The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

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

Farmer Q&A: Hogs, Corn, Soybeans and Wheat

Farmer Q&A: Hogs, Corn, Soybeans and Wheat

From the Farmer's Tractor

November 25, 2012


Matt, 29, and Rachel Heimerl, 27, farm 2,500 acres of corn, soybeans, and wheat, as well as hogs, alongside Matt’s parents Jim and Kathy Heimerl and brothers Brad and Jeff Heimerl in Johnstown, Ohio. Matt and Rachel both grew up farming and share a passion for agriculture.

How did you get into farming?

Matt and I both grew up on family farms. Matt obviously grew up on the farm that we are involved in today. I grew up in SE Ohio where my family had a cow/calf operation of about 15 to 20 head. We also raised hay and were involved in 4-H and FFA. Matt and I have always had a passion for agriculture. Matt always knew that he would return to the farm after college. I knew I would be doing something in agriculture as a career, and marrying Matt and joining his family farm has been a blessing.

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

We are always changing with modern technology and science. We raise our animals based on sound science and recommendations of our veterinarian. 10 years ago animals were being raised in barns rather than out in pastures but the technology that we use in those barns has changed and made them even more comfortable for the animals. We are using GPS and Auto Steer more than ever now on our equipment to ensure that we don’t overlap when planting and fertilizing our farm ground as well. This is one way that we work to conserve our soil and resources.

How will farming evolve in the next five years?

The only thing that is for sure is that farming will always be around. As the world’s population increases, common practices in farming will continue to grow and evolve to feed that growth year after year. Matt Heimerl said, “We will continue growing and producing more food on less ground into the future, we will just be more cautious and make sure that our consumers are aware of those changes being made."

What is your greatest challenge as a farmer?

In today’s society it is making that personal connection about farming and agriculture with your neighbors and consumers. Social media is a good place to start but actually talking to people and fielding questions goes much further than education in written forms. We are always striving to start those conversations and getting to know the neighbors to explain what it is that we do on our farm.

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

Just like any profession it is hard to predict the future and know for sure what the retailer and consumer will want. We strive to produce a high quality product in the animals that we raise. If we continue to care for our animals with the utmost respect and responsibility we will always have a great product to offer and sell in the end.

What steps are you taking toward conservation on the farm?

We follow a manure management plan when applying all manure to our farm ground year round. We rotate application sites so that one area is not overwhelmed with nutrients. We also conduct annual soil samples to ensure that the areas that need nutrients the most are the ones receiving it.

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

Due to the size of our hog farm it is difficult to market our animals locally because there just isn’t a packing facility large enough. We do however support the local community in many ways. We make several donations throughout the year to various organizations and fund raisers. We also buy products such as grain, equipment, and fuel from local retailers.

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

Many people are genuinely surprised that farmers still exist on a family farm setting. They can’t wait to hear what it is that we do on a daily basis. People are so far removed from the farm that not everyone is next-door neighbors with a farm anymore like they used to be.