Since June, reporter Emily Beal and I have visited farmers as part of an Agweek series, Follow a Farmer. Editor Jenny Schlecht took my AgweekTV interviews and created print and digital stories on one of those farmers, Tom Metz of Northwood, North Dakota.
Tom, 37, and his wife, Jenny, farm with her brother, Richie Ostlie. Their father, Rick Ostlie, retired in 2018 but still works on the farm seasonally. I knew of Tom and Jenny, primarily through their dads’ work with the American Soybean Association, which is how the two met. Jenny and I both grew up in the same area, around similar friends and communities. Today, we live near each other again, but our paths hadn’t crossed until this series of stories.
He prepared for our interviews. He always asked a day or two in advance for interview topics so he could meet expectations on an array of agronomic, farm and marketing topics. He also was willing to share the difficulties he was facing that day or the past week and month. I appreciate preparation in all aspects of life.
For Agweek to deliver timely and relevant agriculture news to you, we need farmers to go on record and openly share. I appreciate Tom’s willingness to not only do that once but four times over the course of four hectic months on the farm.
Tom grew up on a South Dakota farm; his brothers and parents still farm there today. Both Tom and Richie had successful off-farm careers when they started farming. Jenny works as a pharmacist in rural healthcare today, and Richie’s wife, Dr. Jane Ostlie, is a rural family doctor.
The collaboration of careers and farming on the Metz and Ostlie farm is uniquely their own — and a representation of a generation in agriculture and rural America I highly value. Your farm and how you started farming won’t look like your neighbor’s farm or anyone else’s.
Lastly, we need a younger generation from our farms and rural communities to serve in volunteer capacities. I know firsthand this is difficult to do while juggling business and family commitments. In our first interview, Tom shared with me his childhood home burned down when he was 17 years old. Seeing the rural volunteer firefighters inspired him to give back when he was an adult. He first volunteered for the Northwood Rural Fire Department, eventually becoming chief and then later stepping down as chief but continuing to serve as a volunteer firefighter. He also serves on the township board.
Get to know a farmer, by reading and watching Agweek and AgweekTV, by visiting with people who farm and ranch in your area. Do not assume. Do not make judgments. Their farm is uniquely their own, different than any other farm or farmer you know — but each one important to the fabric of agriculture and rural America.
Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.