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From pastime to passion

Hilary Stohs-Krause
Harvest Public Media

Aaron Troester’s life both did, and didn’t, turn out exactly the way he planned.

The 29-year-old farmer in the north-central Nebraska town of O’Neill was pouring honey into jars from bees he keeps when I met him. I soon learned he had a chemistry degree and had planned to go to medical school, but the lure of the land he farms with his father changed his mind.

“All through grade school, I knew I wanted to farm,” Troester said. That changed in college, but a year spent back on the farm while waitlisted for med school slowly evolved from passing the time into passion.

Now that he’s actually doing it – working the family’s 5,000 irrigated acres with his father – he says it’s a lot more work than he realized.

“But when you love your job, it makes it easier,” Troester said.

Troester straddles two different eras of agriculture; in one breath, he talks about technological innovations in farming, such as tracking the movement of equipment via GPS coordinates he could access on his phone. In the next, he talks about the pet raccoon he had as a child, Bandit, the name “every child ever” picks, he said with a chuckle.

Troester glided through the cornfields, adroitly navigating the sharp leaves and stiff stalks, checking the moisture levels in the ground. With the drought, his job has been a lot tougher than in a normal year.

Days like this - knowing that despite his diligence in the hot, dry sun, the yield will not match the work sacrificed to it - does he ever wish he’d changed his mind and gone to medical school?

No, he says. If anything, he wishes he had studied agronomy instead.

“In 20 years, I’ll probably still be standing right here,” Troester said.