The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Cattle Farmer: Peterson Farm and Livestock

Cattle Farmer: Peterson Farm and Livestock

From the Farmer's Tractor

August 27, 2014

Greg Peterson, 23, is an employee of Peterson Farm and Livestock, which is run by his father, David, and his two brothers Nathan and Kendal. Their farm is a 5th generation family farm that raises cattle, wheat, corn, beans, sorghum, and alfalfa. The Petersons have around 1,000 head of feedlot steers and a little over 1,000 acres of crops.

How did you get into farming? How long have you been a farmer?

I was born into a farming family and was helping on the farm for as long as I remember. My mom tells the story of how I was riding in a car seat in the silage truck when I was just a few months old. When I was in Kindergarten I drove the tractor and hay wagon around the bunks while my dad pitched hay. I've been operating machinery and working with cattle since elementary school. After graduating from Kansas State University last year with a degree in Agricultural Communications, I am now home working full time on the farm as well as being a part time public speaker on advocating for agriculture. I have spoken in over 30 states in the last 2 years!

How have your farming practices changed over the last 10 years?

About 10 years ago, our farm transitioned to an entirely no-till operation. Since then we have expanded acreage and have built on additional pens to our feedlot. We started incorporating GPS technology about 5 years ago and now have 3 pieces of equipment that utilize auto-steer technology.

How will farming evolve in the next five years?

With technology increasing at a rapid pace in all walks of life, agriculture will need to adapt to utilize it in the best way possible. Most of this adaptation comes in the way of precision and conservation. Unmanned aerial vehicles will provide data to farmers that can help them grow crops in the most efficient way possible and avoid using too much fertilizer and/or chemicals. The next generation of farmers must be familiar with technology and must be committed to precision and conservation if we are going to feed the increasing population. 

What is your greatest challenge as a farmer?

I think the greatest challenge a farmer faces is battling through hard times. Droughts, floods, wind, hail, and market changes are all things that can send a farmer into hard times. It seems every farmer I know has dealt with at least one of these in their lifetime, and many of them face all of these things in a single year! The challenge is knowing how to respond to each of these issues and keeping a positive attitude despite the situation. I also think this is what makes farming as unique as it is. 

How does a farmer know what a retailer will want a year from now?

I think it is hard to know, but the best thing you can do is look at the current trends of consumer demands. I think we are seeing consumers becoming increasingly concerned with how their food is produced. This means that farmers will have to be transparent and open with their methods and look to communicate with both retailers and consumers about why they do what they do. 

What steps are you taking toward conservation on the farm?

We practice no-till farming to conserve soil and nutrients. We practice precision farming to minimize inputs and fuel costs, resulting in more environmentally friendly farming. We use terraces and waterways to prevent soil erosion. We also practice rotational grazing in our pastures and rotational cropping in our fields to take better care of the soil and yield more with less. 

Do you sell any of your products locally, and if so, what is the process?

We eat some of our own beef and some of our own crops, but at the moment do not market our products locally. We have started what we call Peterson Farm Tours to bring people in to see our farm and experience it first hand. I think eventually we could sell some of our own products as part of this.

What kinds of reactions do you get from consumers when they meet you in person?

Well, I think with my brothers and I being viral internet video producers, we might get a bit of a different response than a typical farmer! But usually when people meet us who have seen our videos, they are struck with how real and down to earth we are. I think that is something we should really try to communicate to consumers, that farmers and farming families are real people with real stories. When I meet people who have never heard of me before, I usually talk to them about how farming has changed a lot in the last 50 years. The reaction is usually one of surprise when they hear of all the technology that is used and they see a younger farmer who is passionate about what he does. It is almost always positive!

Click here to watch the September edition of Peterson’s Life of a Farmer series.