Not necessarily more land or a bigger farm. In the case of Kirk and Stephanie Liefer, of Randolph County, it means bigger family.
Kirk and Stephanie Liefer have been farming with Kirk’s parents for almost 16 years years, since the pair graduated college. Kirk’s younger brother, Kent, and his wife, Karen, also work on the family farm, operating the Pioneer seed dealership. And Kirk’s youngest brother, Kristopher, came back to the farm just a year and a half ago to work with the family. That’s one farm supporting four families and the Liefers wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s been a challenge, expanding the farm to support everyone,” said Kirk. “The seed dealership allowed Kent to come back to the farm. And we’re still trying to build Kristopher into the farm. He’s not married yet, but we don’t think it’s too far in the future. To do it, we always have to look for ways to diversify.”
The Liefers farm corn, soybeans, wheat and grain sorghum on their operation, in addition to selling Pioneer seed. When I asked them how they plan to keep folding family members in, Kirk said the opportunity hadn’t presented itself yet, but when it did, they would jump at it.
“It’s hard to answer how you plan to diversify,” Kirk said. “You never know what that opportunity is until it gets here. If something is there, we’ll look at it. We’re always open to anything that can help us out. I would never put livestock out of the picture, or crop diversification. As opportunities present themselves, we’ll keep our minds open.”
Like many young farmers, Kirk and Stephanie are part husband and wife, part coworkers and part tag-team experts.
“Luckily for them, I don’t have to drive any machinery,” Stephanie said when I asked her what her role is on the farm. “But I publish the newsletter for the farm, and have done similar work for Pioneer. I get parts on occasion, too.”
But Kirk was quick to add without Stephanie’s help — and help from the rest of the Liefer ladies — he and his dad and brothers would be stranded.
“There’s a lot of running behind the scenes that the wives do to help us out,” Kirk added. “Sometimes it seems like it goes unnoticed, but there’s a lot of stuff they’re doing behind the scenes.”
Kirk and Stephanie’s connection to the food on your table isn’t a hard connection to trace. Being farmers of corn, soybeans, wheat and grain sorghum means you’re seeing the food they raise in the meat on your table and in other regular cupboard staples. And being able to grow food for their family and yours is something the pair is extremely proud of.
“Everything we do grow is safe and healthy,” Stephanie said. “I don’t want other moms to feel they have to give into buying more expensive organic or natural foods just because. Those are buzz words. I want them to feel comfortable in our food supply. We’re lucky because we aren’t a nation that’s limited by our own growing season — we’re very fortunate.”
“We’re fortunate to live in a country where food is abundant and we can even have these discussions,” Kirk added. “In another county with food insecurity, we wouldn’t even be having these discussions.”
In a nutshell, for the Liefers, who are also parents to five young farmers-to-be, farming is an honor.
“I love the fact that our farm is a family-run operation,” Stephanie said. “We get to work with each other every day. It’s not always easy, but it’s usually flexible. Our kids can be involved in it, experience it, and have an understanding of it.”
“It’s just a privilege,” Kirk said.
Don’t forget to check out all the awesome blogs happening this month over at Prairie Farmer.
For the full Faces Behind Your Food Series, check out the links below:
- Intro: 30 Days
- Day 1: Managing…everything
- Day 2: Building Relationships
- Day 3: 50/50
- Day 4: Irons in the Fire
- Day 5: Loaded Up and Trucking
- Day 6: Variety is the Spice of Life
- Day 7: Beef. It’s what’s for dinner.
- Day 8: You have got to start somewhere.
- Day 9: The earth that calls me.
- Day 10: Teaching changes the way I look at things at home.
- Day 11: A Family Affair
- Day 12: Diversification.