Published on Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Rodney Miller has had success as a basketball coach, business man, and host of the popular TV show, Small Town Big Deal. Today, he lives hundreds of miles away from the row crop farm where he grew up. Through it all, agriculture has been his passion. Now a Georgia resident, he’s still an Illinois farm boy at heart.
Rodney has fond memories of learning and working alongside his father. “My daddy always said, ‘As a farmer, you're a Jack of all trades, master of none.’” Rodney smiles. “You're not really a master at anything. You're not a master carpenter, you're not a master fence builder, but you can build fence and you can build a house or a barn. I'm not a master mechanic, but I can fix a lot of things. I'm not a master welder, but I can weld something back together. It’s so diverse, I like that.”
Today, Rodney’s life as a farmer is still diverse. “I have a farming operation in Illinois and I have an agritourism destination in Atlanta, Georgia.” He raises corn, wheat and cattle on the small farm he calls home.
Even though his set up is different than most, Rodney can’t imagine giving up this way of life. “I still want to farm until I draw my last breath. It's infectious. It makes you feel good.” He beams.
While Rodney has always had an off-farm job on top of taking care of his crops, there’s something enjoyable about this type of work. “When I'm on a TV show, I work all day but I can't really see anything that we've done. We've interviewed 10 people, but I don't see any of that work. It's on a video card somewhere.” Rodney explains. “But when I'm here and I disk a field, at the end of the day, I can see what I got done. It's very satisfying. When I build a fence, I see what I got done at the end of the day. When I mow a pasture, or get the cows up and work with them, I can see what I've done. When I work on an old tractor and paint it, there's that sense of accomplishment.”
On screen and off, Rodney feels a sense of responsibility to preserve history and tell the story of rural life. He’s restored dozens of antique tractors and enjoys sharing them with the public in tractor rides across the country. Recently, he led 1,326 tractors across the Mackinaw bridge, the largest suspension bridge in North America. “Someday I hope to open a museum and I want to pass that heritage on. I don't want it to be forgotten.” Rodney says.
One of the refurbished tractors in Rodney’s barn is particularly special. In 1978, his dad bought a new International 1086. “I drove it home from the dealership. I was 21 years old.” Rodney recalls. “It got out of the family after about 15 years, and I found it again the day he died.”
"I think the main reason I farm is because of my farm heritage and it reminds me of my dad. My dad was such a great, Christian man and was like my mentor in life. Everything I do here kind of mimics what he taught me to do. He taught me to work, and I think that's a good thing. It makes me feel close to him doing some of those things. My dad's influence in my life is definitely one of the main reasons I farm."
That’s why Rodney Miller farms.
Author: Natalina Sents
Categories: Why I Farm, Why I Farm Roadtrip
Tags: Beck's Blog, Why I Farm, Illinois, Beck's Hybrids, corn, cattle, Wheat, Natalina Sents, Why I Farm Roadtrip, agritourism, Rodney Miller, Small Town Big Deal, RFD-TV, Georgia, antique tractors