By Taylor Word
Young PCCA members have been putting their college degrees to use finding ways to incorporate technology onto the farm. As multigenerational farm families send the youngest off to college, traditions begin to change as new knowledge is brought home.
As a fifth generation farmer near Post, Texas, Wes Mason is working with his family on the books for their farm operations. As a Texas Tech University (TTU) graduate with an Agricultural Economics degree, Mason said his degree has led him to one overall conclusion.
“My degree has taught me that farming is expensive, and you need to know where your money goes,” Mason said. “I’ve discovered if you can’t manage your money, you don’t have anything.”
With the same teamwork mentality, Cole Schwartz graduated from TTU with a degree in Plant and Soil Science and returned to the farm in Garden City, Texas, after college. He said that he was unsure of what he wanted to do until his senior year of college.
“I knew my dad was going to retire eventually, and I realized that I could learn a lot from him,” Schwartz said. “It’s impossible to start farming without help, and I didn’t want to waste the opportunity many others don’t have.” During his college career, Schwartz interned with Monsanto where he learned about seed varieties and chemicals. He said the knowledge he gained became a great benefit.
“I already knew what kind of varieties I wanted to use on our farms. With all of the companies wanting to have your business and the different varieties out there, it’s easy to get them all confused, and interning with Monsanto gave me a huge advantage in that way,” Schwartz said. “Without going to college, I wouldn’t be able to contribute to our operations in the way I can now.”
As a South Lubbock County, native, Ryan Heinrich has a degree in Plant and Environmental Soil Sciences with a minor in Agribusiness. He believes that communications skills are a vital part of farming, and his degree has enhanced his skills through being a teacher’s assistant and taking leadership courses.
“Someday I want to be involved in my community, and having the ability to effectively talk to people will really help with that,” Heinrich said. “My problem solving skills are a lot better now that I can communicate effectively, and I have a more broad outlook of the way things work, especially when teaching and guiding our employees. College has helped me change my thought process and resulted in making me a better farmer.”
Justin Corzine is from Stamford, Texas, and is a graduate of Angelo State University with a degree in Animal Science and a minor in Agronomy and Range/Wildlife Management. He said that he always wanted to go to college and knew that it would be good for him to get as much education as possible even though he wasn’t entirely sure that he wanted to return to farming. He said working with others in the industry made him miss the lifestyle.
“I think it’s important for college students to get away from what they know and see how the rest of the world operates. It provides a good opportunity to work in different places and gain different experiences while picking up different ways people farm and live,” Corzine said. “College can give you the technical knowledge as well as invaluable contacts that you should try to maintain after college.”
Using college as a security net for his family in Ackerly, Texas, Justin Cave, TTU graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Agronomy and a master’s in Crop Science, always knew he would be a farmer but wanted to have a backup in case farming did not work out. As a fourth generation farmer, Cave wants to contribute to his family operation.
“You should try to incorporate old traditions with new knowledge, but sometimes people aren’t always open to change. Being able to go to college and see different operations and the way they function is a real eye opener,” Cave said. “You can bring home that knowledge and mix the old traditions with new ideas and find what works best for your particular operation.”
Cody Hughes is a Tarleton State University graduate with a degree in Agricultural Services and Development who currently farms in Roscoe, Texas. He said he knew that he always wanted to farm, but knowing the industry can be tough, he wanted to ensure the lifestyle for him and his family.
“I worked towards buying my first quarter section of land by myself while I was working at the USDA full time,” Hughes said. “When I got it paid off, I bought another and acquired land gradually before farming full time to make sure I had a steady start. You always have to have a backup, and my degree allowed me to work while I was getting started.”
Even though he has a farming background, Brandon Laffere chose to get his degree in Geology from Texas A&M University. Laffere said he wanted to see what else was out there but soon realized farming was his passion.
“My dad pushed us to try something other than agriculture. He wanted us to explore other avenues because agriculture would always be here,” Laffere said. “Always learn to se some money aside when you can because in this business, the market and the weather are unpredictable.”
Through the ups and downs of farming, young farmers across the Southwest are dedicated in their pursuits to make a difference in their operations.
“We’re all in this together and not just my family and our operation, but PCCA and other cotton farmers as well,” Heinrich said. “The market is down and the pressure is on, and we have to be a team to get through tough times.”