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Starting today and continuing through harvest season, The News-Gazette will spotlight a Farm Family of the Week.

First up: the Rice farm of rural Sidney, operated by Darrel Rice; his son, Benjamin; and their families. Darrel, a 1982 Unity High graduate who played both offensive and defensive line for the Rockets’ football squad, is the fifth generation of his family to farm. Son Benjamin carried on the tradition and would rather be farming more than about anything else in the world.

To nominate a farm family for Farm Family of the Week, call Dave Hinton at 217-249-2404 or email dhinton@news-gazette.com.

How long has your family been farming?

1857 is when our ancestors purchased the 80-acre farmstead, and it’s been passed down and farmed ever since. Darrel is the fifth generation to own it, Benjamin is the sixth, and hopefully Warren and Landon will be the seventh.

Where is your farm operation?

The home base of our farm operation is southeast of Philo. All of the ground we farm is in Philo and Sidney Township.

What does your farming operation consist of?

Our primary operation is corn and non-GMO soybeans. Benjamin currently has a small cattle operation on the side with 20 head of Angus cattle, which are sold as freezer beef to friends and family.

How many people in the family does the operation support?

The farm operation fully supports Darrel and his wife, Regina. Part of Benjamin and Savannah’s income is from the farm, and the rest is supplemented with multiple farm-related entrepreneurial businesses. Darrel’s parents and siblings, as land owners, also receive significant financial support from the operation.

Do you have any members of the family in the farm operation also working other jobs?

Darrel works seasonally preparing tax returns. On top of row crops and cattle, Benjamin and Darrel are purchasing John Deere tractors, fixing them up and reselling them. Benjamin also does some mechanic work on farm equipment for some neighboring farms. He also has a custom spraying business, which sprays herbicides and fungicides with a self-propelled sprayer. Darrel has two other sons (Jacob and Caleb) who have full-time off-farm jobs but still provide crucial help during the busy planting and harvest seasons.

How have you seen farming change over the years?

The primary changes have been in the area of technology. When Darrel started farming in 1993, all planting was done at the same population using an eight-row planter pulled behind an open cab tractor. Equipment size has increased with monitors and technology controlling and mapping all applications from planting through harvest. The information generated from this technology is incredible and affects all production decisions from rates used to products applied. These advances have affected everything from the amount of work which can be done in a day to revenue per acre.

Your farm equipment: Green (John Deere), Red (Case IH) or other?

We primarily run John Deere tractors and we have a Case IH combine. John Deere planter and tillage equipment is a mixture. The operation has gravitated from red to green over three generations.

What makes farming such a good vocation?

Every farming season is different as you have different challenges thrown at you — weather, equipment issues, new products that we may try, technology, markets, etc. This job never gets old. If you stop trying new things, you will fall behind. The most rewarding part of the job is getting to see God’s hand in our livelihood as he is in control of everything. We plant the seeds and fertilize them, then we get to watch God give our crops heat and water. Last but not least would be working with family. When it’s go time and we are trying to beat the weather, everyone pitches in to get the job done. The guys work hard in the fields, and the wives keep us well fed. Being able to have your kids work alongside you when they are little all the way through adulthood is very rewarding. It’s a great way to teach a work ethic, the value of family and our dependency on God.

If you could change one thing about farming, what would it be?

With the advances in technology, it’s becoming harder to fully employ multiple family units at the same time on the family farm. Darrel and Benjamin consider themselves full-time farmers, but both supplement their income with off-farm work. Additional acres can be hard to come by, which limit expansion and the opportunity to bring more family members into the operation.

What’s the best time of year to be on the farm?

Harvest is hands down the best time of the year on the farm. You have worked countless hours all year to help give your crop the best yield potential possible. Then at harvest you get to reap the benefit of that hard work. Not to mention it’s payday. Farmers don’t get paid weekly or monthly. We get paid once a year when we haul our crops into the grain elevator.

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