Matthew Boerner of Pilot Point, Texas, grew up riding in a tractor seat, so it’s no surprise the 20-year-old student at Tarleton State University is raising crops and livestock on his family’s sixth-generation farm today.
“I’ve spent my whole life on the farm,” Boerner says. “There are pictures of me sitting in a tractor seat as a baby, and I started driving a tractor at 8 years old.”
Boerner is one of many Texas youth with experience in agriculture. He raises wheat, oats, peanuts and guar beans on about 1,000 acres. He says being raised on a farm helped him develop a strong work ethic and determination to get the job done. Boerner’s typical day starts at 6 a.m., when he checks on the crops before heading into the fields to plow or to the shop to get the combines ready for harvest.
“I enjoy agriculture, because there’s always something different to do depending on the day and season,” he says. “It can be challenging getting farm equipment down the road with the population growth in our area. The weather also presents a challenge when it’s too wet or too dry. But being out in the fields driving a tractor is so relaxing. It’s like being in your own world.”
Boerner is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in agriculture service and development. His ideal job would be to work in seed and fertilizer sales, while also continuing to farm.
“I’ve never thought of leaving the farm, even if it isn’t my main occupation,” he says. “I’ll always be here.”
Lessons From The Farm
Cole Hudson, 18, also grew up in Pilot Point, where he began helping on his grandfather’s cattle ranch at the age of 8. Today, he is a part-time employee at Hudson Farms, where he helps feed and care for 300 beef cattle.
“Every day, I help with the cattle, check and repair the fences, keep the farm clean and mow when we can,” Hudson says. “There’s always something to do, so the job is never dull. We give the calves their ear tags, and I’ve learned to give them shots in the fall and spring.”
Working in agriculture has helped Hudson learn to manage his time wisely.
“On school days, I go to the farm after school, and my dad and grandpa make me a list of chores for me to do in the evenings,” he says. He also plays basketball and baseball.
In November 2014, Hudson was the National FFA winner of the Beef Production-Placement Proficiency Award, which recognized his achievements in agriculture. He graduated from Ponder High School in June 2015. He plans to go to school to be a paramedic and become a firefighter, while continuing to work part-time at the farm.
Alexandra Ely, a 14-year-old high school sophomore from Sisterdale, Texas, isn’t your typical teenage girl. Instead of hitting the mall or movie theater on weekends, you’ll find Ely taking care of 20 pigs on her family’s farm.
When she was in seventh grade, Ely started showing three pigs in 4-H and fell in love with the animals.
“I was so thrilled with the idea of owning pigs, and I was fascinated by the breeding process,” Ely says.
She has learned to breed the sows with her two boars using artificial insemination.
“When they are born, we have to be there to make sure everything goes smoothly, and there are on average nine piglets born per litter,” Ely says. “Some of them we keep, and others we sell when they’re three weeks old.”
Working in agriculture has taught Ely some tough lessons.
“I try not to get too attached to the pigs,” she says. “I used to name them all, but then when we had to send them off to market; it was not a good experience for me.”
When she isn’t in school or raising pigs, Ely plays volleyball, basketball and golf, along with running cross-country and track. She says balancing her responsibilities is the hardest part.
“It is hard work, but it’s also very rewarding and fun,” Ely says. “Showing my pigs is the best part — the reward of winning and being able to say, ‘This is my project. I did this.’ ”
Ely’s 9-year-old sister, Zoe, has started raising her own pigs, too.
“My little sister beat me in a couple shows recently, and we laughed,” she says. “We have a great bond. The pigs are a family activity we all do together.”
Ely plans to study agriculture in college after high school.
“I hope my kids will get to raise pigs some day,” she says.