A Hardin County couple was named as a finalist for the Kentucky farm Bureau Outstanding Young Farm Family of the Year.
Mark, 34, and Wesley, 27, Thomas own 140 acres of land in Elizabethtown and rent an additional 722 acres for row crop production throughout the county. Thomas farms corn, soybeans, a few head of beef cattle and hay. Corn and soybeans are his main focus.
Each year, Kentucky Farm Bureau chooses an individual or couple between the ages of 18 and 35 as the Outstanding Young Farm Family of the year.
Every county has a winner that vies for district winners. From those the top three are chosen and the winner is announced in December, he said.
There’s a 10-page application that deals with the farm financials, community involvement and farm size and growth. Farm leadership activities are also considered.
“It means a lot,” he said. “I’ve watched people from the county and across the state through the years and it’s a pretty high honor.”
Even just being in the top three is an honor for the couple.
“It shows all our hard work is paying off for what we put into the farm, farm growth and leadership activities outside the farm,” he said.
Wesley said they went through the application process last year and didn’t get to this point.
“In a year they’ve seen something that’s progressed in the farm,” she said.
The family that beat them last year won the state and national contests last year.
“So we got beat by a winner,” he joked.
Mark has been around the farm since a child and became more active in high school. He started working on the farm more full-time around 2009 after college.
Some years, the biggest accomplishment is making a profit, he said.
Wesley said the farming is done mostly by her husband and his dad, Larry, and she said that they can farm amount of acreage that they do with just the two of them is an accomplishment.
Mark said he’s most proud of how they take care of the land.
“We try to keep our landlords happy and take care of their land as if it was our own,” he said. “As farmers we have to be good stewards of the land.”
In the end, he said, all he does on the farm is for his 10-month-old daughter, Jules. He said she loves to be outside with the cats and cows and enjoys riding along with him on the tractor.
His outlook on farming has changed since Jules came along. He wants her to have all the opportunities she may want.
“If she wants to farm, we will make that possible and give her every opportunity to do that,” he said. “If she doesn’t want to farm, that’s fine too, she can do anything she wants to do.”
Farming, he said, has been his dream his entire life but he doesn’t want to push his dreams on her.
He likes the size the farm is at now and he wants to remain consistent and upgrade equipment to be more efficient with the kind of ground he farms.
Land is pretty expensive and it’s not easy to find new land so he’s trying to find ways to be more efficient with what he has and increase yield, he said.
Other finalists include Jonathan and Jessica Gaskins of Adair County and Daniel and Kristan Wright of Jefferson County.