Faces of Food: A Deeply Rooted Legacy

Family farms are the lifeblood of American agriculture, and each new generation must find its own way to lead into an uncertain future. This story relates the very different experiences of father and son, and how they make their transition work.

S&S Myers Farms, Decatur, IL

Whether the role comes unexpectedly or carefully planned, it takes more than luck to successfully transition a family farm from one generation to the next.

Smooth transitions take time, patience.

Discussing his farm’s transition from one generation to the next stirs up emotions for Steve Myers. For nearly a decade, Steve’s son, Seth, has gradually taken the reins of the family operation. But it was quite a different scenario when Steve took over the farm from his father.

Steve Myers wearing glasses and a ball cap

Steve’s father was only 45 years old when he passed away. Steve had been away to school for just one year when he needed to return to the farm to help his mother run the operation. He was 21. He had virtually no experience running a farming business.

The early years were tough, Steve relates, but the family worked hard and did what was needed to make do. Today, at 68 years old, Steve gets choked up when he talks about all his family has been through over generations to preserve the farm’s legacy.

Steve and Seth Myers in conversation

“I look back at my dad, my grandfather, great-grandfather. Our legacies are deeply rooted,” he says. “You have to have a lot of respect because you don’t know the sacrifices that they possibly made to get us to where we’re at today.”

Taking on acres, defining roles

Seth’s return to the farm became possible when the Myers family had an opportunity to double the number of acres they farm. “We had a good friend who retired, and we were able to take on those acres,” Steve explains.

As a result, once Seth graduated from the University of Illinois, he was able to immediately return to the now-expanded operation. It’s a role he’s grateful to have.

Seth Myers wearing a ball cap

“It’s been a great honor to work with my dad,” Seth says. “When he started farming, he didn’t have his father around to be able to teach him and guide him. So, it means a lot that I have my dad involved with me as I start my farming career.”

Seth relates that when he first came into farming, he was learning most everything from his dad. As the years have gone by, however, things have transitioned to where Seth now does much of the marketing, buying inputs, seed, and so on.

Seth Myers driving a tractor

Steve says his 40-some years of farming provide valuable experience to the decision-making process and guidance to help keep the operation successful. But as the nine years have progressed, Seth is taking more of the lead role.

“I’m there in the background, but Seth has his own ideas about where the operation should go. I respect that, as it’s good for him to learn for himself what works and what doesn’t.”

Bringing in other voices

Steve and Seth talk daily to jointly make decisions. And Seth says they don’t have too many disagreements. “But there are some.”

“Mom definitely helps quite a bit with seeing both dad’s point of view and mine,” Seth says. “My mom was a fifth-grade teacher, and I think her experience helps her mediate us and see both sides of the story.”

Myers family sitting on patio furniture in discussion

The Myers also rely on outside voices to help in their decision making. “The marketing part of farming is probably the hardest part of the occupation,” says Steve. As a result, the Myers often turn to Kelsey Lourash, ADM account manager, for her thoughts on what moves they should make with their grain.

“She’ll call and say ‘Hey, we got some recommendations in place that our team is advising producers to consider.’ She’s never high pressure,” Steve adds, “but she lets us know that this is what’s on the table, and here’s where we think the market may be moving.”

man and woman standing near green tractors

As they look ahead to future transitions, Seth says he hopes to have his wife get more involved. And there is hope that another generational transition will eventually take place.

“Someday, it’d be amazing to have one or all three of our children become involved in the farm,” Seth concludes.

collage of Farmers featured in Faces of Food stories

More American Farm Stories

The men and women who operate farms across this great country have great stories to tell. Of hard work. Challenging conditions. Overcoming obstacles. Family members working together. Over many generations. And hopeful for the future. Take the time to hear their voices.