Adams shares strategy, provides hands-on guidance and gradually transitions duties to Miller, helping him fulfill his dream of farming.

Next-Door Mentor

In 1990, at the age of 7, young Ryan Miller’s life had already reached a crossroad.

His father had been seriously injured in an accident and could no longer operate the family’s Wood County grain farm. Having inherited a strong love of farming from his father and grandfather, Miller just couldn’t walk away from it all.

Instead, he perched himself beside neighbor David Adams, who had just purchased the family’s tractor, and rode down the street to the Adams family grain farm. Since then, it’s been tough to spot him anywhere else.

“He’d bike out here and sit at the end of the field,” Adams said. “You’d see the look on his face and knew that he wanted to ride (in the tractor)…so I’d motion for him to come up, and he’d ride all day if he could.”

Miller spent much of his childhood hanging around the farm. “Farming was ingrained in my blood and I had to find a way to suffice it,” he said. “I was probably more of a nuisance than I was a help, but they were always willing to let me be around.”

“I had never seen a young man so interested in farming,” Adams recalled, adding that he felt a connection with Ryan similar to what he experienced growing up on his own family farm. It was at that point he decided to take him under his wing and serve as his mentor.

“It’s always bothered me that it’s almost impossible for any young man to say, `I want to be a farmer’ to just go ahead and do that,” Adams said. “Farming is tough to get started, and you have to have somebody to help you.”

As Miller grew older, Adams would increasingly give him more responsibilities such as driving the tractor and pulling the seed wagon, working him up to bigger jobs.

The relationship between the two continued into Miller’s teenage years. When he decided to transfer from a local community college to finish a four-year degree at Ohio State University in Columbus, he couldn’t stay away from the farm, routinely visiting on weekends. “It’s not that they couldn’t get by without me, but I don’t think I could’ve gotten along down there without coming back here and seeing what was going on,” he said.

Now in his mid-20s, Miller continues to work with Adams on a daily basis, but he also has purchased some land of his own from his grandfather. “It’s enjoyable to come out, work the land and see a crop from start to finish,” he said. “It’s one of the most rewarding things you can ever do.”

But as rewarding as it is, the financial undertakings are large for a new farmer. From obtaining ground to the cost of the equipment to farm it, Miller said he doesn’t know where he’d be without somebody’s help. “I didn’t get the opportunity to work with Dad and Grandpa hand-in-hand, but I got the next best thing to that,” he said.

Adams is slowly starting to cut back his farm duties and has recently split some ground with Miller, allowing him to purchase more personal ground. Miller also gets to use Adams’ equipment while slowly purchasing it from him at a rate he can afford.

Adams said serving as a mentor to Miller has been rewarding. “I think it’s what we are put on earth to do,” he said. “These young people need somebody to look up to. I’m proud seeing the way things have gone.”

Although Miller said he still has much to learn, he’s also teaching a thing or two to his mentor by taking over some of the farm’s decision-making responsibilities.

“Ryan’s been to school and he’s learned a lot, and things have changed a lot since I started farming,” Adams said. “I’m glad he’s doing it.”

“We’re still deciding who’s going to run the combine this year, though,” he said with a chuckle.

“Yep,” Miller chimed in. “Sometimes I’m still the one sitting at the end of the field wanting to be in the tractor.”

Attention teachers and parents: See how this story connects to Ohio’s academic content standards.