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A HELPING HAND: Mentoring another potential young farmer is part of “paying it forward” for the Reskovacs.

Learning the art of growing a young farmer

2 Hearts, 1 Harvest: The Reskovacs see mentoring a young potential farmer as a way to ‘pay it forward’ for the opportunity given Mike.

Not many years ago, Mike became a young farmer when given the opportunity to farm by another farm owner. Now, he finds himself as a mentor to another young person. It started with this conversation over the supper table:

Mike: I’ve been blessed with an abundance of hardworking, reliable and knowledgeable people who have always been willing to give me advice or help with the day-to-day operations of the farm. This past year was no exception. In fact, we added another reliable worker to our resource list.

Sheilah: Toward the end of the 2015 growing year, Mike came home from a long day in the combine. I could tell he had something to talk about. Over supper, he told me: “A boy showed up in the field today and wanted to talk to me. He rode in the combine for a while.”

At first, I wondered if the lack of sleep and the stress of harvest were getting to Mike. So I asked: “Did this boy just appear out of thin air?”

Mike: “No. His grandparents own a farm down the road from where I was combining. He wanted to talk about farming.

“He was interested in growing corn and wanted some advice. He also asked about maybe working for us. I know he can drive a tractor, and by the looks of his jacked-up pickup, he has some mechanical skills, too.”

Sheilah: “How old is this boy, exactly?”

Mike: “Sixteen.”

Sheilah: “Oh, so what did you tell him?”

Mike: “If he wanted to be a farmer, he came to the right place.”

Sheilah: “I was afraid of that.”

Mike: “You think it’s a bad idea, don’t you — that we can’t afford to pay him to work for us?”

Sheilah: “That’s not what I’m thinking at all. In fact, I was going to tell you I don’t think we can afford not to hire him.

“You’ve taken on more ground and have more little things that you need help with. Even with the guys you have helping now, there’s still more work to be done than you all can do. You’d better figure out where you can save money or cut back to be able to pay him.”

Mike: I had my orders. Going through paperwork and seeing where I can save money isn’t my favorite thing to do. But I figured I’d better do what Sheilah suggested if I wanted this to work. I spent an afternoon going through things and discovered where I could probably make changes to save money.

After doing that, Sheilah and I met with our soon-to-be employee, Steven, and his parents. We talked about what we expected and came up with an agreement that would work for all of us.

He’s been working for us for a year now. So far, everything’s going well. Steven has a true passion for farming and was ecstatic when he got his acceptance letter to Penn State last fall. He even took our eight-row planter and tractor to school to use as a visual aid for his senior project.

It’s great to see a young person show an interest in a difficult profession. It’s even better to be the teacher. He reminds me a lot of me at that age, and I was blessed to have had good mentors. I just hope I can be as good to him as they were to me.

Sheilah and Mike Reskovac farm near Uniontown, Pa. Catch all their "Two Hearts, One Harvest" blog at AmericanAgriculturist.com.

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