As young farmers, I believe most of us have farmers we look up to. Someone in the neighborhood – and by neighborhood, I mean anywhere within a generous three-county radius – who we turn to for advice or who we just quietly watch.
For us, that couple has often been David and Nancy Erickson. They farm on the northern end of Knox County, near Altona. We knew them through Farm Bureau in our early days, then at one point they bought a steer from us for their son, Adam. I've done various land stories with Nancy, who operates a farm management firm and in 2003, David was named a Prairie Farmer Master Farmer.
In fact, if I remember right, I shot their Master Farmer photos exactly one week before giving birth to my first child. John and I talked it over before I went and his reasoning went along the lines of: You're closer to the hospital there than you are here and if something happens, they'll make sure you get there. Truth.
Over the years, we've listened to what they've said. We've occasionally called for advice, which they've always given thoughtfully. They've also said things that we've tucked away.
Like years ago, when we were contemplating our first land purchase. I happened to be interviewing David for a story on land trends and he said something I've never forgotten, speaking of land buys: "I've never thought we could afford it, at the time we purchased it."
And isn't that the truth? That farm we ended up buying back in 2004 went for $4,250 an acre. I thought I was going to need a sick day to recover from the auction. But what a steal today. And absolutely the right move. David was right.
This time last year, David and Nancy were embarking on David's run for vice president of Illinois Farm Bureau. We were thrilled that he would consider it, and cheered when he won. Today, he's helping lead the largest farm organization in Illinois agriculture, and the entire organization is the better for it.
David and Nancy represent something else, too: a true farm partnership. She and he work together, making decisions, managing and working. It reminds me of my Dad's advice when I first met John: "You need to be able to work together," he said. He was right and so are David and Nancy: very real examples of a very real agricultural partnership.
Good people. Good leadership. Thoughtful advice, even when they didn't know we were listening. It's what makes David and Nancy Erickson agriculturalists who influence.
Agriculturalists Who Influence: The Series