Farming a 'Dream Profession' for Soybean Association Leader

December 1, 2015 09:00 PM

USDA says soybean growers are on pace to harvest the largest crop in history, even as many key growing areas saw their fair share of weather challenges.

American Soybean Association President Richard Wilkins farms in Greenwood, Delaware. Like National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling, Wilkins says living and farming near the Chesapeake and Delaware bay areas bring its own set of unique challenges.

Harvest is always Richard Wilkins' favorite time of year.

“By the time the moisture came, it was too late to set any more blossoms,” said Wilkins, the incoming president of the American Soybean Association, who knows yields are going to be down for at least one crop at his Greenwood, Del., operation.

“So our corn crop was about 80 bushels an acre higher than our APH history," he said. "However, our soybeans are probably going to be 5 bushels to 10 bushels per acre lower than what their APH yield history has been."

Despite the challenges this growing season, Wilkins is doing exactly what he always wanted to do: farming. “It’s my dream profession. It always has been since I was a young child,” said Wilkins.

The Wilkins family has worked the soil along the East Coast since immigrating here from Europe decades ago.

“When I was sixteen years old, my father sat me down and said, 'If your ambition is to be a farmer, I would want you to do something else. But if your ambition is to be a farmer, you have to figure out a way to do it on your own,” said Wilkins.

That’s what he did.

“The first three acres, I rented as an FFA project. I grew soybeans there,” said Wilkins.

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He rented ground, grew and diversified the operation.

“I had other career choices. I could have taken something that likely would have given me the same or more income while working fewer hours and in a cleaner environment, but (farming) was my passion and this was my love. Fortunately, I met a young lady that shared that passion and vision, and we became husband and wife,” said Wilkins.

In addition to the farm, the pair run a retail seed and feed farm store. “Most days I would probably be in the store waiting on customers,” said Donna Wilkins.

They grow multiple crops, including vegetables and lima beans.

“We had dryness hit us in August and September, so we had a lot of blossom and pods drop off the lima beans, but they made respectable yields at 750 pounds to the acre,” said Wilkins.

Beans that don’t make the grade end up back at the farm as feed for their herd of cows and calves.

“I’m thankful every day for my family and for the opportunities that we have to be able to live the life that we have and farming is a great life. It’s a great family life,” said Wilkins.

With challenges and rewards, regardless of yields, this Delaware farm family rolls through another harvest season, thankful for the opportunity to participate in this great American industry one more year.

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