October 22, 2021
For Craig Converse, his family’s South Dakota farm was always there, even when he wasn’t the one actively farming. The third-generation farmer was heavily involved in 4-H and FFA growing up, where he found a true love for agriculture through his ag instructor.
“I lived on the farm until I graduated high school, and by the time I started college at [South Dakota State University], I knew a lot about ag and started working for Pioneer right out of high school,” Converse says.
At Pioneer, Converse became involved in corn research and seed production, even as a pre-veterinary student at SDSU.
“I’d worked for Pioneer for a couple summers, and pre-vet was a little overwhelming, and through a great mentor of mine, I got lined up to get a four-year degree in agronomy,” he says.
From there, Converse went on to work in Wisconsin conducting research for another seed company. “A year into it, I realized this was what I wanted to do.”
Converse went back to SDSU and received a master’s degree in plant breeding and genetics, working under his undergraduate adviser, Zeno Wicks.
Converse continued working in the seed industry for nearly 10 years, before moving home to farm.
“Our farm wasn’t big enough for two families, and I’m the only son,” Converse says. “My dad’s the farmer and always told me that the farm would always be here, and encouraged me to go learn and experience other things.”
Converse had been working in the industry, while building his own family of two sons and a daughter.
“My dad had called and said, ‘You know, I’m getting up in age. I can’t do this alone anymore,’ and asked if I’d want to come home and farm,” he says. “The opportunity to come back to the farm was always in my mind. I feel very strongly about continuing that legacy of the family farm myself and maybe even with my own children.”
Back to the farm
Converse left his full-time job in 2008 to come back and farm alongside his father, Dennis. “I’d always have my degrees and my work experience, but this was the best decision I ever made,” he says. “I had the chance to work alongside my dad for 10 years, after being off the farm from 1991 to 2008.”
Converse says he hopes his two sons can receive similar experiences and opportunities in agriculture he had, and that they have the interest to continue on with the farm’s legacy. “You know, I’m hopeful that one or maybe both of them want to join the operation someday,” he says.
Converse said his time farming with his dad is special to him now that his father has passed. “You know families always deal with some challenges if you have different ideas, but my dad was pretty good about trying new things and being open to those changes,” he says.
Converse says what he misses most about farming with his father is working through new ideas with him. “Having someone to bounce ideas off of for the big decisions and things to try next, we had always worked that out together on most of those things. My dad always taught me if you work hard, you’ll succeed. So working side by side with him to learn all of those things was a great opportunity.”
Rooted in Ag contest
After seeing a post on Facebook that struck a chord, Converse decided to submit his family farm story to Syngenta’s Rooted in Ag contest, and found himself as a finalist. “You know I feel strongly about the family farm and the legacies it holds, and to see those families continue their generations on the farm,” he says about his decision to enter the contest. Converse is one of three national finalists in the competition.
Finalists received a mini tablet, wireless headphones and a feature in Syngenta Thrive. The winner will receive $500, and a $1,000 donation to the charity of their choosing. If he is selected, Converse plans to donate his winnings to the Arlington FFA chapter.
“It was such a big part of me growing up and part of my tie to agriculture. Whether you come from a town or a farm, it’s a great program for young people to be involved in and learn from,” he says.
Converse is a recipient of the FFA American Degree, and contributes many of his life skills to the program. “One of those things you learn through FFA is to be involved on boards and be a leader in your community,” he says.
The winner of the Rooted in Ag contest will be announced later this fall.
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