Farm Progress

John and Megan Klemm are at the start of a 10-year plan to gradually take over most operations on their family farm. Here’s how they’re doing it.

Austin Keating, Associate Editor, Prairie Farmer

November 12, 2018

3 Min Read
COMBINE DATE: John and Megan Klemm, Waynesville, Ill., like participating in the Cultivating Master Farmers program because, as Megan says, she likes to see how things are done “both similarly and differently.”

Cultivating Master Farmers participant John Klemm graduated from Southern Illinois University ready to farm in 2005.

After a six-month wheat harvesting run from Texas to the Canadian border, he came back to Illinois to help on the family farm in Waynesville part time. He also took a few full-time jobs over the next decade, starting in a local John Deere parts department, moving to product managing M&W and Rhino product lines, and ending up in crop insurance sales.

“You’ve got to be practical about what a farm can support, and the farm would have struggled supporting me coming back immediately after college,” John says. “So when those opportunities presented themselves, I always took them. It was a great way for me to both stay and help my dad, but also gain some new experiences.”

Today, John farms full time with his dad, Robert Klemm, raising corn, soybeans and beef cattle. He also still works part time selling crop insurance.

The move to full-time farming two years ago started the countdown on a 10-year plan where he and his wife, Megan Klemm, whom he married in 2008, gradually take over most of the farm’s operations from Robert and Patty Klemm.

“It’s best to learn and grow into it,” John says. “My dad and I are both there in the more demanding portions of the season, and we share the responsibility of the day-to-day operations in the off-season with our office jobs.”

John says his postharvest season has been busy with winterizing equipment, tilling, taking care of the cattle and applying anhydrous ammonia on his fields.

“Since I’ve come back to the farm in a full-time role … we’ve found that we have been more efficient with our time in and out of the field,” John says. “Due to the demands of off-farm jobs, we looked to outsource some of our applications and are still working with our retailers, but now we’re not requiring the labor as much.”

Family and farming
School programs and Cub Scouts events for three children — Blaine, 7; Calla, 4; and Quintin, 2 — can be hard to attend when trying to keep a farm profitable. 

“He hates missing the kids’ activities. But we’re understanding,” Megan says, adding that inclement weather during harvest meant John could attend more events for the kids this year. 

“The weather can determine or deter our family plans throughout the year,” she says. “Thankfully, I have amazing in-laws that help with scheduling.”

Megan, a dietitian and diabetes educator serving in central Illinois, says she’s used to packing their lunch and dinner dates for the combine or tractor cab. All three children frequently ride with John, too.

“He wants to be with us, but it’s not always possible. Day in a life of a farmer — you don’t have a day off, so we go to him,” she says. “Quintin and Blaine can ride in a combine, tractor or grain truck for hours and hours.”

Outside of family and farming, John and Megan are actively involved in their church and community. John serves on the school board of his children’s school and co-teaches Sunday school with Megan. Megan leads the church’s vacation Bible school.

John also serves on the Dewitt County Farm Bureau board after many years serving as the Farm Bureau Young Leader president. 

Cultivating Master Farmers
Both Megan and John are part of the Cultivating Master Farmers program, which connects young farmers to each other and to Master Farmer mentors.

“We’re in our own little farm family with John’s parents, and I like it when we’re at these events and we see how things are done both similarly and differently,” Megan says.

John adds the program has been encouraging for him.

“When our class graduates, we will graduate from having appointed meetings, but I don’t think we will graduate from the ability to visit and talk with members of our class,” he concludes.

Cultivating Master Farmers is sponsored by Prairie Farmer, Growmark, Illinois Farm Bureau, Monsanto, Compeer Financial and Farm Credit Illinois.

About the Author(s)

Austin Keating

Associate Editor, Prairie Farmer

Austin Keating is the newest addition to the Farm Progress editorial team working as an associate editor for Prairie Farmer magazine. Austin was born and raised in Mattoon and graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in journalism. Following graduation in 2016, he worked as a science writer and videographer for the university’s supercomputing center. In June 2018, Austin obtained a master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, where he was the campus correspondent for Planet Forward and a Comer scholar.

Austin is passionate about distilling agricultural science as a service for readers and creating engaging content for viewers. During his time at UI, he won two best feature story awards from the student organization JAMS — Journalism Advertising and Media Students — as well as a best news story award.

Austin lives in Charleston. He can sometimes be found at his family’s restaurant the Alamo Steakhouse and Saloon in Mattoon, or on the Embarrass River kayaking. Austin is also a 3D printing and modeling hobbyist.

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