Next Gen Ag: A heart for the farm

by | Jun 12, 2024

Next Gen Ag is a year long series that will run on our In The Field blog, Facebook page, Instagram page and Twitter account. Each Wednesday, we will highlight a young person pursuing a career in the agriculture industry. Individuals can be in high school, college, or recent graduates who are working to establish a career in agriculture. Stay tuned each week to meet some of our industry’s future leaders!

For a multi-generational family farm, agriculture runs through the veins of each individual. Luke West grew up on a family farm in Northern Wayne County and remembers helping on the farm from the time that he could walk. Today, he not only loves agriculture and being on the farm more than any other hobby or activity, but he also couldn’t see himself doing anything else.

From the time he could stand up on his own, Luke remembers spending time in the turkey houses on the farm with his mom. “The farm was my daycare growing up,” he said. “I would go with my mom to the turkey houses every day and play in the shavings until I was old enough to help dad with the row crops.” Luke’s family grows a variety of crops on the farm, including cotton, corn, soybeans, wheat, peanuts, sweet potatoes, strawberries, and tobacco. Although he loves working with every crop on the farm, Luke has a particular soft spot for cotton. “It’s my favorite crop by far,” he said. “Not only is the process beautiful to watch from beginning to end, but it also generates a huge source of pride when you get a good harvest and see it used in your home and throughout the community.” Not only do Luke’s parents work on the farm, but also his brother, grandmother, grandfather, aunt, and uncle. “It truly is a family operation,” he said. “We are not a corporate farm here, we are a family company, and it takes all of us to make this place successful.” Growing up on a farm caused Luke to fall more in love with it every day. In fact, agriculture is so ingrained in every fiber of his being that he couldn’t imagine himself doing anything else.

Luke recently graduated from Wayne Community College with an associate of arts degree. He is starting his first semester at NC State University this fall where he will be majoring in Agronomy with a concentration in Crop Science. He would also like to pursue a minor in agriculture and environmental technology. “We use a lot of technology on the farm today, including John Deere Operations Center,” he said. “I want to learn more about the technology in agriculture so that I can continue to cultivate and innovate on the farm.” After graduation, Luke plans to return and work full-time on the family farm, focusing on cotton, crop scouting and precision agriculture. Luke’s talents in these areas, plus his passion for the industry, are all talents that will continue to drive him forward and help him achieve his dreams. Luke and his brother also handle most of the mechanical work on the farm for tractors, combines and more. “I really am living the dream here on the family farm,” he said. “My main goal in life is to continue carrying on the legacy that my parents and grandparents established here. I love this farm. It’s all I’ve ever known, and I will do everything in my power to see it grow and succeed in the years to come.”

In addition to growing and raising crops and livestock on the farm, Luke and his family also host a variety of agritourism events throughout the year to help educate the community on the importance of agriculture in our state. Each spring they offer pick-your-own strawberries on the farm as well as pre-picked strawberries. “We want people to come out and experience the farm for themselves, whether they want to pick their own berries or simply pick some up from the farm stand,” he said. They also host an event throughout the year called “Sundays on the Farm” where they invite the community to come and enjoy food, games and more. “We want people to see that we truly are a family operation and that everything we do here not only benefits us but their families as well,” Luke said. “By visiting the farm, they gain hands-on experience with the industry, see how it functions, and learn about its importance to the world at large. Education is still a key part of this industry, and we seek to do our part in that through these events.” Finally, the Friday before Christmas each year, Luke and his family host a Christmas lunch on the farm for staff, partners, and other members of the community to show appreciation for all the hard work done throughout the year.

“All the goods that we use every day tie back into agriculture,” Luke said. “Whether purchasing food at the grocery store or buying clothes at Target, agriculture plays a role in all of it.” Although Luke loves every part of the industry, his favorite thing is running the farm equipment and watching a harvest come to fruition. “I love the pride that you feel when you see all your hard work pay off in the harvest,” he said. “Plus, the cotton picker is my happy place, so I never complain about running it or the combine on the farm. It’s a great way to enjoy the farm work and escape from reality.”

For anyone seeking a career in the agriculture industry, Luke reminds you to work hard and do things the right way. “People take notice of how hard you work and the quality of your work,” he said. “Don’t try to find shortcuts to things but do them right to start with and it will pay off in the long run. Don’t be afraid to work hard. It’s always best to be honest and put your best foot forward.” We are honored to have Luke as an upcoming leader in the agriculture industry and look forward to seeing where the future will take him!