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Shannon Yokley with Truman the TigerShannon Yokley, an agricultural journalism student at MU, will be writing quarterly columns for us about agriculture from a youth perspective. To learn more about Shannon, visit her blog, The Ag Lady.

As a farm kid, I love going home.

The smell of fresh cut hay, the dust from the dirt roads and the scent of cow manure all remind me of the place I grew up and the values my farm taught me. I am currently a junior at Mizzou pursuing a degree in science and agricultural journalism and I am approaching the point where I have to decide what I want to do after graduation. Some days I wish I could return to my safe haven with my herd of Angus cattle and be a cattle farmer for the rest of my life. Then, the other days remind me that I want to pursue something with my degree and support the agriculture industry in a different way.

The question is “to go home and farm? Or to go out and pursue a professional career?" This decision is tough - especially for many other students attending college.

One of my peers at MU, Daniel Bonacker, of Cedar Hill, Mo. has made up his mind. He’s heading back home to farm. Daniel graduates with a degree in agricultural systems management in May of 2015.

“Three words… I love farming,” exclaimed Daniel when asked why he wanted to go back home and farm after graduation. “I love the idea of raising crops and livestock that are part of a much bigger picture of feeding the world.”

The fact that Daniel can make money and still do what he loves is definitely his first priority.

“I enjoy the fact that I can be my own boss. One day I can be a business man, attending meetings, marketing my crop and typing up budgets but then another day I can be a laborer, repairing a broke down tractor, combining beans, nursing a sick calf back to health.  It is the best job ever.”

When asked how he is preparing to return home, Daniel gives credit to his college career.

“College has not only given me so much raw knowledge to make my job easier, but it has allowed me to form a mindset from all the information that I can carry through the rest of my career,” Daniel says.  “I know what I have to do to be a successful producer.  I know that the most important thing to do to stay successful on the farm is to never stop learning.”

Another peer of mine, Trey Garst of Rock Port, Mo. is also looking forward to returning to the family farm.  Trey agrees that his experience at MU, like Daniel’s, has prepared him to run the family business.

“My college experience has given me many connections to people who are in the agriculture industry currently and those who will be in the future,” Trey says. “College has also opened my mind up to different farming practices and problem solving techniques. I believe having these connections and coming back with more of an open mind will definitely make my job at home easier.”

He will return to his family’s operation after graduation with a degree in in May of 2015.

No doubt, both Daniel and Trey will find success at home because of their determination and passion to help fill the needs of consumers. Both recognize that returning home to farm isn’t for everyone, however, they believe that it is essential for students to continue to return to their family farms.

“Now more than ever agriculture needs educated people who are willing to go out and represent this nations most important industry,” Daniel says. “This could not be possible if everyone returned to the farm, I totally understand that.  But what I do think is important is that everyone keeps in touch with their farming background and heritage.”

“The situation may not be right for some, and for others the passion to farm may not be there,” Trey added. “Just because some students don't plan to return to the farm right away, doesn't mean they won't in the future.”

With such passionate and talented peers heading home to produce food for consumers like us, there is no doubt our agriculture industry is headed in the right direction.
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