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The Call of the Farm: What Drew Noah Young to Agriculture

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farming-agriculture-noah young-the shiloh farm
Noah Young | Photo by Joel B Jones

First-Generation farmer and agricultural content creator Noah Young talked about how he got interested in farming, and the journey that led him to opening up The Shiloh Farm in 2017 with his childhood sweetheart Sierra.

What was it like getting into agriculture and studying agribusiness at the University of Nebraska?

I actually went there because I’m a first-generation farmer — my parents are both school teachers. But growing up in Nebraska, where it’s such a huge farm and agriculture state, I was really inundated — and fell in love — with farming. I actually got into agriculture to date the farmer’s daughter, who eventually became my wife. To start dating the farmer’s daughter, I had to come work for the family farm, and during that time is where I gained my passion for all things food. So, naturally I was really intrigued with agriculture.

But it’s so expensive to get into — the average cost to get into farming, especially here in Nebraska, you’re looking at well over $1 million. And that just wasn’t possible for me. I don’t have that kind of income. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to do it, and that’s why I went into agribusiness so I could try to be a support for that industry, whether that was through agronomy or banking or marketing, which kind of became my passion.

So, I went and actually continued working for the family farm, my in-laws’ farm, doing marketing for their cover crop company, and I learned a lot more about regenerative agriculture.

What are some downsides of being a farmer the public may not know about?

Agriculture as a whole has always kind of been in the shadows of things. I like to bring up the example that there are so many famous chefs — you can right now probably name 10 chefs off the top of your head, but you can’t really name any farmers. There aren’t really any famous farmers. But when things go wrong, farmers always get the blame for things that aren’t working well. Whether that’s soil degradation, nitrogen issues, water quality, pollution … a big thing we hear a lot about is pesticides and all the negative things that surround agriculture, and there’s not enough positive voices that are explaining why farmers utilize certain practices on their farms.

Even climate change is a great example. Look at cows — a study found that White Oak Pastures in Georgia was able to offset 100% of its cattle greenhouse gas emissions by utilizing practices like rotationally grazing livestock to actually sequester nitrogen.

What’s your favorite aspect of the agricultural lifestyle?

The freedom to be able to grow something and see it to fruition. I love the idea that if I want to make spaghetti for myself, you know, I raised the tomatoes to make the spaghetti sauce and I raised the beef to make the meatballs, or whatever that is. The idea of being so connected to my food source that I appreciate what I’m eating a lot more, and then making that same connection with my health.

I feel so much better when I eat food that I grew, or even just eating food that I’m sourcing locally. There’s definitely a real community aspect of agriculture that I love. It doesn’t feel like a competition. I work with a lot of other farmers and have relied on them to help me get started in a lot of ways.

I also love the unpredictability of weather and other challenges you face in agriculture. I don’t like the same thing day to day — that was what I didn’t like about my regular 9-to-5, it just becomes kind of monotonous. Where we’re farming, it’s constantly a challenge that you’re trying to overcome, there’s always something new that you’re learning.

It’s also the time that I get to spend with my family. I love that I get to teach my kids life skills. You can send your kids off to school to learn things, but it’s really rewarding to me when I can teach my son soil science or how plant science works because I can show him in real time. In fact, he’s got his own little garden box this year that he’s going to be in charge of.

Being able to hone life skills outside of the classroom is really cool and will hopefully set him up as he goes along and does whatever he wants to do, and farming gives you that opportunity. I just think that’s really cool — that you can take your skills, and things that you’re interested in and passionate about, and put those interests toward an industry that’s helping to feed the world.

You can follow Noah Young on TikTok and Instagram @theshilohfarm

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