Juniata, Neb., population 698 and home of Ryan and Kristi Weeks, Adams County Farm Bureau members and 5th generation farmers. Ryan’s family settled there in the 1800s and he grew up learning from his father who had a hand in diversified farming from cattle, hogs and chickens to row crops.
After Ryan studied business for two years in Kearney and biological systems engineering for two years in Lincoln, he decided to return to Juniata, rent ground of his own and start farming. Today his operation remains separate from his father which he is grateful for because he “learned to manage his own farm.” Ryan is specialized within the grain industry, raising white corn, popcorn, commercial yellow corn, soybeans, prairie hay and alfalfa.
The popcorn he raises is sold to Preferred Popcorn in Chapman, Neb., and gets shipped all over the world to places like India and Japan where they have stringent rules about non-GMO (genetically modified organisms). These rules mean he has to raise it with traditional methods – he can’t spray popcorn with Roundup and labor management is more intensive. Ryan explains that a popcorn plant is very weak compared to commercial corn, but since Nebraska has the consistency of irrigation which reduces drought stress to the plant, the state is now the largest producer of popcorn in the nation.
Ryan says they put a lot of effort into the integrity of their popcorn, making sure there’s traceability back to his farm. This provides him a direct link to consumers.
And he’s no stranger to connecting with consumers and telling his farming story. He is a member of the Ag Chat Foundation committee, maintains personal and farm Facebook pages, writes a “Days of the Weeks” blog, and has Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest accounts. As Ryan can oftentimes be found posting to social media sites from his iPad from the field, he feels this one-on-one emotional connection is required for farmers to stay in business. He says consumers don’t realize farmers are just like them — they just live and work on the farm. Listen more here.
Kristi is a stay-at-home-mom with their three children: Aiden – 7; Brynn – 5; and Delaney – 1.
Continue to check back to the blog each Thursday to get to know more farmers and ranchers from across Nebraska as they share their everyday stories. And to read past farmer and rancher profiles, click here.