With a freshly-printed diploma in his hand in 1965 and a new ring on his finger, Larry and his bride never planned on returning to the family farm. Quite the contrary. He interviewed with companies looking for a job, but with every interview completed the desire to come back home increased. So Larry and his bride moved back to the land where he learned be a farmer. It was on this same piece of land as a child that his father would teach him the ins and outs of the family farm and how to build a legacy off an acre. “It was smaller tractors and smaller acreage back then” Larry says.
To say agriculture has changed over the last half century would be an understatement. Purely mechanical machinery has transitioned to digital and been upgraded with advanced GPS systems, auto-steer, and precision instruments that offer a degree of control people could have never dreamed of decades ago. The transition wasn’t subtle. But to life-long learners like Larry, it’s a welcomed change and challenge. “The older generation really does embrace technology and change. Innovation isn’t just for 25 year olds.” He continued, “I’ve been doing this for over 30 years and I still learn something new every day…In fact, I really wish I was 35 again, to be starting all over with this incredible technology at my fingertips, it’s exciting to be learning all of this.
There is a certain level of humility involved in the relentless pursuit of learning that is evident in Larry. Emerson once said, “In every man I meet in my walk, I find my superior in some way, and in that, I learn from him.” It is as if the ability to learn is in direct association with the recognition of a self not yet perfected. Therein lies the beauty of change spurred on by learning that is founded in knowledge and understanding. To change course and try something new is a testimony to humility. In that subtle transition found in a change of direction, a man or woman recognizes there is a better way to what they have always done.
For Larry, that better way was no-till farming. No-till farming is the widely-accepted practice of growing crops without tilling up or disturbing the soil. In doing so, there is always a blanket of some type of crop residue that protects the soil against runoff or erosion. “I studied no-till for quite a while before I decided to use it” he recalled. “I went to conference after conference reading up on it. I was just tired of plowing up my land every year and it just made sense. I also put a lot less fuel into my crops so it’s better for the environment. But most importantly, it’s best for the soil.”
Once Larry was convinced he made the right decision with adopting no-till farming, he immediately sold his tillage equipment. “I knew this was the right decision” he said. “I knew there would be learning experiences in my future, but I wanted to sell my tillage equipment because I didn’t want the temptation to go back to what I had always done. I was committed to learning how to make this work because it was better for my land and my farm. I couldn’t go back”
Looking upon his life’s work, Larry conclued, “To me, agriculture and farming is an indescribable joy. We embrace it. We keep producing. We keep learning.”
Larry's is one of the 25 farmers featured in the Kansas Farmer coffee table book. All profits from this book go toward funding scholarships for agricultural communication students at Kansas State University. That book can be pre-ordered by clicking HERE.