Brian and Stephanie Perkins were honored as Richland County Outstanding Young Farmers on Friday, Nov. 4.
A slide show presentation about them and their children, Tora, Tiege and Tate, was one of the features at the 2011 Richland County Farm Women & Outstanding Young Farmer Recognition Banquet, held at The Phoenix Center in Richland Center.
Emcee Ron Fruit’s introductory remarks included the statement that the banquet provided “a chance to highlight a very busy family that is contributing to agriculture, our business community and our county’s future.”
Brian grew up on the 45 to 50-cow dairy operation of his parents, Bill and Bette Perkins, in Richland County. Brian said, “I want to produce the best yields I can and do a fair amount of research through universities.” After beginning his university education at UW-Richland, he earned an engineering degree at UW-Platteville. “After I got in the real world, I came home to follow my true love,” he said. “I use technology, research and hard work to accomplish good crops.”
The former Stephanie Shannon grew up in Richland Center and earned a nursing degree at Winona State University. She has worked as a registered nurse at Vernon Memorial Healthcare in the Obstetrics Department for more than 12 years. She said that nursing runs in her family, with her dad working as a nurse anesthetist, her mom working as a licensed practical nurse, and her brother working as a registered nurse. “It’s a way to give back to the community,” Stephanie said.
Stephanie said she finds obstetrics work rewarding. “It’s a happy experience for families,” she said.
Time management skills are a necessity for Stephanie, between her nursing career, running a downtown business, and raising three active children.
Tora, 9, is a fourth grader at Jefferson Elementary School, where, she said, art is her favorite subject. She also enjoys tap, ballet and jazz dancing, singing, and helping her mom with the baby and house chores and driving the combine with her dad.
Also enjoying driving the combine with dad are Tiege, 5, and Tate, 18 months. Tiege, a Jefferson kindergarten student, also enjoys art and likes to play football with other school kids. When asked what position he plays, he answered, “Whatever the big kids tell me to do.”
The Perkins farming operation is crop-based, with (most recently) 560 acres of conventional beans, 200 acres of organic beans, 650 acres of conventional corn, and 110 acres of organic corn. He owns close to 900 acres, with the balance rented. “I went to organic for diversification,” Brian said. He said he utilizes cover crops for weed control and to stave off wind and water erosion. “It also keeps nutrients in the soil,” he said.
He said he loves animals too, but his primary love is working with crops. “I love jumping on a tractor,” he said. Once the crops are in he still finds much work to do, including maintenance of irrigation equipment. His educational background in engineering has served him well with regards to equipment upkeep. He said, “It’s given me a lot of tools to work with and has given me new ideas. Maintenance done here saves money.” He said he feels fortunate to get help from his dad and brother, as well as from his engineering colleagues. “I have tremendous quality friends,” he said.
Brian markets about 60 per cent of his crops and stores the rest, waiting to capture higher prices in the market. Storage is a huge asset,” he said.
He uses Excel spreadsheets, putting all costs as hard numbers and then refining the calculations each year. “I make marketing and land decisions on whether I can make a dollar,” he said.
Brian is also known for holding the current world land speed record for a motorcycle at 180.185 m.p.h., set in 2001 at the Southern California Timing Association World Championships on the Bonneville Salt Flats race course in Utah. He said, “There’s nothing like it. It’s a safe place to race, but pretty exciting.”
Of his employment before he took up full-time farming, Brian said, “I love speed and mechanical things. Working at S&S Cycle was a perfect fit to learn about performance engines.”
When he’s not at work on the farm, Brian likes to be active. Flying planes, and water and snow skiing are some of his pursuits.
Stephanie saw a dream come true earlier this year when she, her sister-in-law Destiny Shannon, and their friend Melissa Sprecher opened Dreams Bridal Boutique in downtown Richland Center. “It’s something I thought about a long time,” Stephanie said. “I’m lucky to have partners with the same drive. We hope it will better the community; that people will come here and see what Richland Center has to offer.”
When asked what keeps her going with such a busy schedule, she answered, “Maybe I’m still young enough that I don’t need as much sleep…Down the road I’ll see the rewards.”
She finds watching her kids grow and develop their own personalities to be the most rewarding aspect of her life.
Brian’s priority is to sustain his farm operation while providing for his family. He said, “I want to have a good quality land base that will give my kids the option to operate some day. I also want to increase my quality of life so I can spend more time with my family.”
The message he would like to share is as follows: “There’s no better job in the world. It’s very gratifying.”
Notes for this article were provided by Ron Fruit.