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Ride-along's reminders: Have passion and a plan

I had lined up a few farmers to do combine ride-alongs this fall. I wanted to follow up on an earlier column from this fall to ride along in farmers' buddy seats and encourage others to participate in the #buddyseatchallenge. But with the unpredictable fall weather and late harvest, nothing was working out for us to get into the field. Farmers weren't in the fields or if they were, they were troubled with difficult conditions, not ready for an interview while operating their combine.

I met up with AgweekTV producer Trevor Peterson in early November for another story and talked about where my dad was combining that day. Trevor suggested I could ride along with him. I called my dad and he agreed to the interview.

For anyone who has grown up in and around agriculture, there are memories rooted in riding along with your relatives at harvest. For me, it is memories with my dad, uncle and grandpa and some special friends who worked on the farm throughout my childhood.

In the mid-afternoon of our day, Trevor and I made our way to the soybean field where my dad and his harvest team were combining.

I quickly prepared in my mind some things I think make "Farmer Fred," as we often refer to my dad, unique compared to hundreds of other farmers I've met and thought of interview questions for him.

My dad is the only farmer I've ever met who holds a graduate degree in communications and once owned an advertising agency with my mom. He didn't start farming full-time until his early 40s and my parents now own and operate what was my mom Jane's family farm. He didn't return to his family's ranch area he grew up around, which is different than many in agriculture. The last thing is that he stands 6 feet, 8 inches tall and that is without the boots he always wears.

As we got rolling in the combine cab, I quickly forgot about "unique" interview questions and simply had a chat with my dad, a mentor and the one I once viewed as my critic in my growing up years but later learned he is one of my greatest advocates. I've learned to model him and my mom's work ethics, business acumen and commitment to family.

I asked about his transition from being an advertising agency owner to being a full-time farmer, nearly 25 years ago.

He said, "Well, business is business. You have to try and keep your expenses below your income and you have to try and stay ahead of change and not get caught behind it."

I soaked in his practical knowledge and his deep faith and passion motivated me. Despite his latest harvest season, my dad shared with me why he is thankful for agriculture.

"Being a part of nature, and trying to work with nature, it's a great place to apply your faith because there's more that we don't know than we do know. You've got to be absolutely passionate about it. The most important thing is passion. And make sure you've got a good plan."

And I am thankful for a businessman, farming father who opens his combine cab to me and a television camera to share his passion for agriculture.