Colfax couple Young Farmers of Year at meeting

By James Ronald Skains
Journal Correspondent

Ryan and Danielle Yerby of Colfax were named Young Farmer/Rancher of Louisiana for 2016 during "Awards Night" at the 94th Annual Louisiana Farm Bureau Convention held at the New Orleans Marriot on June 24. Their top prize was a brand new $40,000 2016 Chevy Truck and an all-expense paid trip to the Annual American Farm Bureau Convention to be held in Phoenix in January 2017, where the Yerby's will compete for the American Young Farmer/Rancher of the Year Award.

"We were not real active in the LA Farm Bureau until just a few years ago," Ryan Yerby told the Piney Woods Journal. "A couple years ago at the urging of Carey Martin with Farm Bureau we will filled out the paperwork to enter the Farmer/Rancher of the Year award. We did not expect to win because the competition was really tough."

"When we made it to the final three, we were very pleased just to be in the top three,'' Yerby acknowledged. "The other two entrants were Amelia and Russell Kent of Clinton who have an outstanding beef cattle operation, and Kacie and Derrick Luckett of Pride who have a unique vegetable products farm aptly named, Community Supported Agriculture."

"I'm so glad since we joined the LA Farm Bureau," Danielle interjected. "Ryan and I both were involved in 4-H and the FFA in years past. I had lost contact with a lot of my friends from those days, but when we joined Farm Bureau we found them all involved in Farm Bureau."

"I like to say that in many ways Farm Bureau is like a grown up version of 4-H and FFA. Farm Bureau is just like the organizations of our younger years, a big happy family. However, Farm Bureau does so much more. Farm Bureau provides us with so much needed information about farming, insurance, and banking, crop loans, market conditions and many, many more other important things that help us to survive and thrive in farming and ranching."

"The LA Farm Bureau has been a blessing for us. Once we became members of Farm Bureau we got very active in our parish Farm Bureau organization," Ryan explained to the Journal. "It wasn't long until Danielle and I were in leadership positions."

"It is real easy to get excited about Farm Bureau when recruiting new members because we have experienced firsthand just how much help it was to our farming operations. The Grant Parish chapter of the LA Farm Bureau has become one of the more active Farm Bureau parishes in the state. What amazes me is how broad of a scope the Farm Bureau has for helping their members."

"Farm Bureau has active statewide committees on just about every aspect of Agriculture and Forestry. A tree farmer, who raises a few cattle or other livestock on the side, also qualifies for membership. Farm Bureau is a big voice in Baton Rouge and Washington on issues that affect farming.

"You don't have to be a full-time farmer or rancher to qualify for membership in Farm Bureau," Danielle pointed out. "If you raise beef cattle, sheep, hogs, or poultry on a small scale and have a regular job outside Agriculture you can still enjoy all the benefits the LA Farm Bureau. Ryan is full time here at the farm, while I still have a day job with the CENLA Chamber of Commerce as Communication Director and Event Planning. After work, I head home to become a farmer's wife again and help Ryan out with the farm operations, as well as on the weekends."

It was not always farm life for Ryan and Danielle. Ryan grew up on the land where he and Danielle now live, southeast of Colfax on La 492. Ryan left the farm of his Dad and Mother after high school and went to LSU to major in Agri-Business.

"Danielle and I met at LSU," Ryan explained. "She was from the Acadiana area near Eunice. She was at LSU majoring in Mass Communications when we met."

"After LSU, I took a job with Sunshine Equipment, which is the John Deere dealer below Baton Rouge in the river and bayou parishes in Louisiana. Danielle got a job in her field of study. We lived down in the sugar cane area of Louisiana where most of my customers were sugar cane farmers. I almost had to learn a new sector of Agriculture because back home in Colfax, my dad had grown cotton, soy beans and corn. We enjoyed our time in south Louisiana, but in the back of our minds, we always knew that one day we would come back home to farm. It was in my blood."

"We had bought a house near Thibodaux and were beginning to settle into working in the corporate world when my dad and mom asked us to come home one weekend for a family meeting. When I graduated from LSU, my Dad was farming a little over 1,000 acres, but that was not a large enough operation to support two families. During our family meeting, my Dad explained that in his opinion, he was either going to have to increase his farming operation considerably or cut back to what he could handle by himself with occasional help.

Getting good reliable help who enjoyed farming was becoming more and more difficult."

"At that meeting we decided to move back to Colfax and become full-time farmers," Ryan added. "We already knew that one day we would be making that decision, but we were expecting it to be later, rather than sooner. We moved back to the farm with a plan of action that we would actually have two farms in one."

"We would operate, cultivate, and harvest as one operation but each would be separate financially. That plan has worked very well for our family. Dad now farms about 1,800 acres and Danielle and I farm 1,000 acres. Dad was always a stronger believer in having our own grain storage bins on site. That way we don't get in a bind in harvesting season for trucks. Also, having the grain stored on your farm helps with getting the best price possible."

"Before our first planting season, Danielle and I had to make our crop loan for the year which was $200,000. When we got home, we looked at each other and said somewhat in disbelief, "What have we done and what are we getting ourselves into?"

"However, we have truly been blessed. We paid off our crop loan that first year and each crop loan thereafter," Danielle, who is of the Catholic faith and Ryan, who is of the Methodist faith, noted. "Ryan likes to tell people when we talk about our faith, that our little family is "Metholictic." We have a gorgeous and vivacious two year old daughter named Reagan who is in the process of learning her farm and ranch vocabulary."

"Reagan can already tell the difference in cotton, soy beans and corn. She can't properly say "cotton" but she recognizes it. When we are on the highways in the area and passing farm land, she is always telling her dad what she kind of crop she sees and she usually gets it right. Reagan loves the cows we have, which is about 30 head. When the cows come up close to the fence, Reagan goes out and talks with the cows. They actually respond to her and when they see her come out to the fence they come over in a hurry."

"Since our first year in 2009, we've made money two of those years, two other season was positive money wise and a couple years were just break even because of rain and droughts. This year we are optimistic despite all the weird weather patterns so for, that we will have a good year on the farm financially," Ryan Yerby added.

The younger Yerby's are also operating the family pecan orchard. Previously Ryan's dad had operated the pecan orchard on halves with harvesters, but Ryan and Danielle calculated they could buy tree shakers and pecan harvesters and make more money from their pecans. Between the two Yerby farms combined have about 1,300 pecan producing trees. Now, Ryan and Danielle are members of the Board of Directors of the annual Louisiana Pecan festival that occurs each November to spotlight local pecan industry.

The Yerby's are also on the Community Action Panel the local Clean Harbor facility. Within Farm Bureau activities and programs both Ryan and Danielle are active supporters of the Ag In The Classroom program.