An interview by Doug Brunner with Dave Farmer. Written by Alexandra Merritt.
I was driving in to work on a Monday morning when I received a call from Doug and with complete excitement and urgency he said, "We need to interview Dave Farmer." Doug briefly summarized Dave Farmer and the importance his farming story should have to our generation’s farmers. A few short weeks later I found myself driving onto a property in Merced, CA just down the road from The Ag Center 59. We stepped out of our cars and were immediately greeted by a grinning Dave Farmer. Dave shook my hand and then asked Doug if he didn’t pay me enough to buy pants (there were holes in them ha-ha). Though he has lived a life beyond our years, you could still see the youth in his smile. Mr. Farmer and his wife, Peggy, sat us down in the farm office and our interview began.Doug Brunner:What do you tell young farmer’s that think there’s not an opportunity in ag?
Dave Farmer: Doug, I think that today, if a youngster can get involved with the right group and just work and do well and most of the, I’m not so sure about corporations and stuff like that, but most other farmers will see that in someone. I think Doug recognizes that in his crew right now. I don’t have near the crew he has. I’ve got an old worn out crew!! We’re old!! Ha-ha!
Doug Brunner: They’ve fought some serious battles out here!
Dave Farmer: What I would tell young kids today is to set your sights on the things you love to do and work on it and get with the right group and work with them. It’s just like a football team. You know, you’ve got a quarterback he’s the hero but all those guys up front protect him and they get very little credit. But if you’re the guy that protects the guy in the back, you’re gonna get recognized and I would never give that focus up if you really want to do this (being in the ag industry). Ag has changed. I can’t stay up with it, I don’t want to. I’ve been there. I’ve had fun. I’ve driven tractors year after year without even a cab. You know my ears are junk, I can’t hear anything. But right now, I’m content and I’d say to the youngsters today, you have an opportunity. You really do. It’s hard to pick and choose. First, decide what you want to do and what you wanna be involved with. If its row crops, trees, dairies – just follow that path. Let them know, I’m not just here for a check every week. I’m here for me. And I’m going to be a part of this thing someday. Please don’t overlook me.
Doug Brunner: That’s really cool. That’s really cool.
Dave Farmer: You don’t have to ride around opening doors for them and all that crap! They’ll know . Just do your job.
Doug Brunner: You just gotta walk a little faster than the guy next to you right?
Dave Farmer: Right.
Doug Brunner: In all your years, what has been your favorite crop to grow?
Dave Farmer: My favorite crop. Boy that’s hard to answer, Doug. I liked them all, really. Sugar beets were so much fun cuz you know when you harvest em and boy its just clean and everything's in a truck and it just goes away and you start working the dirt it smells good and I guess cotton has been good to us.
Doug Brunner: A staple to your ranch . . . .
Dave Farmer: . . . . But cotton’s a pain in the butt. When you get done farming it you gotta spend another $200 raking it getting rid of the stalks! I like grain, alfalfa’s good but, they’re all good.
Doug Brunner: He’s grown tomatoes. Now he’s growing almonds. So, Mr. Farmer hasn’t been just a one-man deal. He’s grown corn, grain corn, dairy corn so he’s kind of done a little bit of everything.
Dave Farmer: I think, a lot of times, what you farm will be what the demand is. You gotta kind of favor something.
Doug Brunner: Do you do anything for fun? What’s your fun?
Dave Farmer: I like cars. I like old cars.
Doug Brunner: (With a huge smile on his face) I know you like cars how many cars you got?
Dave Farmer: I don’t know . . . .10 maybe? Too many.
Doug Brunner: *Laughs* Which one’s your favorite?
Dave Farmer: I got a ’32 Ford 5 Window Coop that’s probably my favorite. It’s a fun little car with a big motor in it. I’ve been very fortunate through this business. We have built close relationships with our fertilizer people, parts companies in town, I have great neighbors. I've been very lucky. Very lucky.
Doug Brunner: Before ending, one thing I personally have to say I’ve seen with Mr. Farmer and his wife is they are just loyal to almost a fault in the way they do business. I think that’s been lost a little bit in business now a days. Mr. Farmer is very consistent, he honors the people he does business with, and that’s something I hope I carry on with me.
Dave Farmer: I appreciate the compliment, Doug. I am very fortunate and Peggy, I mean, she’s the one I go to now. I talk to her. When I'm confused or a little complicated with decisions I have to make or which way I should do things I spend time with her and she says “Well, let’s talk about it.” And she’s very good. She’s got a good ear and she’s been in this company with me long enough that if something happened to me tomorrow, she could run this place. I wouldn’t even worry about it.
Doug Brunner: And that’s something special too. I'm lucky enough that my mom and dad always worked side by side together and I see that with the Farmer’s. They are always together. Mrs. Farmer can answer the question if Dave’s not there. And I feel that you don’t really see that anymore and that is one of the main things I wanted people to gain from this interview. Not only to hear Dave’s story, which I believe is very valuable to young people, but their family farm is something that is still evident and it's something you can feel happening in this room. I can feel it. Mrs. Farmer is sitting there, Dave is next to me, his son and daughter are within a phone call away and can be to the office in a minute’s time. So, the family farm DOES still exist. To me, if you open up the dictionary and go to farmer, Dave’s picture is right there.
*Doug turns to Dave*
Doug Brunner: I mean, God blessed you with the right last name! Ha-ha! Any final thoughts?
Dave Farmer: Well, I’d like to encourage young kids more. These young kids need a stepping stone. And you mentioned it when YOU started. It’s so tough for a kid today, unless you have a background of money, it’s hard to get in there and get going. You just gotta pick what avenue you want and find out what you want to do and it WILL happen. You just gotta be there and show your worth to the elements of the farm. I mean, farm work is hard work. The farm is dusty, hot, miserable. All of your buddies and kids are up at the lake playing with the boats and you’re down on the farm because you have to change water. You just HAVE to digest that. Then, 10 years later, you just drive by em with a new boat.
As I sat there and watched Doug Brunner (34), Brian Silveira (27) and Taylor Burgees (20) stare at Dave Farmer in awe, I realized that there is so much to be said for this man and the advice he has to offer not only youth in agriculture, but youth in any industry. We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to interview Dave Farmer and spend time with his family. We hope that if you gained anything from this interview it is to do what you love and do it with passion.