RUSHVILLE – From a very young age, recent Purdue graduate Mason Gordon knew farming and agriculture was in his blood. His passion for the ag industry continues to grow day by day and year by year.
“My grandpa Larry and my dad Mike are to credit for my passion for agriculture. Growing up, my fondest memories occurred behind the wheel of an Allis Chalmers tractor or a Gleaner combine,” Gordon said. “Although my additional passions may take me away from the family farm, continuing their legacy is a major reason why I want to find any way to remain involved.”
Gordon graduated from RCHS in 2015 and was heavily involved in the Rushville FFA Chapter. He was a 10-year 4-H member and was elected the 2015-16 Indiana FFA State Southern Region Vice President. As a part of those duties, he traveled the state promoting agriculture, agriculture education and FFA.
After his year of serving with the state FFA, Gordon attended Lincoln Land Community College and was a member of the livestock judging team, traveling to 14 different states to compete. After earning his associates degree in 2018, Gordon transferred to Purdue University and graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Economics.
This fall, he will get the honor of pursuing his master’s degree in Rural Futures Planning and Innovation in Galway, Ireland, as a George J. Mitchell scholar.
All of these experiences and lessons learned has just increased his passion and dedication to the ag industry. One main lesson learned has been responsibility, something his dad fostered in him very early.
“The firsthand experience of responsibility. I showed hogs for 10 years at the Rush County Fair. Although I was young and inexperienced, my hogs were truly mine. I was responsible for feeding them each day, cleaning their pens, keeping them healthy, and writing thank you notes to everyone that helped along the way,” Gordon said. “As silly as it may sound, I truly believe I’m self-sufficient today because my dad forced me to make the necessary phone calls to set up visits with show pigs growers when I wanted to find my pigs for the year and to Dr. Doug when my pigs weren’t quite acting healthy. Getting out of my comfort zone early in life has allowed me to accomplish many great things.”
Although the farming lifestyle is not for everyone, Gordon loves it and would encourage young people to give it a try. For those that can’t understand why anyone would want to do this tough, demanding work, Gordon has some advice.
“I would encourage anybody with that thought process to spend a day with a farm family. Sure, the work is tough, and you miss leisure time along the way, but love for the lifestyle is what keeps farmers pursuing the way-of-life,” Gordon said. “Daily, this passion is evident by the inability of a farmer to walk away from an opportunity to hop behind the seat of their favorite tractor or care for their favorite animal. It truly is a lifestyle that is difficult to understand until you experience it firsthand.”
As passionate as he is about agriculture, Gordon knows young farmers face many challenges today.
“Finding a way to diversify revenue streams to remain a part of the farm. For many of us, we graduate from RCHS passionate about agriculture, but do not have an ability to return to the farm full-time. We must find a value-added production practice,” Gordon said.
“Agribusiness needs to be a focus of our local economic development. If we can provide opportunities for young adults that are passionate about agriculture to utilize their passion in the workforce and on the farm, we will keep our agricultural heritage strong in Rush County,” Gordon added.
Technology is changing aspects of farming. Gordon had first hand experience with this.
“The most obvious technology integrated into farming operations over the past 10 years has been guidance technology like Autosteer. When I was young, I had to plant nearly all of our corn and soybeans one particular year. I had never planted before that year. My rows were terribly crooked. All summer, I had to deal with my dad showing all of his friends my crooked rows; however, I wasn’t alone,” Gordon said. “At that point in time, only our county’s larger farmers utilized a guidance system, but now a majority of farmers use the technology.”
“This technology is only the peak of the iceberg. Now, farmers are using mapping systems to track yield and write fertilizer and seed variety prescriptions to individualize each acre of farmland. Without a doubt, innovative farmers utilizing technology will be the farmers that can withstand the difficulties of modern agricultural production,” Gordon added.
Those modern agricultural aspects of farming play a key role in farming today.
“Modern farming practices are absolutely crucial in today’s agricultural environment. The amount of tillable land is limited in the United States. This causes farmers to find new and innovative ways to become more productive and efficient to maximize profit per acre,” Gordon said. “This is why I find Cormo USA to be such a bright spot for Rush County agriculture’s future. Our farmers will be able to leverage existing resources to create a new revenue stream. New high-quality jobs and strengthened on-farm profits will be a major win-win for our local economy.”
Getting agricultural products to customers can be a challenge. Innovations like online sales and pop-up markets are aiding that challenge.
“Modern consumers want to know where their food comes from. As a result, direct to consumer sales, which were once considered a thing of the past, are now becoming viable again for farmers,” Gordon said. “A great example of this is Souder Farms in Rush County. Their customers are loyal because they get to interact with Steve, Holly, and their staff each time they visit the Souder Farms market. Purchasing food from a familiar face equates to safety for the modern consumer. And safety is the top food demand trend.”
For young farmers, getting started can be difficult. Land might not be readily available. There are avenues for young farmers to search for help.
“Become familiar with new farmer programs. There are numerous opportunities afforded by legislation that allow new farmers to get in the game. Also, there are plenty of landowners out there that are looking to get the next generation involved,” Gordon said.
“Become involved in local, regional, state, and federal opportunities. Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer organization and Purdue Extension are both great avenues to learn from industry veterans. If you haven’t already, take agriculture classes and become active in FFA in high school. I’m also a firm believer that a Purdue degree can allow you to expand your horizons and become an innovative producer.”