The very best part of the Kansas Corn Tour back in September (besides having a sweeeeet hotel all to myself! Hallelujah.) was the evening we spent at a local Wichita restaurant dining with farming couples from all over Kansas. The other bloggers on the tour have echoed my sentiments in that we unexpectedly became captivated quickly by these farmers and their stories. Though we share many similarities as hard-working parents and spouses, we also have many differences as far as our daily routines and lifestyles go.
I reached out to Kim Baldwin, one of the wives I dined with, and asked if I could interview her about a few of the things we talked about, as well as a few questions we didn’t get around to discussing in person.
If you’re one of those people who genuinely enjoys learning new things, especially about other cultures, traditions, and lifestyle, I know without a shadow of doubt you’ll enjoy Kim’s interview below! We’ve only met a couple of times, but she is truly such a warm, passionate woman and I’m so appreciative of her time spent sharing about her family’s lives as farmers.
Q: Hi Kim! Would you mind briefly introducing yourself and telling us a little bit about your family?
A: My name is Kim Baldwin and I live in central Kansas. I am a wife to a farmer, a mama of two, and a full-time high school teacher. My husband Adam and I met online when I was teaching in southwest Missouri (Match.com worked for us!). We dated for two school years which was interesting because I’d never been in a “long distance” relationship, let alone a long distance relationship with a farmer. During his busy seasons while we were dating we wouldn’t see each other a lot, but always communicated through emails, phone calls and texts. If we did see each other it was because it had rained and he’d take a day off and drive four hours one way to see me or I’d drive four hours west to see him.
When I would see him during the busy seasons—especially during spring planting—I’d spend the majority of my weekend in tractor cabs riding with him while he planted. Adam thought it was really important that I know what I was getting myself into, so I came out to the farm during my summer break of 2009 and experienced the hustle and bustle of wheat harvest and everything else that goes on in the summer months.
That summer didn’t scare me off, so we continued commuting and seeing each other when we could. In May of 2010, Adam proposed to me in the middle of a pasture next to a farm pond. I said “Yes” and three months later I moved out to Kansas and got married. The day after we returned from our honeymoon I moved into my new classroom and he started fall harvest and we’ve been going non-stop ever since.
Our two kiddos are Banks, age 5, and Isannah, age 2.
Q: Did you and your husband continue a family farm, or are you first-generation farmers?
A: My husband Adam came home to farm with his dad, Dwight, after he graduated with an agronomy degree from Kansas State University. Dwight is originally from southeast Kansas. Dwight and my mother-in-law, Cindy, created Baldwin Farms.
Adam and I farm cooperatively, yet separately from my in-laws. That basically means that we share some equipment and labor, and have partnered in purchasing some land. But at the end of the day, Adam and I make our own business and marketing decisions and Dwight and Cindy make their own.
Q: What crops do you farm?
A: We grow primarily wheat followed for a combination of corn, soybeans and grain sorghum (also known as milo). This year we also grew popcorn for the first time. We also have a small cow-calf operation of primarily Red Angus. We also keep bees at different locations around the farm.
Q: Are you equally busy on the farm all year long or are some seasons busier than others?
A: Some seasons are definitely busier than others. The summer usually is pretty busy with wheat harvest and irrigation.
Late summer—usually around the time school starts—is the start of our fall harvest season where we harvest our corn, soybeans and milo.
In late September we start sowing wheat and continue our fall harvest. Once the wheat is planted and the fall harvest is over, things slow down a bit.
Usually in October or November, the calves are weaned from their mothers and all of the cattle are moved to their winter home as they prepare for calving. The cattle require more attention from us during this time since we begin to supplement them more and are moved to our maternity pens during their last few months of pregnancy.
The cattle start calving in March. Calving season requires multiple daily checks to make sure everyone remains healthy and we can offer calving assistance to any animals that need help. Since it’s winter, we also make sure their water hasn’t frozen and we give them hay and additional rations.
Following calving, we then transition into corn planting followed by soybean and milo planting. If the stars align just right, we’re done planting before wheat harvest begins; but that’s only happened twice in the seven years I’ve been here! Phew!
When people ask me if I we ever have a calmer or slower time on the farm so I can see my husband, I usually tell them that January and February is our “down time”—the proof is our two October babies. Haha!
Q: What role do you play on the farm, and how do you balance that role while also teaching full time and raising your two children?
A: My role is primarily providing support on the farm. During the times of the year when the guys are in the fields, my mother-in-law and I share food delivery duties to the fields. I make parts runs, shuttle men to the different fields, help move equipment, deliver seed to the fields, etc.. I also provide the steady monthly income and the health insurance from my job teaching. I also try my hardest to maintain the routine duties around the house and try to keep our two kids on a schedule—even when we’re in a busy season.
My teaching schedule allows me to be totally present and available during wheat harvest—which is awesome! I can’t imagine not being around full-time during wheat harvest.
The fall can get pretty rough at times for me (and the kids) simply because we are back in school and the kids and I have a more set schedule. Some nights the kids won’t see Adam because he comes home so late. There’s a lot of FaceTiming and meals delivered to the fields just so we can see Adam for a short time.
Professionally, I try to utilize my time at work as efficiently as possible—many days working over my lunch break—to try and get as much accomplished so I don’t have to take work home. I’ve learned that I can’t get some work done at home sometimes—especially grading essays since I don’t have that “down time” from the kids. I really just try to maximize my work days as efficiently as possible before picking up the kiddos from the babysitter, delivering supper to the fields, feeding the kids, playtime, bath time, bedtime, etc.
My mother-in-law is a HUGE help! I really don’t know what I’d do without her! She helps watch the kids when I have school responsibilities. She also really steps in to cover Adam when his schedule doesn’t allow him to be available to help with the kids.
I have my go-to babysitters that I utilize on occasion when I want to go out to dinner with friends. I also hire out help during certain times of the year. I have found that it relieves a lot of stress for me and saves me time if I allow someone else to clean my house or complete other tasks for me. My right-hand gal mostly during the summer months is a former student of mine, Kayla. We joke that she is the second me—she can change diapers, prep lunch, attend story hour, bake dozens of cookies, organize closets, entertain kids, fold the laundry, go grocery shopping, etc.I don’t know why she agrees to help me every summer, but she does and I am so thankful that she is there to help!
Q: What are some of your favorite things about raising children on a farm?
A: I love the freedom the kids have being on the farm. I can kick them outside and watch them from the window play in the orchard or ride their bikes on our road without me hovering. I want them to develop their independence and I think the farm helps in that development. There is so much for them to explore on the farm as well. Adam will take the kids out to the pastures and explore and pretend they are on safari or are ninjas, or whatever their imaginations allow them to be.
They really also have a connection with nature. My kids get to witness and develop their understanding of the life cycle from birth to death on a regular basis. They get to see wildlife in our “front yard”. They can see what happens when a seed is planted in the ground and also enjoy the fruits of that seed.
They can go outside at night and see the stars shining brightly in the sky because it’s dark. My kids can see God and what He has created so clearly on the farm.
I also like how the kids are part of the farm. They get to see their daddy and grandpa work together and both men incorporate the kids into their work. I really like that our kids can see how hard we all work because they are helping as well. It’s allowing us to raise kids with moxie and grit and recognizing the value of hard work.
Q: How close is your nearest town, and how often do you go? When do go, do you stay for a while and knock out all of your errands at one time?
A: We live 8 miles outside of the town that I teach in—Inman. I am pretty lucky that Inman has a grocery store, a couple of cafes, and two gas stations. I can pick up that extra gallon of milk or loaf of bread, or call in a to-go order on any given day when I’m at school. McPherson is about 10 miles away and Hutchinson is about 25 miles away. Amazon Prime is also my friend.
Q: What are some of the more difficult aspects of being a farming family that non-farmers are likely unfamiliar with?
A: It’s definitely NOT a 9 to 5 job. We put in long hours here on the farm. Those hours generally revolve around the weather. If it rains you can rest, but if it’s dry you work.
Being able to plan in advance can get pretty tricky during certain times of the year. I can’t ever plan a vacation in June or July because none of us ever know when we’ll be done with wheat harvest, and wheat harvest is the top priority. It’s the same with attending weddings and other events that require RSVPs. It’s so hard to plan in advance which can be frustrating at times.
Another aspect that some people may be unfamiliar with is the fact that my husband doesn’t get a monthly paycheck, and when he does get paid it isn’t a fixed amount. His paycheck depends on so many variables from crop yields to market prices and even production expenses. Although my steady salary creates some income “normalcy”, budgeting is still difficult at times. There are some months where we spend very little because we are waiting for harvest so we can get paid. There are also some months when we make multiple large purchases because harvest has just wrapped up and we’ve been able to sell our grain and have received payment.
Q: What are your general thoughts about the GMO/organic food craze that we as consumers are constantly hearing about?
A: On our farm we grow both GMO and non-GMO crops using conventional methods. We know that both types of our crops are safe and healthy. I support food choices based on facts instead of fear, and there is a lot of unfounded fear and confusion concerning food right now. The best advice I could offer to those concerned about how food is grown is to ask a farmer.
Q: How difficult is it to be a first-generation farmer? Why?
A: You face plenty of difficulties whether you are a first-generation or a fifth-generation farmer. We all struggle when the markets are bad; we all struggle when Mother Nature doesn’t do what we need done; we all have bills to pay and contracts to fulfill. Farming is full of risks and difficulties for all farmers—regardless of the generation.
Q: Anything else you’d like to share with us about farm life?
A: I love living on and raising our kids on the farm. Being a farm wife isn’t for the faint of heart, but neither is being a farmer. The biggest goal for us is to take care of the farm and the land so that it can take care of us and future generations. We want this farm to be around so that if our son or daughter would like to take it over some day, they can. Living on a farm has really helped me grow in my faith. There are so many unknowns and things that are out of our control when it comes to farming. We have to be willing to trust that God will provide.
Q: Where can we find you on social media?
Thank you so much, Kim!
More: My first visit the Baldwin family farm with Hadley in 2015 | Behind the scenes with the Kansas Corn Tour
- I’d love to let Kim know that this interview helped teach readers something they previously didn’t know! What is one or two things you read here today that’s new to you?