Family nurtures next generation of ag entrepreneurs


 

MeyerFamilySheep967
MeyerFamilySheep967
MeyerFamilyPoults943
MeyerFamilyPoults943

Mark and Marsha Meyer of rural Hillsboro and their three children, Nick, 16, Elizabeth, 13, and Cassie, 10, are living the country life and enjoying all that comes with it.

Marsha said she and her husband were raised on farms—Mark on a dairy farm near Burdick and she near Jetmore.

Now it’s their children’s turn to figure out the best fit for each of them, she said.

For Nick, their young entrepreneur, it’s about learning a business, starting with young turkeys, known as poults, and all the work that goes with that.

In addition to more than 120 poults, which will soon be free-range, Nick has 300-plus Barred Rock chicks.

“We raised chickens (when I was a child),” Marsha said, “but not nearly this many. I was used to having two dozen or so at a time.”

Poultry isn’t the only thing the Meyers family raises. The family also has sheep and cattle, along with a rabbit, two dogs and a lot of cats and kittens.

Even though the parents help, most of the animals belong to the children, who are responsible for their care and feeding.

“We are lifelong 4-Hers,” Marsha said. It’s something she and her husband have passed down to their children.

Nick, a sophomore at Marion High School, is active in 4-H and FFA, but has also been teaching his younger siblings about showing animals.

Mark teaches agriculture classes and is the FFA adviser at Marion High School, Nick said he learned a lot about raising chicks from his parents.

Marsha said she and Mark had contracts as growers with Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch in Lindsborg ever since they moved to their five-acre place 17 years ago.

Once Nick was old enough, he decided to buy the laying flock from his parents and start his own business.

“I sell the (Barred Rock) eggs to Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch and then buy them back after they have hatched,” Nick said. “They must be fed and watered all the time and I check their temperature to make sure it’s not too hot or too cold.”

Once they are old enough, Nick will put them in the pasture. In about four months, they are ready for market.

“Everybody (turkeys and chicks) will go free range, but the turkeys go out first,” he said.

Because Nick is still in school, his dad helps him with the chores in the morning.

When school dismisses for the summer, Nick said he will be up at 5:30 a.m. to do the chores himself before heading for weight training.

“I am also involved in football and track,” he said.

Possibly by next spring, Eliza­beth said she hopes to establish a partnership with her brother to grow and sell the poultry.

It’s not an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job living in the country.

“Sometimes the final feed for the chicks isn’t until 7 p.m. or even later,” Nick said.

“One of my goals is to get a laying flock year round,” he said.

All three children are also involved in 4-H and show sheep and cattle.

“I got a lot of my background on shows from Nick,” Elizabeth said. “I started showing sheep and then cattle. As I kept going and going to other shows, I realized how much I enjoyed doing it.”

Elizabeth said she has been to two spring shows this year and sister Cassie has been to one.

Cassie said she likes going to shows and was able to show one of the newly born lambs in Herington.

Cassie said she would like to raise a hog as one of her 4-H projects, but her parents aren’t thrilled about that idea.

“It’s mainly about space,” Elizabeth said.

The girls are also involved in photography, baking and arts and crafts. Elizabeth said she sewed her first quilt last year and looks forward to more photography.

“I feel like I have to try something to know if I am going to like it or not,” she said.

Cassie said she enjoyed a project she did last year involving painting and decorating a wooden bird.

As for living in the country, all three children enjoy it.

“It’s quiet and peaceful here,” Elizabeth said.


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