This month our featured farming family grows Idaho’s famous potatoes. I know Dustin from when we attended The College of Idaho together.
Teresa & Jerome are the owners of T&J Farm; they farm with their sons Dustin & Derek. Teresa and Jerome love to travel to Mexico and also go on road trips in their car to destinations to ride their road bicycles. Derek and Dustin also like to travel in the winter where Derek has developed a keen interest in scuba diving in Mexico and has become certified, while Dustin likes to stay near the snow and get as much snowboarding in as he can before farming starts back up.
Jerome grew up on a dairy farm, then went to work for The Simplot Company. Over 25 years ago, he went out to farm on his own. The reward of being in control of his decisions and see the results of his applied knowledge and hard work makes the yearly uncertainty of farming more than worth the risk. The opportunity to work with his family, and work in the outdoors is also a big reward to this farming family. Right now the family is in the complicated process of developing a succession plan for Dustin and Derek to continue on with the family’s farming operation in the future.
T&J Farms grows potatoes, corn, wheat and sugar beets on about 2,000 acres in Canyon and Payette Counties in Southwest Idaho. Potatoes are the backbone of their operation while corn and wheat provides a healthy crop rotation that keeps it all in balance. Their fields are mostly pivot irrigated, which helps conserve both water and labor.
Like most farmers, they own some of the land they farm, and lease the rest. An interesting point that you may not know: most farmers are not lucky enough to have all their farm fields right next to each other, they may farm multiple fields that might be miles from the each other.
Farmers are excellent at researching and implementing new ways to save on expensive costs like fertilizer and water. Exciting new technology like GPS tracking for tractors, phone applications for controlling irrigation, and precision planting help T&J Farms to use the only the exact amount of water or fertilizer or pesticide necessary.
The family also rotates their crops each year, meaning that the same crop is not planted on the same field two years in a row. The different crops, like potatoes and wheat, take different amounts of nutrients from the soil, so rotating crops helps keep the soil healthy and rich and prevents the ground from becoming depleted of vital nutrients. Recycling of farm waste is also important to T&J Farms, who collect their used engine oil and other used parts and materials for recycling.
The family is also GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) certified, and follows those guidelines for all their bookkeeping and financials. This is a huge effort, but one that allows the family to see exactly where each and every penny is going. With an operation like theirs, that’s a lot of pennies to keep track of!
As mentioned above, technology has come a long way over the years, and has exploded in just the last decade. Farming has become much more efficient through uses like GPS tracking in tractors to online and handheld device pivot tracking & operating. There are farming apps for phones that are new to the industry as well, and help farmers track everything from irrigation to soil quality.
It takes a special kind of person to be a farmer, and this farming family is no different. They take upon themselves huge amounts of risk each year in order to provide the rest of us with safe and abundant food. The rewards of farming are worth the risk, though! For Jerome and Teresa, to be in control of their decisions and see the results of many years of hard work and learning keeps them going each year. Of course, the downtime in the winter months doesn’t hurt, either! Winter is a much needed break after those long summer days that start long before the sun comes up and ends long after it has gone down.
“If it was easy everyone would do it.” Farming is definitely not easy, but for the 1% of our population that is directly engaged in production agriculture, like Jerome and his family, hard work and high risk is what gives them the opportunity to do a job that they love and that is of infinite importance to the entire world.
Thank you Jerome and Theresa, Dustin and Derek, for growing our food for us!