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For the Veatches, farming and family go hand-in-hand

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The Veatch family are named 2009 Outstanding Young Farm Family

By Stephen Lega

Josh Veatch has been walking beside his father on the family farm for almost as long as he's been able.

"My first step was in a tobacco patch," said Josh, 25, "and that's where I've been ever since."

Today, he and his father run the farm together on land that's been in their family going back to his great-grandparents.

"I'll be the fourth generation," Josh said.

His wife, Jessica, 29, spent 21 years of her life on a farm, where she has memories of setting tobacco and stripping leaves.

Today, Jessica is a fourth-grade teacher at A.C. Glasscock Elementary School. She said she doesn't miss doing farm work, but her job is helping to support agriculture as well.

And Josh appreciates her work.

"When you're out here on the farm, sometimes you strike gold and sometimes you strike out," he said. "With her teaching that's pretty good job security."

Their efforts and their example are part of why Josh, Jessica and their 5-month-old daughter, Karli, have been named the 2009 Outstanding Young Farm Family. They received the award during the Marion County Farm Bureau's annual meeting earlier this month.

Josh said he had some idea they might be receiving some award before the banquet, but Jessica didn't.

And she really didn't know they would have to stand up to receive the award in front of the hundreds of people at the banquet.

"She looked at me like, 'I'm going to kill you,'" Josh said, smiling.

Although Josh and Jessica have both been members of Muldraugh Hill Baptist Church all their lives, it took a hurricane in Florida to bring them together. Josh pointed out that he and Jessica had never really interacted much at church because of their age difference.

When Hurricane Charley hit Florida in 2004, Muldraugh Hill Baptist Church sent a group to Florida to assist with the clean up effort. Josh's mother and sister and Jessica all went on that trip.

During that mission trip, another woman who was interested in Josh had spoken to Jessica about him. Jessica also got to know Josh's mother during the ride back from Florida.

When they returned, Josh's mother told him Jessica was interested in meeting him. Josh said he still doesn't know if his mother intentionally told him the wrong person was interested in him or if she just remembered wrong.

Either way, Josh found out that Jessica would be going on a youth group trip to Holiday World later that summer, so he volunteered to go, too. On that trip, they got to know one another, and shortly thereafter they were dating and became a family of their own.

The Veatches' family farm is a diversified operation that spans hundreds of acres. They grow everything from corn to beans, wheat to tobacco, beef cattle to hay (for the cattle).

"Anything that we can get our hands on to do, we'll give it a shot," Josh said.

This is a particularly busy time of the year, but it's also one of Josh's favorite times of the year.

"When it's harvest time and there are two combines going, two or three tractors going, two or three elevators open ... I actually seem to enjoy that," he said.

By diversifying, Josh said they are heading the advice about not putting all their eggs in one basket.

"If you've got five or six different things to pick from, surely one, maybe two, and hopefully all of them will hit," he said.

That's not to say that Josh likes doing everything there is to do on the farm.

"There's some jobs that are worse than others, but they have to be done," he said.

Josh also realizes he's one of few people among his graduating class pursuing agriculture as a career.

"I'm having a hard time thinking of anybody else," he said. "That's not to say that there isn't anybody, but it's very few."

Josh considered other options as well. He worked off the farm while he was in college, but he realized that working in a factory was not the life he wanted.

"I did not like being inside," he said.

He completed his bachelor's degree in business management from St. Catharine College, but he said he finished mainly so he would have something to fall back on in case something happens that prevents him from farming.

Jessica said Josh works hard. Sometimes that means its pretty late before he gets home, but she also knows it's something he's passionate about.

And Josh has every intention of staying in the family business.

"I like what I'm doing. I know what I'm doing," he said. "With those two things, why would I want to change what I'm doing?"