Why I Farm – Wilbanks Farms
Passion and hard work fuel Seth and Brittany Wilbanks, who make their living on Wilbanks Farms in Hughesville, Missouri. Although Seth is the fourth generation to farm in his family, the pair has branched out on their own with both Seth and Brittany working full-time on the family operation while raising their children, Grady and Kinze, on the farm.
The Wilbanks produce 200 acres of corn and soybeans and raise 250 commercial Angus cows, keeping 25 heifers back each year. They were also able to sell 1,800 bales of hay this past year. The crop side of the operation is run using no-till practices and some cover crops. The livestock side is even more unique.
“The cattle we have come from a closed herd,” Brittany said. “They’ve been in a closed herd since the 1970’s when Seth’s grandfather started his herd.”
In addition to their closed herd of cattle, Wilbanks Farms is unique in the fact that it is a fourth generation farm that had to start almost completely over.
“We’ve had a lot of help along the way, but we have never had somebody that owned the ground who would step back and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to give you these 50 acres to start with and you’re going to see what you can do with it’,” Seth said. “Any ground we have obtained we rented or are in the process of buying. Even though we were given opportunities to buy some cows and rent some ground, we were never just given land at no cost.”
Brittany agreed that they were essentially beginning farmers.
“In the last couple of years, we’ve had to branch out on our own and completely start over,” she said. “We’re beginning farmers, really, because we had to go out and buy all of the equipment we needed and everything.”
Although they have had their challenges, Seth and Brittany have a work ethic and a passion for their farm that pushes them to continue the family farming journey. Seth’s passion began when he started working on his grandfather’s farm full-time during the summer at 12 years old. Now, his kids fuel that passion.
“Why we farm is pretty easy,” Seth said. “It’s honestly our kids. Even though I grew up farming, I didn’t live on the farm and I never had opportunities to show a 4-H calf or even a pig. We want to be able to give our kids that type of lifestyle if they want to have a few calves. We want to give them that start and, if our kids choose to come back to the farm, we hope we will be in the position to allow that. That is our main goal.”
Brittany said that her passion has also been transformed by their children.
“Prior to kids, my passion was watching something you put in the ground grow and knowing that it’s going to end up on someone’s table,” Brittany said. “That is just simply amazing to me. There is so much passion and dedication to every farmer out there, and it’s a great industry, so that’s what has always driven me. But, after having kids and witnessing them see the farm life and the miracles that happen, that’s my passion now. I want them to be able to have something to come back to, should they choose to.”
Although Seth was told growing up that he should leave the family farm in order to avoid its struggles, he said he has never doubted that staying was the right choice.
“I don’t want to work for the man, I want to be the man,” Seth said. “By being the man, that doesn’t mean I want 10,000 acres or 2,000 cows. If 100 acres and 10 cows is adequate enough for me and my family, that’s what I want to do. I don’t want to have to work hard to build somebody else’s empire. In a way, I kind of want to build my own. Brittany and I share that common goal.”
Seth acknowledges that their common goal is going to take a lot of hard work.
“Nothing is easy on the farm,” Seth said. “We’re not making a lot of money, but we’re keeping the lights on. If we can keep the lights on we can keep the ball rolling.”
Part of that hard work goes into raising the next generation to farm in their family.
“My daughter, she’s 3, she’s with me 24/7,” Brittany said. “She feeds with me every day. Pretty much anything we do, she’s with me. My son, when he’s not in school, he’s also with us too. They both enjoy the baby calves and, in the summer, they’re in the tractor cab all summer long with us.”
Seth agreed that they like to keep the kids involved in the family operation and are working to help them get their start on the farm.
“I was always told that a mother has a certain touch and a certain way to deal with kids that a lot of dads can’t,” Seth said. “There is a lot of truth to that because my wife takes our kids almost everywhere all of the time. Our kids are very involved, and some days they love it, some days they hate it. Grady is in Clover Kids and he’s going to have a bottle calf this summer. He’s excited about that, so we hope that it will be a start. We hope that it will be a heifer and maybe he can raise it and start his own little herd with that one cow.”
Seth and Brittany both consider growth of their operation and continuing to introduce their kids to the farm their main goals for the future.
In addition to working hard on their farm and raising their kids in the industry, the Wilbanks also like to invest their time in advocating for agriculture in their community. One way that Brittany does this is through her blog, Farm Wife for Life, to share her family’s story.
“Seth and I have both served on the county extension board, and we’ve also both been state officers for the Missouri Young Farmers and Young Farm Wives,” Brittany said. “This year, we are also part of the Missouri Corn Growers CornRoots Leadership Academy. The big thing I do now is social media. I have a blog and use Facebook and Twitter. I think those things are really the new ways to promote agriculture.”
Seth supports this idea of sharing their story and promoting the agricultural industry.
“Our door is open,” Seth said. “If anybody needs some place to come and see what happens out here, our door is open. I feel like we don’t have anything to hide. We do things the right way and are proud of what we do. I think Brittany would agree with me 100 percent. If there would ever be anybody that wants to come out and see what’s going on, our door is open.”