Derecho Brings Opportunity for Story County Family

09-14-2021 in Article

Brian Sampson of Story County is an optimist.

“I like to be around people who think most things are possible,” says Sampson.

When the derecho rolled through his farm last year, he did not see it as an ending. He saw it as a new beginning. “I guess you could say it was the crescendo that had been building.”

Sampson and his son farm around 1,600 acres of corn and soybeans, and feed around 1,500 head of cattle each year.

It wasn’t what Sampson had envisioned.

“Farming was my job when my son was growing up,” says Sampson. “He never talked about the farm, he was into sports, and I wanted him to do what he wanted to do.” He chose a career in biology and moved to San Francisco. He was sitting in traffic when he called his dad one day with a request: “Do you think I could come back to the farm? I want my kids to have the same opportunities I had.”

“How can you resist that?” says Sampson. He and his wife moved to a condo in Story City on August 6, 2020. His son and his young family moved from California into the farmhouse the same day.

The derecho hit on August 10.

“This part of the transition was not planned,” says Sampson.

 

Building Back Better

As his son and family were settling in, the storm blew down the largest of three hoop barns on the farm, severely damaged the house, destroyed the corn crop and took down large sections of the windbreak.

Sampson tapped the Derecho Windbreak Grant Program program through the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF) to replace the windbreak. Tree availability is a challenge, but he intends to wait until rebuilding is complete regardless.

“We can’t get trees and we can’t get lumber, but we have cool plans in place,” says Sampson. “Patience is good.”

He knows he would likely be less enthusiastic, and less patient, if his son were not involved. He’s not just rebuilding for himself, he’s building for the future.

“One thing about ag, we have easy access to multigenerationalism,” says Sampson. “We all have different roles to play. Your responsibility is to fill your lane up completely.”

The funding and expertise provided by CSIF through the Derecho Windbreak Grant Program will help him do that.

Banking off its existing network of 30 trained nursery professionals from across the state in its Green Farmstead Partner Program, CSIF turned to its supporting partners for assistance with replacing derecho damaged windbreaks on livestock farms. Through the program, more than 40 farmers who suffered windbreak loss from the derecho were able to apply for financial assistance toward tree replacement.

The Green Farmstead Partner Program is a unique initiative that provides guidance to farmers who want to plant trees and shrubs around their livestock buildings, and is growing in popularity. Iowa State University research shows trees near a livestock site can reduce odor by 10-15 percent by capturing dust and odor particles and directing airflow. A vegetative buffer also offers real benefits in the form of energy cost savings, weather protection, improved building ventilation and in some cases, even provides an additional revenue stream.

Sampson has applied to NRCS for EQIP funds to replace the hoop barn with a monoslope structure. EQIP is for improvement, not expansion. Otherwise, he says he would consider growing the operation. It’s a notion that is still on the table for another day.

“Without sufficient scale, it’s hard to make it, especially for a young farmer,” says Sampson. He wants to expand now, while his son doesn’t have to carry all the risk. “If I don’t build now, he’ll have no reason to stick around.”

As before, he’ll look to CSIF for help.

 

Solid Support for Farmers

“I’ve found in my association with groups like CSIF, Farm Bureau, and other commodity groups, we need them. They are valuable partners. They help protect my farm and livelihood.”

“CSIF provides access to people I can count on,” Sampson continues. “They give me a holistic approach. Farming can seem solitary. But it’s not just about your unique piece of dirt. It’s all connected to the broader picture.”

Sampson often has people from different countries visit his farm, exchanging ideas and opening minds to new ways of doing things.

“They help me realize how much infrastructure and freedom we have here.”

Sampson considers it a privilege to be a farmer. And he’s fortunate and grateful to have the responsibility to manage his farm. He’s grateful to have industry partners that have his, and agriculture’s, well being in mind – in both good and bad times.

“The derecho changed everything,” says Sampson. “We lost our corn crop. We lost a feedlot structure two days before cattle were due to come in. My son had his home, and dream, damaged. It was the worst thing on the day it happened. But, a year later, it turns out it was the best thing, and good things are still happening.”

The Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers was created by farmers to help farmers raise livestock successfully and responsibly. It’s a partnership involving the Iowa Beef Industry Council, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Poultry Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Turkey Federation and Midwest Dairy. The non-profit, non-partisan organization aids farmers at no cost. CSIF does not lobby or develop policy. Farm families wanting a helping hand can contact the coalition at 800-932-2436.

 

(By Terri Queck-Matzie for CSIF. Queck-Matzie is a freelance writer from Greenfield).

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