Several years ago when I visited the Pratt farm for a story about their grain system, I came away with two main thoughts: 1) awe that they paused in the middle of harvest to chat, take a few pictures and have Andy show me around their grain system, and 2) awe that Mike (father to upper-20-somethings Andy and Peter) talked of stepping back and letting them take over. I was awed enough about #2 that I called him up later, talked some more about this concept and wrote a column about it.
Andy and Katie Pratt and their family are, so far as I can tell, known in their area for doing things right. Together with Andy's brother, Peter, and their parents, Mike and Susan, they've put together 5,200 acres of seed corn, corn and soybeans in the Dixon area. They've built storage and they've partnered with key input suppliers. Indeed, Wyffels Hybrids' Corn Strategies conference – the only one held in Illinois in 2011 – was located on the Pratt farm, right next to Andy and Katie's home. The place was, dare I say, immaculate for this event. I can only hope that weeds really do sometimes grow on that farm, but you sure couldn't tell it on that day. Even the children were well-behaved. Score!
Katie comes from a grain and hog farming family, and even spent a year back in the '90s as a State FFA Reporter. Today, her role on the farm is one of gopher and caterer, and she works part-time for the local Extension office. "I choose to stay out of the tractor because I love my husband," she says, tongue firmly in cheek. She's also an avid gardener, both of vegetables and flowers. (A-ha! Weed control!)
Andy and Katie are parents to Ethan, 6, and Natalie, 4, who both like to tool around the farm in their battery-powered Gator. Total cuteness. Katie has recently gotten involved with the Illinois Farm Families effort and blogs on their website, sharing slices of her life as a farm mom. And so typical of life as a farm mom of small people, when I asked if they have livestock, Katie replied, "None, yet. Natalie is hoping for a pink unicorn from California."
What worries them, besides pink unicorns from California? "The disconnect that exists between the consumer and voting public and the reality that is agriculture," Katie says. "The United States is going to regulate the farmer right of business and thus, regulate away our home-grown food supply."
(Have you noticed a trend in what these young farmers are worried about? Government regulation, at the hands of people who are disconnected from what farmers do.)
Back home, however, the Pratts have an overriding mission: to farm responsibly and efficiently using their resources - natural, financial and human – to sustain livelihoods for three families and secure the farm for the future generation.
"Our goal as farmers and parents is to instill in our children an appreciation for nature, country living and a good work ethic. As our parents farmed to give us the privilege of experiencing this noble task, so we work to provide the same privilege to our children," Katie says.
30 Days of Farm & Families
Day 1: The Webels
Day 2: The Mies Family
Day 3: The Thomases
Day 4: The Stewarts
Day 5: The Weavers
Day 6: The Hawkinsons
Day 7: The Kortes
Day 8: The Walters
Day 9: The Schillings
Day 10: The Martins