Keith Abbott says farming is a way of life for him, and he loves working the land.
If fact, the Batesville resident has been farming for practically his whole life. "Ever since I could crawl, I was on a tractor, and I began driving them around age 7 or 8 .... I really didn't know anything but farming."
Together with stepson Tyler Menkedick, he farms 800 acres of corn and beans. "We would like to be able to pick up more land to rent, but there's not a lot out there, and we're not ones to outbid somebody."
The 59-year-old recalls, "When I started out, I was mostly a livestock person. Up to 20 years ago, I was in hog buildings most of my life. In 1998, I rented our hog facility to Harmeyer Farms because they were looking to expand, and they're still using them. They're a really great family to work with."
"We also used to have cattle .... I found out with livestock that it's almost like a second job ... (but) there's also more of a cash flow with them. Grain farming is a lot different."
This profession has a lot of challenges, including dealing with markets. "With the tariffs and everything that goes along with that, we've taken a hit."
There are increasing costs for seed, fertilizer, equipment and other items.
Also, there's the weather. "You never know what nature will throw at you."
The soft spoken man reports there are always difficulties, but "we tend to forget. For the most part, farmers are optimistic, and believe, 'It's going to be better next year.' You have a bad year, but you go right back at it."
He recalls, "Some of the droughts we've had in the past didn't hurt us as much as the water" that kept farmers out of the fields this spring. "Water is usually our friend," but this year it caused some problems and led to a late planting season.
"If you look at farmers today, many have other jobs or side businesses," he pointed out.
Abbott and wife Patti have been involved in real estate. "We had about 20 listings at one time, and that kept us busy."
The couple also own Abbott Flagpoles. "This has been very rewarding, and we've met a lot of good people .... We've met a lot of veterans who served. You would think you would get a lot of stories, but very few will tell you their war stories. They are very humble.
"We have an appreciation for the people who have served and are serving." He encourages, "If you see someone in uniform, go up and thank them. We kind of take what they do for granted."
As with any profession, technology is always changing. Seed technology "has increased the yields tremendously, but along with that, the price of the seed has gone up .... We are producing more grain on less acres, but it's costing more to do it.
"As far as technology with the equipment, we don't have near what's out there .... It's just really amazing what is out there, and it's changing everyday. There's always something new."
Even the more modern equipment can be troublesome. "We can't work on the newer stuff. If something goes down, we have to call a dealer .... who will determine what's wrong by looking it up on a laptop, and sometimes they have problems, too."
When farmers are on the roads, Abbott asks for the public to be understanding. "I know it's frustrating for folks when they're off work and we're moving equipment and stuff, but they just have to be patient. We're not out there because we want to hold up traffic."
What keeps him going?
"My wife asks me that quite often," he reports. "I enjoy working the land and being able to see the crops grow."
"It is a good life. If I had to do it over, I'd be doing the same thing. Just like everything else, it has its frustrations. It's not a corporate frustration, it's with Mother Nature.
"For the most part, it's been a rewarding career."
However, he knows "it's so hard for younger people to get into it because it costs so much .... I've got debt and am still paying for farm ground and equipment.
"The average age of farmers is 59 years old. That's really sad. You would think it would be 35 or 40.
"Farmers will keep going until the end. I know farmers who are in their 80s and still actively farming."
Abbott's wife, Patti, says, "Farming is in his heart and blood as they say, and it always will be. He truly loves what he does .... No matter what life throws at him, he keeps going."
In addition to son Tyler, the couple also have a daughter, Leasa Nay; and two granddaughters, Taylor, 6, and Reagan, 2.
When they have some freetime, Keith says they "like to camp and go on vacation once a year, usually to Destin, Florida."
Diane Raver can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 812-934-4343, Ext. 114.