Advertise in Print | Subscriptions
Published October 20, 2013, 11:00 AM

Buxton woman farming alone for 20 years

From the cab of a tractor, Marcia Hoplin, who farms near Buxton, N.D., reflected on her more than 20 years of farming experience.

By: Sarah Dykowski, Agweek

From the cab of a tractor, Marcia Hoplin, who farms near Buxton, N.D., reflected on her more than 20 years of farming experience.

“It’s the interaction with nature, with the soil. And you’re your own boss,” she says. “You see the sun come up in the morning, and you see the sun go down at night. It’s just a real rewarding type of life.”

Without any consistent help, she grows wheat, soybeans and navy beans, on top of two seasonal jobs assembling machinery and caring for her handicapped mother.

“There’s not a lot of time for going to the lakes like everybody does,” she says with a chuckle.

She says seeing the fruits of her labor at harvest and her love of the outdoors is what keeps her going each year.

After her father died 17 years ago, she took over her family’s entire operation. With pride in her voice, she says she’s a fourth-generation farmer working the same land as the generations before her.

“I kind of grew up in it but I actually started taking over places from dad in 1992.”

She now farms 1,000 acres of land, some owned and some leased from her mother and aunt, who also live on the family farm.

She characterizes her farm as “rinky-dink” compared with the larger operations around her.

“It’s so hard to pick up any more land around here because you have such big farmers now and they drive the rent up so it’s pretty hard to compete.”

But she has no plans to retire in the immediate future, although she hopes to someday lease the farmland and stay in the home where she was raised for her retirement.

“I would never relocate, I don’t think, unless I have to go to a retirement home or something. I’m guessing I’ll just ride it out as long as I can.”

Pride and joy

Her love of her home and the legacy of her farm is evident in how she talks about her favorite tractor, a 1971 John Deere 4020 that was her father’s. He bought it new, and she still uses it from time to time.

“It’s kind of my pride and joy. I baby it.”

For day-to-day, she likes to take advantage of more updated technology, but she only drives John Deere tractors.

“I try to keep up with technology although it’s awful expensive,” she says. “I do have GPS and auto steer. I don’t have all the bells and whistles the big guys have, but I try to have a few of them.”

During harvest she spends her mornings working on her equipment.

“Then during the day, you harvest into the evening. Then you come home and go to bed and get up and start again the next day.”

Hoplin says farming can be a complicated experience.

“It can be rewarding. It can be disappointing, as far as crops,” she says.

This year was particularly turbulent for farmers and Hoplin is no exception, but ultimately, she feels OK about her crops’ performance.

“Considering the year we had, it’s too much rain then not enough rain, I guess I’m satisfied.”

The weather and other challenges typical for small farming operations are her main concerns. She says being a woman who farms doesn’t present any special challenges.

“I’ve been doing it so long,” she says. “I don’t know if I have any different challenges than a guy would have. The implement [dealers] and places treat me wonderful.”

Hoplin is among only a handful of women who farm on their own in the area. But the trend of women entering agriculture is a growing one nationwide.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Ag Census says in 2007, there were 157 women listed as the primary operator on their farm in Grand Forks County compared with 816 men. More than 100,000 women were listed as primary farm operators nationwide in 1991.