Lessons Learned: Emma Nelson

Nelson took over the farm’s daily responsibilities when her father died unexpectedly. She’s grown a lot since.

FarmLife: What life lesson can you share?

Emma Nelson: I don’t like to make mistakes, especially when the mistakes are out there for everybody to see. But every mistake teaches you—like don’t spray when it’s too windy.

FL: You played high school basketball and now coach at your church. Do farming and basketball overlap?

EN: I enjoy sports but, in farming, I don’t think it’s a competition. [She cites farmers who advised her after her father’s death.] Still, you can only glean so much from other people. At some point, you’ve got to run your own race. 

FL: You had planned a church-related career. How does faith play a part in your life today?

EN: Farming takes a lot of prayer. Mother Nature affects probably 80% of what happens in the field. You have to have faith that, if the rains don’t come, you’ll be taken care of, and if the rains do come, be thankful for the blessing. I always say God can multiply grain in the grain bins, if that’s what He wants. We’ve just always have had that faith foundation on the farm. The farm doesn’t work on Sundays. Year-round, no matter how busy we are.

Our first spring without dad was in 2012 and we had a drought. That really tests you. You never know what the market is going to do. You don’t know what the weather is going to be or what kind of yield you’re going to have. It’s not in your control so you might as well not worry about it. Otherwise, you’ll drive yourself nuts.

FL: What else have you learned since your dad’s death?

EN: I’ve learned so much, not just on the farm, but about life in general. When you go through that kind of experience, you reflect on your priorities. I was only 24. I was probably a little childish in my mindset about how easy life could be. Then you think about how quickly it can be taken away.

[She comments on learning to use unfamiliar equipment.] It’s not something you can read about and then do it perfectly. When you’re driving with 100-foot booms, you’ve got to know where those booms end. It takes practice.

FL: What do you enjoy about farming?

EN: Everything. I like getting my hands dirty and working on equipment. I like driving the tractors and being out in the fields, and taking care of the land.