Generational farming: a family tradition
Story and video by: Carissa Soukup, NewsNetNebraska
The Regan family
Most families have a certain heirloom or tradition they pass down from generation to generation. For many families in Nebraska, the heirloom or tradition is the family farm or ranch.
That is the case with the Regan family. Bob Regan, of O’Neill, and his brother Pat inherited their ranch from their father, Sam Regan.
Sam started the ranch in 1929, right outside of Ewing, according to Bob, and began adding on to the farm after he returned from the war in 1943.
Bob’s brother, Pat, always worked on the ranch, and when Bob returned home in 1993, the two took over the operation from their father. Today, the two brothers run the mid-sized cattle operation with the help Bob’s two sons.
Bob’s sons, Kyle, a junior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Tyler, a senior at O’Neill Public High School.
Kyle and Tyler were helping on the ranch ever since they could ride in a car seat. They would go out with their dad every calving season and do chores with him every day. Soon, they were old enough to help do chores. Kyle says that is one of the things he is most grateful for.
Generational farming is a large part of Nebraska. Bob says that family farms and ranches are vital in the community because it is what keeps a lot of smaller communities going.
The trend of family farms and ranches
Like the Regan family, there are many other families in Nebraska that depend on generational farms, but those farms are slowly dying out, according to Holt County Extension Office Agricultural Educator Gary Stauffer.
“When the ag economy is up, the youth are more willing to come back and work, but when it is down like it is today, they don’t want to come back,” Stauffer said.
He said that the agricultural college of UNL is seeing the highest rates of enrollment currently, but most won’t return to a job on the farm until their thirties.
Stauffer also said that there are fewer family farms in Nebraska, but they are larger farms. His worry is though, that the farms will slowly die out if market prices don’t change.
“It would be ideal if corn was back to $7 a bushel or cattle was $2 a pound, but that just isn’t the case,” Stauffer said. According to the USDA, yellow corn prices average about $3 a bushel while cattle sell for around $1.10 a pound.
According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, updated in March 2015, out of the 2.1 million farms in the country, 97 percent of them are family owned. 88 percent are small family farms, while the remaining 12 percent is composed of mid-sized and large family farms.
Nebraska has the second highest percentage of large family farms in the country, with 8 percent of farms being large operations, according to the census.
The importance to the Regans
“It keeps young people involved in the community, and with the younger kids coming back, you see more techniques and philosophies implemented that keeps them competitive with some of the larger ranches,” Bob said.
Kyle said that he plans to return to the ranch one day, but he wants to experience other operations first. Eventually he wants to end back up at the ranch and be able to hand it down to his children, said Kyle.