Growing with Purpose

By Brandelyn Twellman

Reflecting on the growth he’s had on the family farm over the past five years, Brock Aylward said his high school years have looked a little different than a typical student’s might as he started taking more ownership in his family’s operation.

“I started riding in the tractor or combine with my dad when I was very young,” he said. “Over the past five years, I’ve stepped up, and every year I’ve tried something different. This year, I did run the planter instead of just filling it up and running back and forth to get fuel. I’m actually starting to get more tractor time.”

Brock Aylward

Brock grew up on Aylward Farms, farming with his dad, Doug, and grandpa, John. The family produces corn and soybeans in northeast Missouri and southeast Iowa. Brock said the operation has recently been expanding. He has even bought land of his own.

“Three years ago, I bought my second farm,” he said. “It’s 90 acres of bottom land. Buying that piece, I think, really put me into the operation because I had to make those payments and make some harder decisions.”

Slowly but surely, Aylward’s experiences on the farm have evolved.

“In the spring, I’ve been helping with planting and tillage work,” he said. “I also drive around and fill planters. Throughout the summer, I help with spraying and am in contact with MU about our spraying process. I run the auger wagon during the school year and help with fall tillage and anhydrous. During the winter months, I also work on our equipment and do general maintenance.”

He also helps with trucking throughout the winter when he is not in school. In addition to hands-on tasks, Aylward has also started becoming more involved in the decision-making process on the farm.

Harvest at Aylward Farms

“Usually, my grandpa and dad are in constant communication about our operation,” he said. “This year, I have been more involved in conversations talking about grain prices, machinery and more operational decisions.”

This year, he has been involved in making several tough decisions on the farm. He said they had several acres of prevented planting, so they had to work together to determine the future of those fields.

Working up to these responsibilities has not always been a walk in the park. It has taken a lot of time and dedication on Aylward’s part.

“I don’t play a lot of sports, just golf, so I have more time to farm,” Aylward said.

“I come work after school and feel like my dad has given me more responsibility on the farm than some people my age because of it. I’ve just been around it for so long that he trusts me.”

Aylward said his biggest takeaway from working on the farm throughout high school has been learning how to better manage his time. He likes to look at the big picture and break it down into smaller tasks in order to stay on top of his busy schedule. He has even integrated time spent on the farm into extra-curricular activities in school, especially FFA.

He participated in several FFA Career Development Events, including Soils and Farm Management. Aylward said the knowledge he gained through those experiences have informed several operational decisions he has made. He has also turned everyday life on the farm into his Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE).

“My SAE in FFA is Grain Production – Placement,” he said. “So,
my SAE is working for Aylward Farms. I take those tasks I do on a daily basis, talk to my advisor about them and use them as my SAE.”

His work on the farm has also benefitted from participation in several FFA activities, including speaking events and being an area officer.

“Speeches have definitely helped me with communication,” Aylward said.

“Working on the farm, I have seen that communication is very important to the operation in allowing everyone to work together. It is an asset to the operation that allows it to run more smoothly.”

Investing in his family’s operation and spending time building his SAE has paid off for Aylward. He won the Missouri FFA Grain Production – Placement Proficiency Award this year and was named a National Proficiency Finalist. He was able to represent Missouri by competing at National FFA Convention this November, showcasing his family farm and his SAE.

Aylward said the key to his success has been perseverance and dedication.

“You have to show up every single day ready to work,” he said.

Showing up is exactly what Aylward plans to do for the family farm in the future.

Upon graduation from Scotland County High School in May 2020, Aylward plans to study agribusiness management atMU.

“I’ve always thought I wanted to come back to the farm,” he said.

“I’ve really enjoyed every aspect of it. Now, I’m about to go off to college and the idea is still for me to come back to the farm to work full time when I graduate.”

The Aylwards are already preparing for the future of the operation. All three operators are looking forward to Brock’s transition to working full-time on their farm.

“That’s why we’ve started expanding,” Brock said. “In five years, I’ll be coming back with fresh ideas and a younger person’s mentality. We’re already having conversations about what we’d like to be doing.”

While he knows he will enjoy his experience at MU, Aylward is already looking forward to coming back home to the family farm.