By Pete Temple, Express Sports/Ag Editor
Ten years of living the young farmers’ life, including three years spent as members of the Farm Bureau Young Farmer Advisory Committee, have bolstered the hopes of Darrick and Holly Hall.
“As a whole, I’m very optimistic about agriculture,” Darrick said. “It’s a staple of life. And there’s no better place in the world than Iowa, than Jones County, to produce the food, fiber and fuel for the world.
“I think we’re headed in the right direction. The tools we have available are unbelievable, in the seed, in the equipment; it’s pretty amazing. We can maximize resources so much easier than we could even 10 years ago. And I guess that’s where the optimism comes.”
They served on the committee for three years, giving them opportunities not only to help enact Farm Bureau policy, but also to network with other young farmers.
“It was nice to just see how each family worked together,” Holly said. “You’ve got quite a different variety.
“It gave me a different perspective, just seeing the young farmers and families and how they figured it all out; making sure that we’re taking care of our kids, making sure that we’re taking care of livestock, and having that balance in life.
“It’s good to see what other farm families go through.”
Darrick grew up between Monticello and Anamosa, near Amber, on the family farm. His parents, Warren and Cheryl Hall, got out of farming after the Farm Crisis of the 1980s. It didn’t stop Darrick, however.
“I caught the farming bug, and I never did shake it,” Darrick said.
He started by helping his grandfather, Walter “Pucky” Hall, on his farm.
Holly grew up near Marion, also on a family farm.
Both of them attended Iowa State University, and both graduated in 2001. Darrick majored in ag studies, and Holly’s major was public service administration in agriculture. They were married in April 2002.
Shortly after graduation, Holly took a job with the Illinois Farm Bureau as a county manager.
“I helped with policy development, and ag in the classroom,” she said.
After moving back to Iowa, Holly started work with the American Cancer Society.
Darrick also found work in Illinois, working for a John Deere dealership. When he returned to Iowa, he started work with his father-in-law, Bud Blackford, at Blackford Farms north of Marion.
From there, he started renting his grandfather’s farm, and also helped a neighbor in an equipment and labor-sharing operation. He still does; that arrangement is coming up on its 10th season. The farms are located near Amber and near Morley.
In August 2011, Holly became a stay-at-home mom, while also serving as a bookkeeper for their company, DH Hall Farms, LLC.
“Our operation is corn, soybeans and a beef cow/calf herd,” Darrick said.
They also have a small trucking operation, which began in the spring of 2011, hauling corn and soybeans locally, from Jones County to Cedar Rapids. Darrick’s father Warren is the company’s full-time driver.
The Halls’ association with Farm Bureau began at ISU, when Holly was part of a college Farm Bureau club.
In 2009, Darrick was approached by Garry Zumbach of Monticello, who asked him if he would be interested in being on the county Farm Bureau board. In the same conversation, Zumbach floated the idea of having Darrick and Holly serve on the Farm Bureau Young Farmers’ Advisory Committee.
Darrick jumped at both opportunities.
“With the policies and regulations that were coming, I wanted to have a say in how we farm,” Darrick said.
The Farm Bureau Young Farmers Committee includes nine couples, one from each of the state’s nine districts. The couples serve three-year terms.
“The purpose of the committee is to be a liaison between the young farmers in the state of Iowa and the Iowa Farm Bureau Board of Directors,” Darrick said.
Among the committee’s duties is to organize the annual Young Farmer Conference, held the last weekend in January. But the Halls’ reasons for participating went far beyond that.
“It brings young farmers together who have common goals and common challenges,” Darrick said. “They are looking for opportunities to try to be part of the solution as opposed to part of the problem.”
What they found was that the committee was a diverse group, in terms of the types of farming the members do across the state. It also gave them chances to network with farmers from other parts of the state who might have some of the same issues to deal with, but are not in competition with one another.
“You really strike up friendships with other committee members and other farmers across the state of Iowa,” Darrick said. “And it’s a way to have a professional networking potential.”
The underlying theme of the committee, however, is policy, as it is for all of Farm Bureau.
“It’s a grass roots policy organization,” Darrick said. “We develop policies, and then lobby our state legislators to enact those policies. We come together to find common ground.”
Their term on the committee is over, but they plan to remain with Farm Bureau. Darrick now serves as Greenfield Township director for the Jones County Farm Bureau board.
“We’d really like to help other young farm families,” Darrick said. “We’ve definitely had help along the way.”
Things have also changed for the Halls since they became a family of four. They have two sons, 7-year-old Chance and 5-year-old Landon.
“We’re focused on growing the operation, and doing those things to give our boys the opportunity, if they so choose, for farming and agriculture to be their career,” Darrick said. “If they want to be farmers, that would be great. And I want to give them all the opportunities that I can.”
Darrick acknowledges that the current high corn and soybean prices put pressure on livestock producers, but he prefers to look at the big picture.
“It’s always cyclical,” Darrick said. “Kind of like a Cubs fan. There’s always next year.
“There were certain places in Jones County that had a fairly challenging year, as far as the yields on corn and soybeans, and there are some that did maybe above average, and there are some that did about average. But that’s pretty much the way it is every year.
“This cycle has been fairly long on the good side. It’s going to dip down sometime. You’ve got to be ready. I take pride in that farmers are very resourceful, and very adaptive, and can weather that next storm.”