NEW HAVEN, Ind. — Though agriculture encompasses jobs far
beyond the field, some youth are committing to a life spent in production
Austin Miller, grandson and nephew of Larry Coomer and Dan
Coomer of Coomer Bros. farming, is one of those youngsters.
Knowing that he had to pay for his tuition, the young farmer
stayed home after graduating from high school to work on the family’s corn,
soybean and wheat operation nine miles east of New Haven before attending
Indiana University-Purdue University in Fort Wayne for two years and then
transferring to the main campus, then earning a degree in agribusiness
“Agriculture is something I’ve always worked with and done —
I have a strong passion and appreciation for what my grandpa and my uncle have
done over the last 40 to 50 years,” he said.
Miller said he had gotten used to attending farm shows and
seminars where he was the youngest person in the audience, sometimes by as many
as 30 years.
“The average age of the farmer is getting older, so it
drives me to want to get more involved — I like to work on the farm. It’s very
rewarding,” he said.
Miller said he basically is involved in everything that
happens on the farm, from equipment and machinery maintenance to cleaning grain
bins, planting, spraying and bookkeeping.
A typical day in his life usually involves waking up,
checking the markets after going to the farm and, this time of year, catching up
on bookwork. He said he really enjoys working in the shop, but strives to spend
more time organizing and planning farm priorities.
“Our main shop is in Payne, Ohio, but the majority of the
ground we own and rent is in Indiana,” he said. “We’re sitting pretty good as
far as soil moisture goes. A lot of my responsibility involves getting the
planter in the shop and fine-tuning it.”
“We tend not to focus on the past rather than get ready for
the future regardless of what’s going to come — we’re not making any different
arrangements because of the drought we had last year.”
Miller has two younger brothers, one who is a student at
Indiana University majoring in political science with a minor in criminal
justice who will have enlisted four years of active duty in the ROTC after he
graduates from college this May and another who is starting his first year of
school at Purdue.
While the oldest younger brother does not enjoy shop work
and farm work, Miller said his younger brother enjoys working on the farm and is
leaning toward a major in agriculture or engineering.
Miller said one of the big challenges on the farm is lack of
capital for investment in machinery and farm ground, as well as high cash rent
He said it would be very difficult as a beginning farmer to
get into farming if he didn’t have a family who already was invested in the
Another challenge for production agriculture is volatility
in market prices, which Miller said the family must stay on top of all the
He said his uncle works at Central States Enterprises as a
grain merchandiser and his grandpa is very savvy when it comes to taking
people’s advice and making his own marketing decisions, but otherwise, the farm
does not have a marketing agent.
“It will be a big challenge for me going forward to become
wiser in both my business and marketing,” he said. “I need the farm heritage and
background just for the overall investment in the farm. I don’t think there’s
any way I could do what I’m doing here unless I were working closely with
another existing farmer.”
Miller said that he always has had a strong desire to work
on the farm, but confronted the uncertainty of whether he could make a good
He added land sales and cash rents in his area are very
competitive and that his family works to gain ground to make a better
“As much as you try to individualize yourself, it’s hard to
compete,” he said. “It’s all about the bottom line, trying to make a better
relationship with a fellow farmer who is of retirement age.”
Miller said the farm scenario will be interesting to see 10
to 20 years down the road.
In 10 years, he hopes to be running a very profitable and
efficient farm, he said.
“There is a lot of pressure on young farmers to try and meet
this new demand for corn and soybeans and all commodities in general,” he said.
“I feel like it will be a very steep slope to climb in the next several years,
and we hope to meet those challenges in a better than average way, or at least
as best as we can.”
“This farm may have the opportunity for growth, so I’ll be
careful in recognizing that situation if it arises, but we’ll keep it a corn and
soybean farm for the time being,” he said.