My story isn’t necessarily all that interesting. In fact, with all that has been happening in the world, I often joke about being thankful for my “boring” life. There was no life altering moment that brought me to where I am today. I didn’t get super sick or have some bad accident or hit rock bottom, and I didn’t do some big, crazy cool thing that launched me to this moment. I honestly just trusted Jesus and found a passion I never imagined myself finding.
Let’s Back Up
was NOT raised a farm girl. In fact, I would have LAUGHED at you if you said I would live on a farm someday. I grew up in a town of 22,000 people and had BIG city dreams. I’m talking Boston or New York big. Not Omaha big. Now before I go much further, I will say that there is agriculture deep in my roots. I just never leaned into that part of me until much later in life. My dad grew up on a farm, went to college for agriculture, and started to farm as a career with his dad and brother. His mother, my dear grandmother who is 95 years young and still sharp as a tack, was born a farm girl, married a farmer, and raised farmers. My dad decided to step away from the farm when I was two years old and pursue a different career. Needless to say, beyond visiting grandma’s house for holidays, I never really spent any time on a farm.
Fast Forward to High School
I still have those big city dreams. There is still zero part of me that wants to settle down in Nebraska. I am looking at colleges and dreaming of where I might end up. Meanwhile, my parents are always in the background telling me to “drive back roads.” Teenage Jena honestly didn’t even know what they meant. I think, at the time, they were just trying to get me to calm down about high tailing it out of Nebraska the second I graduated. Although I’m sure that is part of it, I think they were mostly trying to get me to slow down and think outside the box, take the road less traveled, appreciate the moment I am currently in and not preoccupy myself with what’s to come.
Fast Forward Again
I go to college. I hate my freshman year so much, I transfer to a different university and walk away from a full ride scholarship – I can’t say I would recommend that move to anyone as I am literally still paying for that choice – BUT I also can’t say I would change that decision. There was a freedom I found in recognizing I was not ok and needed a change. I decided I would rather go into student debt than be miserable for the next three years. My new university brought me lifelong friends and so many incredible experiences. This change also brought me my husband.
Our love story is for a different day, but just know that I wouldn’t take back that decision and he loves me through my student loans! 🙂
Fast Forward One More Time
I marry Levi. A farmer. I move to the middle of nowhere Nebraska. Our closest town has a population of 47 people. Not a big city. Not even close. But I loved that man with my whole heart so it was worth giving up those big city dreams. We have our first son, Stetson. I go back to school to get my BSN through an accelerated nursing program. I graduate and start working as a labor and delivery nurse. I love being a nurse. But I am also bored on my off days. Sounds crazy I know. Through that boredom I start sharing our farm life on social media and slowly start building a community in hopes to build a customer base for our new direct to consumer beef business – that was also born out of me thinking I was bored. Each new season on the farm brought a deeper connection to our family history and to agriculture. I have always craved knowledge and learning and have been asking Levi farm questions since the day we met. But being immersed in it and literally relying on it put food on my family’s table nurtured a passion I didn’t know was there. I started to realize how few people know what exactly farmers and ranchers do and telling our story lit my soul on fire in a way I’ve never experienced.
I was literally living on a back road and living the life that my parents subtly hinted at back in the day when I had the realization of what “drive back roads” really meant. Were they telling me to “marry a farmer and go live in the middle of nowhere?” No, I don’t think so. They were simply nudging me to find that thing that lit my soul on fire and find my voice in this crazy world. So now I live on that back road my parents were telling me to drive. And “drive back roads” is the motto that sets my soul on fire and inspires me to share our farm life with the world. Farmers are truly the salt of the earth. I am proud to be married to one and I am proud to be raising the future of farming. I am proud to stand next to fellow farm and ranch families and tell our story – the story of where the world’s food, fuel, and fiber comes from. The story that is often forgotten, yet is the root of life on this earth.
Drive back roads, y’all.