Not everyone has the privilege of being born into a multi-generational farm family. Instead, some discover their passion, choosing to adopt the farm life and community as their own. Michigan is ripe with first-time and new farmers finding their niches and making a go at doing what they love.
Double B Dairy Farm
Though Jeremy Beebe didn’t grow up on a large, working farm, he didn’t go into farming without agricultural experience. His parents had a hobby farm, raising steers and growing cash crops.
As a child, Beebe would also sometimes visit an uncle who owned a dairy. He was well into his teens before he realized he wanted to pursue dairy farming as a career.
“I helped out on a neighbor’s dairy farm, and that’s where I really got to like dairy cows and knew for sure that’s what I wanted to do,” he says. “I liked just handling cows.”
Now married with children, Beebe owns and runs Double B Dairy Farm in Whittemore with some 150 cows and around 200 heifers. He also grows feed crops on about 500 acres in a partnership with his dad and brother.
Beebe completed the Ag Tech Dairy Management program at Michigan State University, which helped build a sturdy foundation for his career.
“One of the first things our adviser told us was, ‘You’re not going to learn everything here, but we’re laying the groundwork,’ ” he says.
Beebe is proud of what he and his family have accomplished. “We make some really good, high-quality milk,” he says. “We’ve won five national awards. We don’t do it to win those awards; we do it because we like producing high-quality milk.”
Terry Finegan, who owns Finegan Farms LLC in Jonesville with his wife, Stacy, knew from the time he was a freshman in high school that he wanted to be a farmer. His only farm experience was working on his grandfather’s property as a child. He stayed true to that goal, despite doubts from friends and classmates.
“My buddies were saying, ‘We don’t know how you’re going to do it.’ One said, ‘We’re a third-generation farm, and if my dad and grandpa weren’t already doing it, I don’t know if I could start from scratch and make it work.’ I told them I will figure out a way.”
With the help of a friend and one-time employer who provided equipment, Finegan began his farming career in 1997 on 300 acres, which has since grown to 1,000. He primarily grows corn and soybeans, and a little bit of hay.
Finegan knew from the start that he wanted to be a good steward in his farming methods. He has practiced no-till since around 2001, and has used other environmentally friendly ways of farming as well. In 2016, his farm was verified through the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program, which is a voluntary, innovative and proactive program helping farmers prevent or minimize agricultural pollution risks.
“I was doing everything to be verified,” Finegan adds. “I just needed to fill out the paperwork.”