Nole Gerfen of the Ridgemont FFA Chapter is one of four vying for the title of Star Farmer at the National FFA Convention and Expo. The results of his competition will be announced on Wednesday, Oct. 28 at 7pm. Coverage of the National FFA Convention is powered by Wilmington College.
Like many young American farmers, Gerfen owes a lot to his family, and taking care of them is a top priority — even if it means making sacrifices on their behalf.
“I enrolled at Ohio State when I graduated high school, and my dad … broke his hip, and I dropped out to help my parents,” Gerfen said. “And six months later, Dad broke his other hip. And then Mom broke her leg.”
For the past few years, Gerfen has been raising pigs, cattle and sheep for his supervised agricultural experience (SAE) with Ridgemont FFA in Ohio. His parents are steadily recovering, but back when they were both unable to work, Gerfen said he was taking care of around 1,250 pigs by himself.
“It kind of tore me there, but I knew I had to help my family,” he said.
Despite the personal setback, Gerfen said he does not regret his choice to drop out. His family has been farming for generations, and his parents have been helping him through every step of the journey.
“Year in, year out, they’ve helped me out,” Gerfen said. “I started helping them since the day I could walk. I was carrying feed buckets for Mom and Dad to use when I was three years old.”
Gerfen said his family connection isn’t the only reason he’s involved in agriculture, though. It’s highly satisfying work for him.
“In the spring, you get to see the new livestock hit the ground, and in the fall, you see the corn coming off,” Gerfen said. “It just lights a fire in me and makes me want to do it again.”
Gerfen’s time with FFA has been immensely helpful for his farming operations, he said, particularly in the areas of soil judging and birthing livestock. Gerfen added that he would like to continue his agricultural education and go back to college someday, but he thinks it will be a while before he has the time because he is still needed at home.
“My dad … he can’t do any of the hard work,” Gerfen said. “Mom doesn’t want to do any of the hard work anymore, too, because she’s afraid of re-breaking her leg.”
For FFA members wanting to start an SAE of their own, Gerfen said his best advice is to listen to your parents.
“You may have different ideas on how things work, but they will always be there to support you,” Gerfen said.