By Rob Sladek, JCS Family Farms, Supplier of Soybeans to Herbalife Nutrition
When you’ve been doing something for five generations, you get pretty good at it.
We’ve been raising soybeans on our farm outside of Iowa City, Iowa, since my great grandfather bought this place. I grew up here, my kids are here. There’s no better place in the world to raise a family than on a farm.
As a parent, my number-one job is to teach work ethic and appreciation to my children, and it happens to be that my love and my passion is farming and I want them to be a part of it with me. I can’t think of a better feeling than watching my son run up to the combine and jump in, his eyes getting really wide when he sees the lights, the sounds, the crop coming in. It takes me back to when I used to sit with my dad in the combine, and my grandpa before that.
I think the biggest change that would leave my grandpa scratching his head is our time frame. In his day, they’d plant after Mother’s Day, and today, we try to be completely done by then. But the constant theme through the generations is the love of agriculture, the passion for the work and the respect for the land.
There are certainly times where I wish I could be more involved in my kids’ life, just like I wish my dad would have been more involved in my life. But agriculture doesn’t really know any office hours. We’re out there until the job is done, and sometimes that puts stress on life outside of agriculture. You just have to keep pushing forward, because really the only payday comes in the end.
In a regular job, you measure time in hours and days and weeks. But our work is based on the seasons. It’s an art and a science. In the spring, because of the weather, we have a very narrow window for planting, and the days are long. We have to make decisions based on temperature and moisture—we go out into the field, put our hands on the ground, and feel the soil. There’s not a Farmers’ Almanac that can tell us exactly what the ideal planting dates will be. It changes every year.
In the summer, we’re evaluating how the crop is finishing out. So we might not be able to make changes on the current crop, but we use it as our classroom, for what we’ll do differently next year. We’re always learning. The summer is also more relaxed—that’s the time I can spend with my family, we do a vegetable garden and try to make the most of our vacation time.
And then, in the fall, we roll back into the long hours, working until it’s all done.
In order to get quality soybeans, you have to pay attention to detail. You need to notice the little things. From the time that you put the soybean in the ground, the spacing needs to be accurate. The nutrients in the soil have to be right. When you get that right, you get a high yield, which is how we make a living. We don’t cut corners, we try to do the best that we can because in the end, that is really what matters to us.
I think it’s pretty neat that we’re able to grow something locally here in Iowa, and it gets distributed through Herbalife Nutrition to a global market. Those products are really changing people’s lives, and it’s very comforting knowing that Herbalife Nutrition is just as passionate about producing a quality product as we are.
Here’s a secret: I don’t really think farming is a whole lot of work. I think that if you’re doing something that you love, you never work a day in your life. Watching my kids get excited about doing anything on the farm shows me that the hours that we put in and this lifestyle are all worth it.