Spending time in a classroom and reading books is not how Jacob Dierking wanted to learn. Hands-on is more his style.
Dierking enrolled in agricultural education classes in high school and started a supervised agricultural experience, or SAE. At 15, he rented 10 acres from a local farmer. Today, his operation has grown to about 500 acres of corn, soybeans and sweet corn.
The Santa Fe FFA member’s hard work paid off by winning the 2020 National FFA Diversified Crop Production Entrepreneurship proficiency award.
Build a farm
Dierking didn’t just happen to start farming as a teenager; it has been in his blood for many years.
“I’m a seventh-generation farmer,” he says. “Ever since I’ve been old enough to walk, I’ve been helping do whatever I can on the farm with my family.”
A passion and love for farming doesn’t come easy. It is handed down from generations. Dierking remembers riding in the tractor and working with his family. It is those fond memories that spurred him to start his supervised agricultural experience of growing field crops.
In 2015, two neighboring landowners offered him fields to rent for corn production. The next year, he increased his acreage to 44 acres and added a vegetable and sweet corn business.
The sweet corn operation is a family enterprise where Dierking, his younger brother, Michael, and parents, Joel and Marla, all have 25% ownership. By 2017, the family expanded to growing 80 acres of sweet corn and 34 acres of green beans, he says.
Over the next two years, he had the ability to increase his corn and soybean acres through rental agreements. In five years, Dierking has been able to grow his operation in more ways than one. Purchasing machinery on his own, renting more acres and doing custom work, he has come a long way from the beginning stages.
While his progress is evident, it wasn’t always easy. Dierking had to overcome many challenges, including one of the most prevalent among beginning farmers.
“One major challenge in my SAE was financially being able to purchase enough equipment to farm efficiently,” he says. “When I began my SAE, I was able to exchange my labor with my grandpa for the use of his machinery. Since then, I have been able to purchase many needed pieces of equipment.”
Dierking also had to learn how to make his own farm management decisions. “I had many years of experience on my family’s farm, but when it came to making management decisions and dealing with other people and other businesses, that took a little bit of learning to get used to," he says.
All of those challenges and struggles seemed to be worth it when Dierking learned he won the National FFA proficiency. It was not only the labor and hours put into his project and crops, but also the paperwork, applications and interviews.
“I was really excited because it was something that I had really put a lot of time and effort into,” Dierking says of his winning moment.
Don’t rest on laurels
The award hasn’t stopped his progress or his dreams.
Dierking doesn’t see farming just as an everyday job. He truly enjoys the work and seeing everything pay off in the end. He hopes to make a full-time future career of it.
Getting his foot in the door with starting this as his SAE, Dierking was able to get a head start. His plan is to keep expanding and buying or renting more land. He also hopes to focus more on custom-farming services, especially with a newly purchases anhydrous applicator to custom-spread anhydrous.
Even though Dierking has big plans and goals for his operation, the first step for him is to graduate college. He attends State Fair Community College and studies agronomy. He will graduate in May.
Farming and attending college full time both are no easy tasks. It has been a balancing act.
Getting up early before going to school to grease the combines during harvest or working until midnight in the field after being in class all day is a necessity for Dierking and his operation. “That’s something I enjoy,” he says. “Knowing it needs to be done, so I work hard at it.”
Dierking tries to allocate his time for all areas of his life. “One of the biggest challenges is trying to plan out what you’re going to do for the next week,” Dierking says. Still, unforeseen events such weather and equipment breakdowns can throw a wrench in his plans.
Despite the challenges and struggles, Dierking credits his support system of family, friends, fellow neighbors and farmers alike for helping him succeed. He is appreciative of the chances people have taken on him and continue to show him love and support through his endeavors.
“I’d just like to thank the neighboring landowners that have given me the opportunity at a young age to be able to rent their farm,” he adds, “because without them, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to build and expand my operation to what it is today.”
Loges writes from Springfield, Mo.