GREENWOOD, Ind. — David Stephenson wanted to be a farmer from the time he was 6 years old. He remembers watching his uncle milk Holsteins on a dairy farm and will never forget the day his uncle brought home a brand new Allis Chalmers 190XT tractor.

It would be years later, after working and raising two sons with his wife, Cindy, before he would retire and begin pursuing his dream of farming.

“It’s been a big learning curve, learning the business side of it,” said Stephenson, who has been farming for four years. “I’ve tremendously enjoyed it. It’s something I wanted to do my whole life.

“No one in my family farmed other than my Uncle Otto. As a young boy, I would go up and spend a few weeks in the summer with him. It was around 1966.”

When his uncle died milking cows in the barn a few years later, Stephenson had no other farm experience until high school. He worked for a farmer in Franklin and afterwards was unable to start his own farm because of high startup costs.

“I retired from Rolls Royce and I started farming my own ground and other people wanted me to farm their ground,” he recalled. “It just kind of went from there.”

As much as he loves agriculture, Stephenson’s story is about much more than becoming a farmer. He also serves as pastor of a church in Greenwood.

“Pastoring is first and foremost in my life,” he said. “The church I pastor at is called the Restoration Church, and I love seeing lives transformed, especially people who were struggling in life. To see their lives change and be able to put the pieces back together, to be able to be productive once again, that’s one of the things that really makes me proud.”

Stephenson also enjoys designing church buildings and loves the construction phase. Perhaps it is the same love for growth that draws him to agriculture.

His church started as a Bible study with 16 people in the living room of his house.

“The church grew, and we asked the Lord to provide a building,” he said. “We bought an old machine shop in Greenwood a year later. That became our home. And then we built another brand new church four years later and moved there.”

Stephenson estimates that the size of the congregation now is around 130 people when everyone is there at the same time.

He feels that agriculture and religion are tied together in an important way.

“I feel a definite connection,” he said. “While farming, you get to see the things that God has in store for us that grow. There are sometimes that it grows under adverse conditions, and you know only God could allow that to happen.

“There are sometimes when I’m out in the tractor, out in the middle of a field, and I might see a big red-tailed hawk. It takes you back to the part of nature that you normally are not close to. I love to smell the dirt being turned. The sky. The sun. I’ve been in the tractor when I’m seen some of the most beautiful sunsets. You get away by yourself, and sometimes I’ve had the Lord deal with me even in messages I speak here in church from ideas he’s given me out in the fields.”

His four grandchildren enjoy spending time with him on the tractors. He said that they have ridden in the combine and seen the corn come in, and he looks forward to teaching them more about farming as they grow.

On top of being a pastor, farmer and a grandfather, Stephenson has served on the Clark Pleasant Community School Corp. for 15 years. He has served as president, vice president and secretary. Currently, he is a board member.

Stephenson also hopes to get involved in 4-H by joining the Johnson County Fair Board in the future.

He is grateful for his farmer friends who have helped him learn the ropes. The local farming community welcomed Stephenson and encouraged him throughout his first few years farming, he said.

“I eat lunch with my farmer buddies at McDonalds every day,” he said. “All my farmer friends are older than me, in their 70s. They are a great, tight-knit group of guys.

“They look out for each other and certainly looked out for me. They didn’t have to help me, but if it hadn’t been for them, I couldn’t have started farming.”

One of the best pieces of advice came from his close friend, Howard Young: “We will plant no matter what the weather does — we will plant when God says its time to plant.”

Today, Stephenson has an Allis Chalmers 190XT tractor, just like his Uncle Otto did. He is working on restoring it to enjoy for many years down the road.