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Conrad and Donna Trost say family is the key to their farm’s success.

Jennifer M. Latzke, Editor

February 15, 2024

9 Slides

At a Glance

  • Conrad and Donna Trost are members of the Class of 2023 Kansas Master Farm Families.
  • They farm dryland crops using 100% no-till and incorporating cover crops, and they have a commercial Angus cow herd.
  • The Trosts emphasize faith and family with their three grown children and their two youngest adopted children.

With three children nearly grown and flown the nest to build their own futures, no one would blame Conrad and Donna Trost if they just wanted to take some time to do something for themselves.

But when the Trosts had the opportunity to be a foster family for siblings younger than age 6, thoughts of hobbies or vacations just couldn’t hold a candle to the idea of growing their family through love.

After all, what’s a family farm without family at the center of it?

About the farm

Conrad and Donna grew up 6 miles from each other, but they didn’t start dating until they met at Kansas State University in the early 1990s. Conrad was getting his bachelor’s degree in production agronomy, and Donna was getting her bachelor’s degree in elementary education. After they graduated, they married in 1995 and made their home near Belleville, Kan.

Conrad always knew he wanted to return to the farm, and his father, Eldon Trost, encouraged that when he was 14 years old by co-signing a bank note for him to buy his first 80 acres of farm ground in Republic County. Even when he was going to college, he bought 320 acres of grass so that he could expand his cow herd.

Getting his degree in production agronomy was a real benefit, Conrad says, because he was better able to understand some of the tools that he was implementing on the farm.

“I could understand different things like soil aggregation,” he says. “The kinds of things that you need to know when you’re no-tilling. When cover crops came around, it helped me understand why we might use them and how we might adapt them to our farm.”

Conrad says his father encouraged him to make calculated decisions. He was an early adopter, as much as he could, of no-till, Conrad says of his father. That has evolved into a philosophy of trying to improve the soil and make the farm more resilient to adverse weather events.

As they put it, they’re trying to buy themselves time to the next rain.

Conrad and Donna started out farming with Conrad’s father and brother, Justin. On their own, they were farming some leased cropland, and they had their own grass acres with 50 commercial cow-calf pairs.

Then, in 2017 they split off and continued as Trost Land and Cattle. When their oldest son, Colby, graduated from K-State in 2020, he returned to the farm and started eking out his own place on the family farm.

Over the years, they’ve changed and expanded the farm. In the 1990s, the Trosts farmed primarily wheat, but today that’s changed to about 80% corn and soybeans. They have planted a lot of millet and sudangrass to raise feed for their cattle to get through the drought. And they’re 100% no-till now, incorporating cover crops into both the cropland and grazing lands.

“The one thing that I admire, as they built this, is that my dad has never been scared to try something different, or explore a different idea,” Colby says of Conrad.

And Conrad says he and Donna are trying to give that autonomy they experienced with his parents to Colby and his family as they grow their part of the farm.

About the family

In the 1990s. Conrad and Donna were growing their farm and growing their family at the same time. Son Colby came along in 1997, followed by daughters Delaney and Bethany in 2001 and 2004.

Donna taught reading and kindergarten in the Concordia school district. She just left her 20-year career as a parent educator, but she continues her career as the coordinator for the LCNCK/USD 333 Parents as Teachers Program, serving five school districts in three counties.

Donna says when the children were young and they were starting out farming, it was a constant struggle to balance it all, but having family nearby to help out was a blessing.

“His parents were just a mile and a half up the road, which Colby and his wife, Kendsey, just bought that place and they’re living there. My parents are just 4½ miles in the other direction," Donna says.

The cousins were a tightknit bunch, and there were always extra hands to help out.

And today, as they welcome their adopted children Phillip and Gabriella, and add grandchildren into the family, being able to lean on family continues to be a blessing. Donna will work part time to be involved with the younger children, and step in and help out with grandkids as her daughter and daughter-in-law need her.

“We found that in order for it to work, you have to be grounded in faith,” Conrad says. Sundays are set aside for family and church.

“I loved Sundays checking cattle, loading up in the Suburban or loading up in the truck, and going out with the kids,” Donna says.

All of the Trost children were involved in sports, but 4-H has been and will continue to be a key activity for the family.

“The reason I love 4-H is that it teaches a work ethic. There is a project to be done; you have to set up steps and goals in order to achieve and do well in the end,” Donna says.

Donna and Conrad both volunteered their time with helping in the county 4-H program. In 2002, Conrad began serving on the North Central Kansas Free Fair board, continuing that role today. Donna volunteered as a community leader for a few years and helped the children with their projects.

They say that seeing their older children grow in maturity and responsibility through the 4-H program was special. And as their younger children are reaching that age where it’s about time to join, they can see where their older children can help pass along those qualities to their younger siblings.

Whether its exploring new farming methods and tools or adding to their family at this later stage in life, Conrad says the key is to work hard and keep the faith.

“You just have to step forward, step forward in faith and see if it works,” he says.

Read more about:

Master Farmers

About the Author(s)

Jennifer M. Latzke

Editor, Kansas Farmer

Through all her travels, Jennifer M. Latzke knows that there is no place like Kansas.

Jennifer grew up on her family’s multigenerational registered Angus seedstock ranch and diversified farm just north of Woodbine, Kan., about 30 minutes south of Junction City on the edge of the Kansas Flint Hills. Rock Springs Ranch State 4-H Center was in her family’s backyard.

While at Kansas State University, Jennifer was a member of the Sigma Kappa Sorority and a national officer for the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow. She graduated in May 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications and a minor in animal science. In August 2000 Jennifer started her 20-year agricultural writing career in Dodge City, Kan., on the far southwest corner of the state.

She’s traveled across the U.S. writing on wheat, sorghum, corn, cotton, dairy and beef stories as well as breaking news and policy at the local, state and national levels. Latzke has traveled across Mexico and South America with the U.S. Wheat Associates and toured Vietnam as a member of KARL Class X. She’s traveled to Argentina as one of 10 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism. And she was part of a delegation of AAEA: The Ag Communicators Network members invited to Cuba.

Jennifer’s an award-winning writer, columnist, and podcaster, recognized by the Kansas Professional Communicators, Kansas Press Association, the National Federation of Presswomen, Livestock Publications Council, and AAEA. In 2019, Jennifer reached the pinnacle of achievements, earning the title of “Writer of Merit” from AAEA.

Trips and accolades are lovely, but Jennifer says she is happiest on the road talking to farmers and ranchers and gathering stories and photos to share with readers.

“It’s an honor and a great responsibility to be able to tell someone’s story and bring them recognition for their work on the land,” Jennifer says. “But my role is also evolving to help our more urban neighbors understand the issues our Kansas farmers face in bringing the food and fiber to their store shelves.”

She spends her time gardening, crafting, watching K-State football, and cheering on her nephews and niece in their 4-H projects. She can be found on Twitter at @Latzke.

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