John Hafer from Marion County is the editor of the May 6, 2019 Growing our Generation, featuring insights and ideas directly from Ohio’s young farmers and food and agricultural professionals.
Hello everyone! I’m John Hafer from La Rue, Ohio, located on the very western side of Marion County. I’m part of the seventh generation still working on the family farm today. Our farm was established in 1835 with a land grant deeded by Andrew Jackson. We are currently a grain farming operation with a long history of raising livestock. In 2008 the family decided to shut the doors on the hog farrow to finish operation and strictly focus on grain crops. When I was growing up, we also raised market sheep which turned into 4-H and FFA fair projects for my sister and me. We raised 40 ewes mostly Suffolks for market and occasionally we had some pretty good lambs for us to show at the county fair.
Livestock has taught me many lessons in life. Starting from a very young age my parents would always take us out to help do chores. Whether it was flipping the switches for the bin augers until the feeders were full, helping deliver lambs or cleaning pens, we were always helping and learning. Looking back, I realize all of the time spent working and living on the farm has made me who I am today.
My involvement in Farm Bureau started by helping with the county Farmers Share Breakfast when I was in junior high. My uncle and cousin had served many years on the county board and as state Young Ag Professionals committee members so naturally I wanted to be a part of it. I currently serve as the chairman of the Farmers Share Breakfast and as county president. Last year I attended the YAP trip to Washington, D.C. and this spring the Presidents’ Trip to Washington, D.C. These trips gave me the opportunity to make new friends from all across Ohio, and learn about events impacting U.S. agriculture as a whole. The opportunity to network and be involved in agriculture legislation and policies have greatly influenced my thoughts on activities beyond my farm.
Water and farming
We all know water and farming go hand and hand. I sit here in the first part of May wondering ‘When this rain is ever going stop?’ I look out and see the waterways half full and low spots in the fields still saturated, and it makes me think how our farming practices have changed over the years, from putting buffer strips in along drainage ditches and rivers to minimizing the possibilities of chemical and fertilizer runoff by advancing technology and application techniques. Farming practices are constantly evolving and improving. Water quality is always on my mind. My family all have places on Lake Erie. The original cottage was built in 1956 by my grandfather using lumber from the family sawmill that was located on the farm. The lake house is our second home. Water sports in my family was the big thing growing up: we all water skied and spent days on the water. Even if we had to stay home and take care of livestock that weekend, we would usually go to Delaware reservoir skiing Sunday afternoon.
I understand the importance of water quality and strive to make improvements to assure the next generation has the same love for the lake that I do. Our farm is constantly adding and maintaining waterways to reduce soil erosion and runoff. One of the practices we have been using lately is minimizing fall tillage and spreading grass seed or using gravel on highly prone washout areas. Minimizing erosion keeps the water cleaner and the soil nutrients in the fields, preserving our natural resources and insuring the next generations have the same opportunities growing up as I have had.
Maintenance and preparation are key
This time of year, I spend most days servicing and washing/waxing equipment. It’s to the point I should probably buy stock in wax and microfiber towels! Just about anything in life takes some sort of maintenance or upkeep. Whether it’s farm equipment, vehicles, friendships, you name it they all need maintained to stay functioning well. Living on a farm, there is no shortage of things that can be fixed or improved to function better. I’ve been lucky enough to learn from my father, uncles and cousin how things work and the maintenance required to keep things in good condition.
I have used these skills to help me excel in other aspects of my life. If you know me at all, odds are you know I like to travel to the mountains to snow ski and snowmobile! I’ve practically been on skis and snowmobiles since I was born. My love for the mountains in the winter started when my family went riding in Wyoming the first time when I was 10. After that I was hooked on going to the mountains any chance I could! Part of being in the mountains means you’re going to be in avalanche terrain. Knowing what to look for in the snowpack, having the training to analyze what you find and knowing how to navigate avalanche terrain is essential to a safe trip in the back country. It means making sure the people I’m with have the gear, the knowledge to use it, and the awareness to know what to do in different situations. I’m constantly researching and using new technology and looking for ways to improve my experience and safety.
Much like farming, I have a window of preparing for trips. It’s a 26-plus hour drive from home to where I typically ride/ski near Jackson, Wyoming. The past few years I have gone out for two weeks at a time and ride over 1,000 miles in the back country in one trip. This year I attended a three-day avalanche class to improve my skills and training, making me more prepared. Having the equipment I can count on to get me back at night all starts with making sure it’s well maintained. Much like autosteer I use on the farm to make life easier, I use GPS to track and navigate from location to location. Using the skills I have learned by preparing for planting and harvesting have definitely made me more prepared for anything else I decide to pursue in life.
Farm Bureau value
I see Farm Bureau as an organization that promotes agriculture, improves our profession through education, provides opportunities to share knowledge within and outside of the farm community, and have a long-term impact on governmental policies that benefit generations to come. In addition, it provides social activities while challenging our hearts and minds to be better individuals. Farm Bureau has given me numerous opportunities to network and expand my knowledge of agriculture.