. We have a small farm and, no matter what, plan on keeping it. So many little farmers are getting ran out of the industry. Don says he will fight with every part of his being to keep the farm for our children and grandchildren.
I don’t know of anyone that works so hard. He loves the farm. Farming is his life and all of ours. Don has been farming since he was old enough to walk. Donald Woods is our hero.
Signed, June Woods and our children
We’re proud of meeting the 150 Farmer Heroes we’ve been able to profile so far, but we need your help to learn about the rest of America’s 2 million farmers. We’d like to hear about the farmer in your life who inspires you – visit our nomination form to tell us about them.