A Family Settles into a New Life on the Farm

Oct 31, 2018  | 6 min  | Ep4411

Voters in California will decide the controversial Proposition 12. The measure would have far reaching implications by requiring a cage-free lifestyle for hogs, chickens and calves.  Answering the demands of the marketplace are all in a day’s work for those on the front lines raising food the food for seven billion people.  One couple in this fight has made the journey from city to country and is meeting these challenges head-on. John Torpy has more in our Cover Story.

Earlier this year, Joni Embree-Meinders returned to the place which she called home nearly two decades ago. At the request of her grandfather, John Young, Embree-Meinders brought her family back to the Young Farms in Burrton, Kansas and got right to work…hitting the ground running...with a big smile on her face.

Joni Embree-Meinders, Young and Son Farms:”My heart is--this is home. And I'm surprised at how, how hard that hit me.”

In mid-June of 2018, wheat harvest was underway when Joni, Zach, and their children moved back to the small central Kansas town of 874. 
Young Farms endured its share of dealing with Murphy’s Law as things that could go wrong…did. Mechanical problems plagued the operation during harvest. A long summer drought slowed the growth of their dryland crops. When rain finally arrived, it fell until just days before the start of harvest. The storms delivered all of Burrton’s annual rainfall in just 30 days. Embree-Meinders took all the problems in stride and embraced the steep learning curve.

Joni Embree-Meinders, Young and Son Farms: ”There's so much to learn. I've kind of put myself in his submersion program with everything. I read absolutely everything I possibly can. Everything that Grandpa tells me to look at or the guys that he listens to a read their articles and things like that. I've tried to get--read everything I can get my hands on. Some of it makes sense. Some of it doesn't.  But I figure if I just submerge myself in information at some point, I'll have a conversation with somebody that's going to make it all click. You know?”

Embree-Meinders continues to tap her grandfather’s knowledgebase. She relies on his years of experience to help navigate issues both on and off the farm.
John Young, Young and Son Farms: ”When I started this procedure the first of the year, I didn't know we were going to become involved in a trade War, which is making it more difficult. There's going to be problems you know in any business./ I'll continue to try to transfer anything that I might have learned in the in my entire life to her and she's very receptive./She's just very enthused about the entire thing, which I'm happy about.”

Joni Embree-Meinders, Young and Sons Farms:” I've got a lot of personal drive and my "whys" are huge for this operation. And so it makes, it makes it fun and easy. I'm interested I want I want to learn more.”

Joni and Zach Meinders drive to move back to the farm was fueled by a longing for their children to have the same chances they had growing up. 
Nat sound break
Lucy and Colby have settled into the Burrton Unified School District, which has a smaller student body than the one they were used to in Des Moines, Iowa. The kids are learning a smaller student body creates countless opportunities.
Lucy Embree, Burrton, Kansas:”I've learned that it's easier to make friends here. If someone comes in everyone's accepted here because I mean it's just such a small school that everyone knows everyone.

Colby Embree, Burrton, Kansas:”I think that when somebody comes then they're like hey! And they just welcome.”

Joan Simoneau, Superintendent, Burrton Unified School District:”Kids here, first of all are not going to fall through the cracks. We're gonna know all, you know we're going to know all about them very quickly.  And, kids in Burrton, if you're standing upright and can take a good breath, can play basketball, football, volley ball, run cross-country. Be the president of their class, be part of the K club, Shake Hands Association for Youth, and do FCCLA, 4H, you name it./A lot of opportunity for kids here.”

Dwindling populations are a common thread across rural America. Younger generations are leaving the farm to seek new prospects in larger population centers. Coupled with advancements in farm technology, the number of family owned farms are becoming few and far between on the rural landscape.
Joni Embree-Meinders, Young Farms: ”What's going to happen  to all these Farmsteads? Because people aren't moving out here. They're moving into town. Or leaving and not coming back. You know you never--what's going to happen to all this out here? 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Burrton, Kansas has lost of six percent of its population since 2000, making Joni’s journey back to the family farm a unique move in rural America.
Joni Embree-Meinders, Young Farms: “It's been nice because I don't get welcome home or welcome to Kansas or anything like that. What I get is...we are so glad you're here./ The fact that we're coming back to continue something that's been set for a long time it is I think appreciated in a community.”

For Embree-Meinders, every day is a good one. Despite any hurdles the day may bring, she notes that with every sunset, she has no regrets about her family’s move to rural America.
Joni Embree-Meinders, Young and Sons Farms:.”This is a faith journey. One hundred percent. I've prayed about this more than I have prayed about anything in my whole life. And I can tell you that, there is no question in my mind that things are not going to work out. I think that it's, not going to be easy. And there's going to be hurdles, there's going to be stumbling blocks, there's going to be people that let you down there's going to be all of that and it's all going to be okay.” 

Joni Embree-Meinders: ”I'm closer to my grandpa now than I have been my whole life and he's an amazing man. And I'm really honored to get to learn from him in this setting.”

For Market to Market, I’m John Torpy.

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