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Video series features Nebraska father-son farming team

Tragedy didn’t stop Eric Beckman and his father, Bob, from continuing to farm and live the life they love on the land.

Curt Arens, Editor, Nebraska Farmer

March 27, 2023

5 Min Read
Eric Beckman of Pender, Neb., continues to farm with his father, Bob
LIVING THE DREAM: Despite a tragic pickup accident 15 years ago, Eric Beckman (right) of Pender, Neb., continues to farm with his father, Bob, making most of the cropping decisions and covering their 3,700 acres of corn and soybeans. Photos courtesy of ADM

Farmers are the lifeblood of the country. Consumers may not know this, but those living on the land do, and it has been that way for generations.

ADM recently developed its “Faces of Food” video series for YouTube, featuring farmers and ranchers sharing their stories and their love of the land — why they do what they do. And one Nebraska family, Pender farmers Bob Beckman and his son, Eric, have demonstrated that love of the land through extreme hardships, after Eric suffered injuries in a pickup truck accident 15 years ago that left him in a wheelchair.

Nebraska Farmer asked the Beckmans about their experiences through this tragedy, how they have kept their love of farming, and what it is like to farm as a father-son duo. These are their answers:

We can see the father-son bond in the video. How has that changed over the years and what has strengthened it?

Bob: Eric has always been my go-to guy when I’ve needed help on the farm. We used to have a hog and cow operation that we were trying to grow after Eric graduated from college, but we no longer have it and our responsibilities shifted again after Eric’s accident 15 years ago. We now have strictly a grain operation with a corn and soybean rotation.

Today, Eric handles the technical side of the operation, including prescription maps, planning for planting and harvest, grain marketing, vendor relationships and other business operations. I still do quite a bit of manual labor and work closely with Eric.

Fortunately, with the support of Rod Peterson at Nebraska AgrAbility, a program that assists farmers with disabilities and injuries, Eric also runs all our farm’s equipment. Through the use of GPS, autosteer and IVT [infinitely variable transmission], Eric operates a combine, sprayer and several tractors.

AgrAbility helped locate a pickup truck with a lift on the back that enables him to get in and out of the equipment. He does all the tillage and combined all the corn and soybean acres — 3,700 — this last year.

What motivates you every day as you work on the farm?

Eric: As a young boy, I always said I wanted to farm, but after the accident we didn't know if that was going to be possible. But through the support of our community and AgrAbility, we made it possible. We are grateful for everyone’s help, and that includes two very understanding wives who understand the long hours and time that is required in every farm operation. None of this would have been possible without their support.

I enjoy harvesttime most. Being out in the field, being in the combine and seeing what you raised all year and what you put into it, is rewarding. You get to see the end result, and that’s probably the most enjoyable part of my job.

Bob: I love what I do and always have. I've been active on the farm since I was a little kid working with my dad and grandpa. We love being outdoors and watching the crops grow. The different challenges that come through, such as hailstorms and windstorms, you have to cope and learn how to deal with them. It seems like the harder either one of us works, the better we feel, and we love to see the rewards from that hard work.

Are there things about farming that you appreciate even more now since the accident?

Eric: I loved farming before my accident, and I love it just as much now. I appreciate being able to still do it and look forward to helping my son start farming if he decides to do it.

Bob: You have to live every day like it could be your last. Eric’s accident was something we never expected. He’s dealt with it better than anybody I’ve ever seen. I can’t believe the way he’s handled it and takes care of himself and his family. Eric’s been an inspiration to many people, and he continues to support AgrAbility whenever they call.

What advice would you give to fathers and sons working together on the farm to keep the farming operation successful and to develop a good working partnership?

Bob: My advice is to listen to everybody's ideas and communicate with each other. Each individual has different ideas, and you have to work together to try to find a plan that will work each day. Eric and I talk to each other before any final decision is made, whether it’s machinery purchases, putting up a machine shed or selling grain. Once we make a final decision, that’s it, and we don’t look back.

What do you see as the biggest challenges farmers are facing in Nebraska in the coming year or two?

Bob: The biggest challenges today are the unknowns. We are at the bottom of food chain and do not have control of the price of our products. Yet, when we go to town to buy a combine, the price has inflated to a point where I don't know where that's going to end.

If inflation keeps going up, I don’t know how young people are going to get into farming. I've watched real estate go from $300 an acre to, I just heard of a $20,000-an-acre sale. In addition, we’ve been facing high input costs for over a year. Global events, wars and politics are affecting our markets more now than in the past.

For us, ADM and our territory manager, Eric Leisy, have been instrumental in helping us to work through these obstacles with different phases of insurance, the use of the futures options and marketing some of our grain prior to harvest. We work with Eric to consider different strategies based on market trends and current economic conditions.

Check out all the ADM “Faces of Food” videos at

About the Author(s)

Curt Arens

Editor, Nebraska Farmer

Curt Arens began writing about Nebraska’s farm families when he was in high school. Before joining Farm Progress as a field editor in April 2010, he had worked as a freelance farm writer for 27 years, first for newspapers and then for farm magazines, including Nebraska Farmer.

His real full-time career, however, during that same period was farming his family’s fourth generation land in northeast Nebraska. He also operated his Christmas tree farm and grew black oil sunflowers for wild birdseed. Curt continues to raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa and runs a cow-calf herd.

Curt and his wife Donna have four children, Lauren, Taylor, Zachary and Benjamin. They are active in their church and St. Rose School in Crofton, where Donna teaches and their children attend classes.

Previously, the 1986 University of Nebraska animal science graduate wrote a weekly rural life column, developed a farm radio program and wrote books about farm direct marketing and farmers markets. He received media honors from the Nebraska Forest Service, Center for Rural Affairs and Northeast Nebraska Experimental Farm Association.

He wrote about the spiritual side of farming in his 2008 book, “Down to Earth: Celebrating a Blessed Life on the Land,” garnering a Catholic Press Association award.

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