Now Reading: Farm for Thought: A Family Legacy Of Forward Thinking

Farm for Thought:

A Family Legacy Of
Forward Thinking

by John Oehlerking, President, Oehlerking Farm, Inc., Elmwood, Nebraska

February 22, 2018


You might say that farming is in my DNA. As a fifth generation Nebraska farmer, I am proud of the agricultural heritage my family has established. My great, great grandfather was born in Germany and migrated through Illinois before finding his way to Murdock, Nebraska, near our current home in Elmwood, a few miles east of Lincoln. Some of the same fields that my family and I farm today were purchased by my grandfather with the assistance of my great grandfather.


My dad inherited the same work ethic and dedication as his father and grandfather. I remember at an early age, riding in the tractor cab and taking naps as he would tirelessly make his way through the fields. Like a lot of kids, my dad was my hero and I wanted to be like him. So it was no surprise that years later, after graduating from the University of Nebraska, I came home to join the farm operation.

Generations Of Wisdom

What seemed like an eternity then, but in reality was a blink of an eye, the farm’s management was entrusted to me. Today the farm’s success lies with the full support staff of my wife, kids, and my parents who are both in their mid 80s. As I watch the enjoyment my kids get from helping with farm activities, I often wonder, will they follow in our family legacy of farming? Whether they do or not is ultimately their decision, and either way, I have a few words of wisdom to share with them that were passed down to me.

Never stop learning.

My grandfather was the only son in his family to graduate high school. Since he was often at school during the day, he received grief from his family, but learned things that helped him become a better farmer, and person. He used to tell me, “Get a good education - that is something they can never take away from you.” Following my father around to countless extension field days and cooperative seminars, I have also learned that an education continues beyond a classroom. It’s more than a grade or a diploma. It’s a mindset and a willingness to be open to new ideas and ways of thinking – digital agriculture, and for me that means Climate FieldView™, is a prime example of exploring innovative ways to do more with less.

From variable-rate seed scripts at planting to yield analysis at harvest, John uses FieldView™ to do more with less.

Don’t be afraid to fail.

Even before I came home from college with the “new” idea of no- till, dad had already been one of the first farmers in the area that was looking forward and experimenting with this practice, by double cropping soybeans into wheat stubble. While his neighbors questioned him and continued with conventional ways of farming, he went about his way, ready to embrace new approaches to see if they would have positive effects. Did he make mistakes? Of course! Were they failures? Not in my eyes. By not being afraid to embrace alternative thinking, he learned what worked, and what didn’t, and taught me you can’t succeed if you don’t try.

Leave things better than you found them.

It’s a balancing act - applying the best practices for your specific fields, finding profitable ways of doing things with an often razor-thin margin, and doing all of this in the most sustainable ways. From my equipment to my operation to my fields, I always think about what my father said, “Leave things better than you found them.” From no-till to variable-rate seeding to auto-steer tractors, it’s about doing more with less in the most efficient way possible. Digital agriculture – is a big part of making it all happen on our farm. It’s just one of the ways I can help to leave my operation, and even my family legacy, a step ahead for future generations that will follow.

You each have your own legacy and your own way of doing things to lean on. I encourage you to continue to explore what works best for your specific situations and to embrace opportunities to grow personally and professionally. Though we all come from different backgrounds, we’re all in this together with a shared heritage of helping to feed an ever-growing world.

About the Author

John Oehlerking is President of Oehlerking Farm, Inc., in Elmwood, Nebraska, and a Climate FieldView™ customer, John grows corn, soybeans and pumpkins and raises a small herd of cattle for his kids for 4-H. A graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a degree in diversified agriculture, he enjoys spending time with his wife Carae, and children, Tucker (14) and Marissa (10). We are proud to have John as our first farmer to author a blog post in our FieldView series.