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Getting off to a good start

Getting off to a good start
Dannielle McCorkel and Chase Drees check cattle on their farm near Adair in southwest Iowa.

A couple of young farmers in Adair County are navigating their way through crop and livestock farming, taking on the challenges of markets, weather and time constraints to do something they love.

And they’re learning they’re not alone in their endeavor.

Dannielle McCorkel and boyfriend, Chase Drees, bought a farm together in 2018, but they’ve been farming longer than that.

McCorkel grew up farming alongside her family. When her dad passed away while she was in the high school, she and her brother made decisions with their mother about the family’s rented acres.

Drees' family moved to Altoona, but farm life pulled him back near Adair after college. Since then, he has started raising cattle and crops with his grandfather.

Together, McCorkel and Drees bought an 80-acre piece of property just south of Adair last year. There’s pasture for their cattle, acres to grow corn and soybeans and a house on the property. “It’s the perfect starter farm. It provides a place to live, a piece of pasture and our very own piece of crop ground to get started,” McCorkel, 22, said.

Challenges ahead

The couple says being young farmers presents its own set of challenges.

Obtaining financing to buy the farm and add acres wasn’t easy. But they were able to come up with the down payment and secure a loan.

They work with others to borrow and rent machinery, which helps control their operating costs. “As young farmers, we’re very fortunate to have family around us who has equipment,” McCorkel said. “You can’t buy it all when you first start.”

Being a diversified farm also helps in weathering some of the storms in the crop market. Having cattle and working off the farm have helped, they said.

“I’m a strong believer in being diversified. We don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket,” McCorkel said.

She graduated from Iowa State University last year with a degree in animal science and minor in ag communication and works off the farm for Rembrandt Foods.

Drees operates a custom baling business. “By having this custom baling business, I know that if I’ve got a dry year or wet year, that even if it affects the crops, at least I’ve got a steady income,” he said. “It’s helpful to have an extra (off-farm) income, especially since there’s so much uncertainty in the markets.”

With diversification comes time strains, Drees, 24, says. Something all farmers can relate to.

Meeting other farmers

The couple says attending the Iowa Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer Conference recently helped connect them with other farmers facing the same types of challenges.

“It was really nice to talk to other young farmers who understand the challenges — the difficulties with markets and time restrictions,” Drees said.

It was also an opportunity for the couple to reflect on their goals in the coming years. They’d like to expand their farm operation, but they’re watching their margins and budget sheets closely. They’re in close communication with their lender.

They’d also like to build their commercial crossbred cow-calf herd, but first want to focus on genetics. “If we can buy good quality genetics, we know that will pay for itself throughout the years. We definitely want to focus on high quality genetics,” McCorkel said.

But mostly, the couple says they’re excited for the opportunity to farm.

“I really love it,” Drees said. “It requires a lot of work and you never feel like you’ve got everything mastered, but you put work into it and you can always do something better.”



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