Published on Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Learning is a constant part of life. It keeps our minds energized and our hearts full. With a teacher for my mom and a farmer for my dad, learning at our house was endless. And still to this day, I don’t leave their house without gaining a new piece of knowledge.
With National FFA Convention occurring last week, I couldn’t think of a better topic to discuss – education. Because to me, teaching and farming go hand in hand, especially if your day starts with the sound of a school bell.
A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit with a farmer from northwest Ohio. When I learned he lived a double life, teacher during the day and farmer at night, I knew we had to talk.
Sam Hatcher with his daughter, Taylor, who helps on the farm when she's home from duties in the U.S. Navy.
While many teachers end their day in the classroom, Sam Hatcher’s day is only half over. Eager to change into work clothes and boots, Sam’s love for farming began at an early age.
My favorite part of an interview is learning the history of a farm. And for Sam Hatcher, his family farm began in the early 20th century.
“I was born and raised on a farm southwest of Napoleon, Ohio. It’s been a part of the family farm since the 1920s. My dad has farmed since 1953. When I was in third grade I got to drive my first tractor – a Farmall 450 with a four bottom plow. From that point on, I’ve been farming four seasons a year.
My dad turned 80 recently and is semi-retired. My older brother and I both work off the farm and dad is like the chairman of the board. Still today he’s involved in every aspect of it, although not as much of the actual farm labor.
We currently farm about 300 acres – corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa. We raise clover after the wheat crop. We also raise beef cows, and then bale hay and straw. We aren’t old-fashioned, but in some of our practices our land neighbors call us that. For instance spring plowing. We are the only ones in at least a 10 mile radius that still plows. Everyone else no-tills or uses limited tillage. Dad has always raised us as his dad did and his dad did – you have to stir the ground.
We’re advocates of working the ground. We’re advocates of cover crops. When land neighbors start talking cover crops I have to scratch my head because that’s nothing new to us. We’ve been doing it for 70 years.”
For Sam, farming isn’t the only thing that runs in the family. Why did you become a teacher?
“Just like in farming, no two days are the same, every day is different. My aunt is a teacher and I have cousins who are teachers. Looking back on it now, Dad has always taught us. Even still today, working on a tractor or combine, there is always a teachable moment.
I went to college and got a degree in education. I didn’t get to be a teacher right away. I had to wait 10 years after I graduated. I’ve now been teaching now since about 1998. I teach social studies at Paulding High School, in Paulding, Ohio, and every year seems to be different, which is something I love about teaching and farming.”
Even though Sam teaches in a farming community, many teens are not connected to agriculture. How are you bridging the gap in ag?
“This year we baled a little over 4,000 bales of straw. We don’t do it the new way. We do it the old fashioned way. And now it’s to the point, my oldest boy is out of the house, my youngest is only 7 and he helps, but I’ve also brought the kids from school.
When they come out to the farm, they are in awe over the cattle and the machinery. They are aware of big farmers, but they marvel at how a small farm can do the same thing. You don’t have to be big farmers to farm. They always tell me how tough they are. Some of them make it, some of them don’t come back a second time. But it’s nice to have them to the farm and give them exposure to agriculture.”
What advice do you give to your students?
“I always tell my students patience is always a big thing to have in life. But I also tell my students, in order to succeed in life you have to first crawl, walk and then run - just like you learned as a child. You can’t skip a step. If you do, you’ll fall.”
Memories last a lifetime and to me, there’s nothing better than childhood memories on the farm. Do you have a favorite memory growing up on the farm?
“There are a lot of memories, but if I had to pick one, it would be a movie my granddad made. He would take his movie camera out to the field. It’s a movie my granddad took of my dad combining wheat in July. International 203 combine no cab and at that time it was probably a 10 or 12 foot head.
Sam Hatcher's dad, Bud Hatcher, or as he's known on the farm the "Chairman of the Board."
There’s my dad out there combining wheat, eating all the dust. And of course my granddad took video of him going back and forth in the field, unloading into a gravity bed in a one ton truck. The point of the memory is that I’ve always wanted to be like my dad. He’s out there in the open, facing the elements, and the price of wheat. “
As always, my last question in an interview is the most important question of all. Why do you farm?
“It’s the love of work. Love of the land. It’s in my blood. It’s in my genes. I don’t know any other life without it. If I got taken off the farm, I don’t think I’d survive very long. Every Spring you get the itch to get out in the field. And as a fourth generation farmer, it’s kind of a “legacy thing.” I see the passion in my youngest son, and I hope one day the farm will be passed to a fifth generation."
Sam Hatcher's youngest son and future farmer, Nicholas.
I didn’t have the opportunity to visit with Sam in person, but after our phone conversation, I could have visited with him for hours. After we talked, I ran across this quote from John Dewey and I think it applies perfectly. “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”
Author: Ashley Fischer
Categories: Why I Farm
Tags: farming, Why I Farm, #whyifarm, Beck's Hybrids, corn, farm, soybeans, FFA, Beck's, teacher, #GOFFA
Marketing Communications Manager at Beck's.
2/28/2016 4:34 PM
My grandpa was a teacher/farmer also. He was a great man. Keep up the good work.