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Real Growers Farming Different
Crops: Corn & Soybeans
Solution: Smart VR
Crops: Corn & Soybeans
Rob Sharkey: Boldly Different
Rob Sharkey can’t remember the exact moment he knew he wanted to be a farmer, because he can’t remember a time when he didn’t. Growing up on his family’s hog farm outside of Bradford, Illinois, he knew he’d leave for college, but he also knew he’d be back – and that’s exactly what he did.
After graduating with a degree from Southern Illinois University in Agribusiness Economics, he happily headed back to his roots, married his high-school sweetheart Emily and was hopeful for a future doing all he’d ever known in the only place he’d ever called home. Two years later he found himself in the best of times, expanding the family operation through buying his own hogs, then almost as quickly he found himself in the worst of times, with the hog market crash of 1998, and along with it, the crashing of his dreams.
Rob says that year was the most pivotal one in his life. Yet as hard as it was to endure, enduring it is exactly what gave him the fortitude to excel in all that’s happened since. With a young family to support, quitting wasn’t an option, even though things didn’t look at all like he thought they would. The year after the crash he decided to diversify his farm by starting a whitetail deer outfitter service. The following year, while still helping his father farm corn and soybeans, he was able to rent his own ground and expand their farming operation. In addition, Rob and his wife Emily took the opportunity to manage a buying co-op, a job Rob says he was grateful for, but that his heart was never really in. As he continued to farm with his father, all responsibilities and full-time farm ownership eventually became his when his dad retired in 2008, giving Rob the chance to buy out his dad, and simultaneously give up his co-op job.
Fast-forward six years, after the loss of his father and working hard to keep the farm profitable, Rob felt a desire to do something different, in addition to farming and outfitting.
Having watched his friend Carrie Zylka’s success with her hunting podcast, he thought it would be interesting to start his own. Using his handle from twitter, the “SharkFarmer” podcast was born. When he began, he thought he would only be sharing hunting stories, but quickly realized they weren’t as exciting for a broad audience to listen to as they were to hear amongst fellow hunters. Instead, he changed direction and his podcast became a platform for farmers (and since then, non-farmers) to share life stories of strength and struggles, overcoming adversities, and in turn, a common ground for people of all backgrounds to tune in and be encouraged and inspired week in and week out.
Three years later, Rob and his wife Emily are now managing a media business that encompasses not only SharkFarmer podcast, but also SharkFarmer SiriusXM radio show, Shark Farmer tv segments, and one of the first-of-its-kind digital publications, “Ag Now Magazine.” Rob says he feels very blessed to be at a point in his life where he gets to make a living doing the three things he enjoys the most – farming, outfitting and media. In his words, “If you’re not working to your full potential, life will bite you. Life is easier when you go full bunny.” If he could give anyone advice on making it in farming or any other endeavor in life, it would be simply to “work hard and keep going.”
In 2017, one of his podcast advertising partners introduced him to the young Canadian agronomy company Farmers Edge and he was impressed with what he saw. He soon began using their products and has since become a spokesperson for them. He says, “When I first started using Farmers Edge, they challenged the way I looked at farming. Before using FarmCommand, I wasn’t implementing the technology side of my farm into the agronomic side. I had maps, but I wasn’t utilizing them. Now, through the accuracy of their variable rate prescriptions, I’m making more money.” He also appreciates the high quality of service he gets from their reps and the fact they make his job easier.
While opportunities continue to soar for Rob, he says he plans to retire eventually. In the meantime, he’s building his farming, outfitting and media operations that his four children will have solid choices to continue in, if they choose. If they don’t, he says he’s fine with that too. Never having felt pressured to come back to the farm, he wants his children to have the same freedom to pursue their own dreams.
When asked what legacy he hopes to leave, Rob says, “I want to leave the legacy that a good life is one that’s going to affect more than just yourself. In farming, you’re feeding other people, and that’s noble. In outfitting, you’re helping people do something they enjoy, and that’s noble. In media, you’re giving people a platform to tell their story, and that’s noble. “If you live a life where you’re helping other people, that’s a good life to live.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
By Meredith Bernard @ThisFarmWife
Meredith Bernard is a mom to two, photographer, writer and farmer living and working alongside her husband on a beef cattle farm in Milton, NC. Connect with her online at thisfarmwife.com.
Farm Size: 4,000 acres
Crops: Corn, Soybeans
Solution: Smart VR + Moisture Manager
Randy Uhrmacher: Not Afraid to Try Something Different
During the mid-1980’s when many farmers were finding it hard to hang on, Nebraska native Randy Uhrmacher decided at the age of 18 that it was just the right time for him to dig in and make a go of it. As a fourth-generation farm kid, he knew he wanted to continue the legacy his family had started and when the opportunity to rent more land became available right out of high school, he seized it. Times were hard and the struggle was real, but so was Randy’s drive to make it work and that’s exactly what he’s done.
Change has never been a hindrance for the Uhrmacher farm, instead, it’s been a catalyst for growth. From what began as a multi-faceted operation with cattle, hogs and crops, today is a 4000-acre enterprise of solely corn and soybeans that Randy farms alongside with his brother and his son, Derek. When pressed as to why he thinks he’s been so successful, he attributes the lessons he learned through such a hard start and not being afraid to try new things along the way.
Randy isn’t different from a lot of other farmers in working the crops he grows, but he has had some different approaches to making his crops work better for him. With three-quarters of the land he farms being irrigated and the rest dry land, having a grasp on all agronomic aspects and moisture management are essential for raising and harvesting profitable crops.
Three years ago, Randy began hearing about a relatively new agronomy player in the field and he was intrigued enough to test the value he perceived they could bring. After having Farmers Edge on board with their operation for two full years now, Randy says they have brought value to the table since day one and it continues to grow and improve.
The Farmers Edge all-in-one approach combining Daily Satellite Imagery, on-farm weather stations, and variable rate mapping to their farm zones has made farming not only easier for Randy and his partners, but also more profitable and in the end that’s where the true value lies.
For someone who isn’t afraid to farm “different” when different means better, Randy is excited to try Farmers Edge new Soil Moisture Monitoring Service this growing season. Through what he saw using their test soil moisture probes last year, he’s ready to unleash this new technology across all their fields this year.
Across the board, from the complete data collected through FarmCommand, timely and friendly service from field reps, to state of the art moisture management tools that nobody else in the industry is offering, Randy sees his decision to join the Farmers Edge team of growers as a win-win.
Randy considers himself somewhere in the top third of farmers for being an early adopter to using new technology. He learned early on that by watching “pioneers” in farming who would try new things, he could learn from their successes and try to perfect their failures. That mindset and practice has gotten him through hard times and allowed his farm to continue to thrive. He has benefited from using Farmers Edge products the past few years and looks forward to continuing to benefit from the new and different ideas they keep bringing to the table. Different may be different, but it can also very much be forward.
Crops: Wheat, Corn, Soybeans
Solution: Smart VR + N-Manager
Farmer Derek Klingenberg: Famously Different
If there is one word that sums up farmer Derek Klingenberg, it would be “different.” When his grandpa migrated from Prussia in 1923 and settled down on a farm north of Wichita, Kansas, chances are good he had no idea the changes the farm would see or how his grandson would use his talents and out-of-the-box ideas to bring a well-rooted love of farming to a different stage.
From an early age, Derek was ingrained in not only the day-to-day of helping farm crops and background cattle, but he was also heavily involved in music, including singing in groups, marching band, and playing several musical instruments. After graduating from Kansas State University with degrees in Ag Economics and Agronomy tucked under his belt, he married and found himself back on the family farm raising a family of his own in addition to raising cows, wheat, corn and soybeans. But, his love for music and entertaining was never far from his mind and he eventually found ways to combine his love for both.
After teaching himself to play the banjo in three short weeks to contend in a local talent show with his two brothers and two friends, “The Possum Boys” band was born. While the group disbanded after three years and the other members went off to join a seminary, Derek stayed on the farm and decided he’d go solo, uploading videos of musical parodies and original songs to YouTube for fun. What was just a “fun thing to do” eventually landed him on the world stage, being interviewed on national news programs, spotlighted in People magazine and traveling from London to Germany to Nicaragua, all for calling his cows to feed while playing his trombone. Nobody was more surprised at the public’s reception of his videos than Derek was, and in the last eight years he’s racked up millions of views on his YouTube channel, which is the epitome of “different.”
In addition to a love for music, Derek has always had a fascination with all things space related. A couple of years ago he heard about the cutting edge satellite imagery that Farmers Edge offered and his interest piqued. He now religiously relies on their FarmCommand app in addition to their soil sampling services and zone mapping to help him determine biomass, cut nitrogen costs and make overall better input decisions for his farm. Having attended several farming shows recently, he says, “I’ve seen the flashy things other companies are offering. What Farmers Edge offers is the real deal and I know that, through not only my agronomy background but through having used their products.”
Out of all the Farmers Edge tools Derek has at his disposal, he says his favorite is their daily satellite imagery which is processed into multiple map layers to monitor crop health and variability. In addition to the information it provides on where to most adequately apply fertilizer (which is done remotely and sent as a prescription to his local co-op), he’s also learned how to judge the time when the satellite is flying over his farm and used that to his advantage to video his cows eating in the formation of images and words like “Hi,” a heart, smiley face and a cow pi. A self-professed “farm nerd,” Derek has found amazing ways to merge his own version of different with the differences Farmers Edge offers, to make a really big difference.