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Farming affects students’ everyday lives
Being a full-time student and helping on a family farm can be busy. Between going to classes and returning back to the farm, the life of traveling and farming can be a challenge for students.
Some students were born into family farms that have been functioning for many generations. This lifestyle can continue into college, requiring students to both live their life at college as students and at home as farmers.
Farming is a large part of the Southeast Missouri community. According to Statista, in 2022, Missouri was ranked No. 2 for the leading number of farms in the United States and was valued at $7.51 billion in sales for agriculture.
According to the USDA, there are almost 200,000 farmers located in the state of Missouri. This number includes college students, with 10% of them under the age of 35.
Agriculture professor Indi Braden said she was shocked and amazed at how dedicated students are to farming.
“When I first got here, I assumed when students came here, they dedicated academics as their main focus,” Braden said. “Now, I’ve realized over the past 20 years that some of these students are a huge part of their family farm. The families want them to come get an education and watch them grow academically, but still rely on them for help on farms.”
Braden said she has made accommodations for these students, especially during the busy farming seasons.
“I have had a student before who told me, ‘Listen, I’m going to make a decision between farming 5,000 acres and making sure that my family gets fed or being in your class,’” Braden said. “That conversation that I had with him just kind of hit home and [made me realize] I need to know where these students are coming from, what they’re dealing with and their responsibilities at home.”
Senior agribusiness animal science major Kristen Seabaugh helps a local farmer with his cattle while also going to school full-time.
Seabaugh said she goes to work for this farmer immediately after classes or when she gets off of work. This means a good chunk of her time is dedicated both to farming and school while mixing in work.
Agriculture professor Samantha Siemers said farming, going to school and living life is a “balancing act” for students.
“I think it’s just a balance of going to class when you need to go to class and working on the farm when you need to get things done,” Siemers said. “Mother Nature doesn’t really have a time clock and a schedule. It’s her world, and we kind of just figure out how to work around it.”
Farming while in school does not only affect students actively in college.
SEMO dual-credit student from Fredericktown high school Gavin Graham works on his family’s farm every day after school.
To manage farming while being a full-time student, Graham said he has to plan things out ahead of time.
“I feel like this is something other students my age may not have to do,” Graham said. “I have to plan what days I am going to sit down and strictly do homework. There are some nights where it is hard to get any homework done, so I have to budget my time throughout the week to be able to do things to balance it out.”
Graham has some advice for other students who are farmers.
“Always push to do your best, because if you don’t do your best, you’ll regret it later,” Graham said. “It can be hard to balance [everything] at the same time. There are some times where you just have to get away from it all; it’s something you need to live life.”