Growth in Moderation Helps First-Generation Farmer Jesse Daniels Focus on the Future

Settling into the sandy soils of southeast Missouri, you’ll find Jesse Daniels. As a farmer in Matthews, Mo., which is nestled in the Missouri Bootheel, he doesn’t look at a year like 2020 as a waste.

“It also gave me a good opportunity to focus on all my equipment, since last year was the first year that I’d actually had some of my own,” he says.

Daniels is a first-generation farmer, and farming the soils of southeast Missouri is something he loves and enjoys. 

“I'm happy where I am, and I’m blessed,” says Daniels. “My operation is growing and not falling backwards.”

Even though his dad farmed, his family got out of farming when Daniels was little. But something just kept drawing him back to the farm.

“I spent some time in college, kind of exploring other ideas and felt like I was just running into brick walls,” says Daniels.

So, a dead end in college prompted Daniel to take a different route, and he decided to move back home.

“I’d always had in the back of my mind that I’d like to get into farming or agriculture in some way,” he says.

After he asked other people for advice, he pursued an agriculture degree at a nearby college. He did other jobs but knew being a farmer is where he needed to be.

“I worked for another local farmer on the side and he let me use his equipment, and I have some friends here locally that they've helped me out a ton, especially the first few years getting started.”

His first piece of ground he actually rented from his grandmother. Valuable soil that wasn’t given, instead rented for market value price. And he built his business from there.

“Whether it was planting my crop or harvest and spraying, really here's always been somebody I could ask to come help if I needed it,” he adds.

He says many mentors and constant words of advice have been the medicine he needed to keep going.

“It's like my dad always told me, it's a roll the dice,” he says. There are a lot of things you're not in control of, so you just have to kind of take what comes and go with it.”

Rolling with the challenges of farming is exactly what he’s done, while still appreciating the process. From planting the seeds, to growing the crop and then harvesting the results, it’s a process Daniels views as rewarding.

Daniels’ enjoyment in farming also comes with lessons and hard decisions. In his young career, he’s already made a decision to not currently grow cotton in the middle of what’s typically known as cotton country.

“I grew cotton a few years ago, but it's not something that I can commit to really as far as needing the equipment, stuff like that.”

It’s an expensive crop to grow and one Daniels knew he couldn’t afford to continue. But it’s not stopped him from trying other new things.

“I'll be growing a little bit of rice for the first time this year, and that's something that I’ve kind of been wanting to get into as far as what I’d consider a specialty.”

Daniels’ growth as a first-generation farmer continues.

“I'd like to grow,” he says. “But I’d also like to be careful and not you know, leverage up at the wrong time.”

That growth has happened in moderation, with hopes of one day being able to own his own parcel of land.

“With the way land prices are right now, it almost seems impossible,” says Daniels. “But I’m always hopeful that one day, I’ll have a farm of my own.”

With high hopes of owning his own ground, Daniels continues to do what he knows best. He tries to make smart decisions while also knows at times, it requires taking risks.

“I’m just going to roll the dice every year and try to pay off the equipment note that I have and, hopefully, I’ll pick up some ground and I’ll just grow as the time comes.”

For Daniels, the growth is happening in moderation, but it’s a process of appreciation, as the first-generation farmer is focusing on the future instead of living in the past.

Additional "Farming the First Generation" Stories:

First-Generation Farmer Gavin Spoor Proves Passion Pays Off


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