FIFTH-GENERATION FAMILY FARMER IS ROOTED IN MISSOURI AGRICULTURE
From left, Laura, Eve and Jermie Nothdurft on their farm in Cape Girardeau County, Missouri.
|The land is the legacy farmers strive to leave better than when they found it. |
|Fifth-generation farmer embraces new technologies to increase production efficiency and reduce environmental impacts.|
Diamond wedding rings, leather-bound bibles, antique grandfather clocks — our family heirlooms are as varied as our surnames. They are cherished, preserved and handed down, taking on a new meaning with each generation.
Jeremie Nothdurft’s most treasured family heirloom can’t be tucked away in a photo album or displayed on his living room mantle. For the fifth-generation farmer from Cape Girardeau County, his family legacy lives and grows in 1,200 acres of Missouri soil.
When Jeremie’s ancestors arrived from Germany in the late 1800s, they constructed the local church before they built their own homes. The church, Zion United Methodist of Gordonville, is within sight of the Nothdurft farm — a steadfast reminder of the faith and family ties that have sustained the farm for more than a century.
In partnership with his dad and brother, Jeremie raises corn, soybeans, wheat, milo and cattle on the family farm. He and his wife, Laura, have two young daughters, Eve and Elise, the sixth generation of the Nothdurft family to call the farm home. Eve is two years old and Elise is new to the family, born on July 30.
“It gives me a unique sense of pride to have our own kids grow up on the farm, learn to love nature and learn firsthand where their food comes from,” Jeremie says. “Eve already knows where her food comes from. She knows that we try to be the best stewards of the land and of our animals, raising the food and fiber to feed and clothe the world.”
The spirit of stewardship led Jeremie and Laura to open their farm to local foster children during a two-day “farm camp” in June. Children from Hope Children’s Home in Jackson were immersed in agriculture at Nothdurft Farms, where they took combine rides, milled wheat and made ice cream.
“We’ve been to a lot of Farm Bureau events and sat in so many sessions encouraging us to tell our farm’s story,” says Laura, who planned and facilitated the camp. “We started thinking about how we could use our resources to combine two of our passions — helping kids that need guidance and talking about our farm.”
Laura is a former agriculture instructor and is active in youth programs at Zion United Methodist. This background proved useful as she sought to impart a lasting understanding of agriculture to the students, many of whom never stepped foot on a working farm before then.
“Not only did we provide a fun experience for the kids and help them forget about their situation for a bit, but we also provided them with knowledge about agriculture that they’re going to retain. They wouldn’t have had access to that knowledge without visiting our farm,” she says.
Their pastor, Joel Kidwell of Zion United Methodist, a sponsor of the Foster Creek Farm Camp, refers to Jeremie and Laura as the “super farm couple of the century.” The Nothdurfts would say they’re simply doing their job, which goes beyond raising crops to raising awareness of agriculture’s importance.
As a 21st century farmer, Jeremie embraces new technologies to increase production efficiency and reduce environmental impacts. “During my ancestors’ time, being a good farmer meant you worked extremely hard and put in long hours. The guys who worked the hardest had the nicest farms and were able to expand faster,” says Jeremie.
“For my generation, good farming means using technology. With bigger and better equipment, it isn’t as much about who is putting in the most time as who is utilizing the available technology.”
Time-saving technologies allow Jeremie to pursue an off-farm career as a district sales manager for AgriGold Hybrids seed corn company. With farm income divided between his father, brother and himself, Nothdurft’s sales job helps support his family’s standard of living and allows him to utilize his experience in agriculture.
“I can’t see myself having a desk job. I love talking to farmers. I love being outside in nature and walking fields,” he says.
Although his schedule is often hectic, Jeremie is confident the long days will pay off. “My passion is farming. It’s in my family’s roots. My whole goal is to continue the family farm. Being the fifth generation, I want to ensure that the farm passes on to the next generation,” Jeremie says.
“If I can add to the farm by purchasing better equipment or more land, then I need to do it. The only way I feel I can support the family and keep building the farm is by working two jobs. In the long term, it will be worth it if I can better the farm for my children.”
For Jeremie, the land is his legacy, and he strives to leave the farm better than he found it. He decreases soil and nutrient losses from his fields by implementing no-till cultivation and planting cover crops. Genetically modified crops allow him to reduce chemical and pesticide applications. He conserves water by installing high-efficiency irrigation lines and promotes enhanced water quality and wildlife habitat by leaving grass buffers around fields. By combining these practices, he has shrunk his environmental impact while growing his farm’s productivity.
Farming is the Nothdurft family business, and every investment in conservation, land or equipment is made with the next generation in mind. For their family, growing crops is about more than making money. It’s about making memories as their children grow up with the same appreciation for the land as their parents share.
“The farm provides so many opportunities to have quality time with our kids,” Laura says. “It is incredibly gratifying to see Eve more excited to go outside and have an experience on the farm — to go ride in the combine with dad — than sit inside and watch TV.”
It will be some time before the sixth generation is ready to take the wheel, but in the meanwhile, Jeremie and Laura look forward to cultivating a love of the land and a faith in the future with their farm family.