Farmers aren’t afraid to pass along to fellow farmers the knowledge they have gleaned over the years. It’s a continuous learning experience, says Paul Compton, who speaks for the Compton family, our latest farm family of the week.
How long has your family been farming?
My grandfather and grandmother, William and Bertha Wilson, started farming in the 1890s, and in 1947, they bought a farm near Homer. My parents moved there to start farming. They also had land south of Sidney, which was also owned by my grandparents. I started farming for a living in the fall of 1972, after I graduated from Parkland College in ag marketing. Before that, I had helped them farm.
My wife, Bonnie, helps with the farming. Together we have five sons who have non-agricultural jobs. Now, the next generation is taking over. My niece, Ariel Wells, and her husband, Zach, are continuing to farm. They live in the house my parents brought up their family. Ariel and Zach have two sons, Eli and Gabe.
Where is your farm operation?
We farm in the Homer and Sidney area, as well as near Sidell and Hume.
What does your farming operation consist of? Is it strictly a grain operation, or do you also have livestock?
We are corn and soybean farmers. I also sell for Pioneer Hybrid Seeds.
How many people in the family does the operation support?
Farming is the main income for Bonnie and I, along with the Pioneer Seed business. My stepson, Ryan Mumm, is a big help with the seed sales. Zach and Ariel now farm most of the operation. My sister, Mary Compton, and brother, Ray Compton, are also landowners on some of the farm ground.
Your farm equipment: Green
(John Deere), Red (Case IH) or other?
We are John Deere customers.
How have you seen farming change over the years?
Over my 50 years of farming, many things have changed. Farms are larger with fewer farmers. Economics plays a big part of it, with inputs and equipment as well as land prices all going up. Equipment dealerships are fewer and farther apart. There once were implement dealers in many of the small towns. Many are gone along with other small-town business. If there was a Case or Oliver dealer in a town, there would be a local following of that equipment. Now there are large John Deere and Case IH dealers across Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.
Technology has really changed farming with satellite guidance for tractors, sprayers and combines. Trips across the field are quite precise, within an inch or two. Planters are very accurate with seed depth and spacing, which helps with even plant emergence. Of course, the internet plays a big role with instant communication from agronomy and marketing advisers and other farmers around the world.
The role of women has increased, not only with farming, but also in agricultural businesses. When I was younger, it was unusual to have women in ag businesses other than as secretaries. This is good for the industry, as more opportunities are available to farm or work in related fields.
What makes farming such a good vocation?
I like farming because of the growing and watching the crops develop over the season. You can reap the benefits of a season’s work at harvest. It’s nice to own and operate your own business, and I also enjoy working with my seed customers.
If you could change one thing about farming, what would it be?
It would be great if the markets and the inputs would become more stable. But we are in a world market, so this would be hard to change.
What’s the best time of year to be on the farm?
My favorite time of the year is spring. The weather is much nicer, and I plant crops with much optimism. I have benefited from my parents, fellow farmers and various ag advisers with their wisdom and knowledge. I am grateful for the opportunity to farm with my wife and family.