Powerful Presentation and Special Honorees at the 2020 Farm Forum
The McPherson Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Committee brought the agriculture and business sectors together to recognize those who make a difference to the agriculture community and to share information on current topics that affect us all.
During the 35th Annual Farm Forum on February 24, Coach Mark Potter shared his personal journey with severe depression and mental challenges. The McPherson Chamber ag committee, being very aware of the challenging and stressful farming economy, invited Mark and Nanette to speak about “Embrace the Journey.” Mark used his experiences to communicate practical ideas about mindset changes and things we can all do to help others. His powerful message will remain with us long after the Farm Forum.
Mark’s willingness to be vulnerable to make a difference in the lives of others, is a true testament to his passion and his grace. One of his key messages was to have conversations to let others know, its ok not to be ok all the time. It’s important to embrace a healthier attitude about seeking help. Connect with family, friends and mental health professionals today. We hope the Potter’s message will have a positive ripple effect on those who attended, and the lives of everyone they touch.
The Chamber’s Ag Committee recognized Gary & Eileen Patrick as the 2019 Farm Family of the Year, for their outstanding achievement in agriculture, community leadership and family development. Agriculture’s roots run deep in the Patrick family. Gary and Eileen are the third generation to live on their family farm located east of Lindsborg in the hill country of Bonneville Township. His grandfather, Gus Patrick, immigrated from Sweden and settled in the Lindsborg area in 1879, following his brother, Nils. The brothers were known as Johnson in Sweden, but when Nils arrived in Lindsborg, there were so many Johnsons that he changed his name to Patrick – after an employer when he lived in Chicago — to avoid confusion. When Gus arrived, he adopted the name as well. Gus Patrick purchased his first farm in 1882 – which Gary and Eileen purchased in 1995 – and expanded to the property where Gary and his two sisters grew up and the Patricks now live.
Eileen also grew up on a farm north of McPherson in New Gotland Township, so, she said, she “knew what I was getting in to” when she and Gary were married in 1976. She has been actively involved in the farming operation since their marriage.
The Patricks have a diversified farming operation, which includes a cow-calf herd and wheat, soybeans, milo, corn, alfalfa, prairie hay and forage sorghum. Most of their row crop and hay is fed into the cow-calf herd. They utilize no-till practices on some of their farm ground, but still do conventional tillage where “it works,” primarily on wheat acres. Cattle are grazed on pasture owned by the couple.
Most of their acreage is in rolling hill country. “We’re farming the terraces,” Gary said. Adding that he has either built or rebuilt terraces on most of the crop ground.
Utilizing sound conservation practices is important to Patrick, who currently serves on the McPherson County Conservation District Board of Directors. The Patrick’s received a Banker’s Award for conservation when the terraces were completed. They also more recently received a Water award from the county conservation district after completing a plan to relocate cattle pens to reduce or eliminate run off into a nearby creek.
Gary’s parents, Leonard and Inez, retired when Gary and Eileen married, and the young couple rented the family farm ground. The elder Patricks moved to town in 1979 and Gary and Eileen moved to the farm at that time. They have purchased the ground and expanded the farm over the years.
“We’ve made our living solely off the farm since that time,” Gary said. While his father helped out while his health permitted, Eileen has been very involved with the day-to-day farm activities from day one. The couple has three sons who all worked on the farm growing up and continue to do so. Ryan, the youngest, farms full-time with his parents. Their oldest son, Curtis, is a mechanic for KanEquip in Salina, and their middle son, Gregory, works for CHS in McPherson. Even though Curtis and Gregory have off-farm jobs, they are still actively involved in the farm. All three have purchased or rented their own farm ground, and each owns a percentage of the Patrick cow herd. The whole family – including Curtis’ wife Betsy and their three children and Gregory’s wife Traci and their four children – help in peak times. Gary added that his sister also comes back from her home in Utah to help with wheat harvest each year. The Patricks believe that the farm will stay in their family for another generation.
“Our goal is for the kids to be able to take over when we retire,” Gary said.
While Gary and Eileen have made their living from the farm, they believe life is more than farm work. The couple have been involved members of the community throughout their married life. In addition to his service on the McPherson County Soil Conservation Board, Gary has served on the Bonneville Township Board for 46 years. He is an officer in the Lindsborg Lions Club and is the “food guy” when the organization holds its fundraiser hamburger feeds. Eileen also helps with Lions Club projects. The couple had been involved in the Kansas Farmers Union through the McPherson County organization when it was meeting. Both Patricks are very active in New Gotland Lutheran Church where they have served in various capacities over the years including the church council, on which Gary is now a member. Eileen is a volunteer with the weekday church school in Lindsborg, a voluntary non-denominational weekly program for elementary students that meets each Wednesday morning. She has been involved with the program since her own children were small.
“It’s been a good life,” Eileen said. “We are so glad our boys have a passion for it and want to continue.”
In addition to the Farm Family recognition, the McPherson County Fire Departments were honored for their incredible contribution to agriculture and the families it impacts. The 2019 Friend of Agriculture Award was presented to the nine rural fire districts in McPherson County, along with the McPherson Fire Department, which also assist the rural fire districts, and the CHS Fire Brigade who share their training facility with the county fire departments. McPherson County has between 250 – 275 trained firefighters available to respond to emergencies in the county, a number that has remained stable for the past several years. The rural fire departments are all volunteer units, and the McPherson department has volunteer responders as well. In addition to covering its own district, each fire department is available to others in mutual aid if needed.
County firefighters respond to fires, medical emergencies and accidents, with rural units often getting to the scene of medical emergencies and accidents before an ambulance can. All fire departments in the county have personnel trained in fighting fires, and trained first responders, who can provide emergency medical assistance at the scene until the ambulance arrives.
We are fortunate to have fire districts working together to cover the entire county and we appreciate the many volunteer hours, the dedication of all firefighters, and their incredible contribution to agriculture and the families it impacts.
Thank you to the 2020 Farm Forum sponsors: Iron Horse, Phillips Seed Farms, Inc., MKC, Cooperative Grain and Supply, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Nelson Ag Seeds, Karl Esping, Matt Everhart, Channel Seed, PrairieLand Partners, Phillip & Susan Nelson, Peoples Bank & Trust, First Bank Kansas, Home State Bank, Emprise Bank, Farmers State Bank, McPherson Eye Care and Zeitlow Distributing. Pictures from the McPherson Chamber 2020 Farm Forum are available on the Chamber’s Facebook page.