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Brothers by chance, farmers by choice


Story and Photos by Hannah Lewis 9/29/2020

 

From left, Marvin, Casey, and Alex Youngerman, along with Alex's father-in-law, Bob Armstrong, gather for laughs and work during cotton harvest.
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Casey and Alex Youngerman are brothers by chance, but farmers by choice. They are the fourth generation to live and work on Youngerman farms outside Lexington, Tenn. and are First Farmers Cooperative customers and members. Together with the help of their dad, Marvin, they produce corn, soybeans, and cotton — depending on the year — while also raising commercial cattle and offering custom trucking and silage chopping to other area farmers. 


“Our great-grandfather bought this farm in the late 1800’s for the timber to supply the local railroad that no longer exists,” says Casey. “Then he met a local woman and decided to stay on and farm rather than move off and build another railroad. He had several children, and my grandfather was one of them. The farm changed hands within the family, but it eventually went to my Dad.”


Marvin attended UT Martin and where he met his wife, Lee. While there, Marvin helped found the UT Martin rodeo, sparking a love that he would pass down to his sons. Casey and Alex both enjoyed competing at rodeos until they finished high school. They both focused on timed events and competed in rodeo semi-professionally until recently. 


After high school, Casey took a break from farming to attend UT Martin where he followed in his father’s footsteps of competing on the rodeo team while pursuing an Agriculture Business degree. During his college days, Casey met his wife, Sara. After graduating from UT Martin, the couple spent some time in East Tennessee while she pursued her Masters at UT Knoxville and he worked at Knox Farmers Co-op. 


The couple moved back to the family farm and Casey and Alex started the farming partnership. While the partnership was young, Alex took the opportunity to travel and held an outside job clearing right-of-ways for pipelines. But as Casey continued to grow the farm, it became apparent Alex’s help was needed at home. 


“It was cheaper to bring Alex in,” Casey says with a laugh. “We don’t pay him anything.” 


Today, the brothers work side-by-side doing their part to help the farm continue to grow and succeed. They each have their own job roles, and their complimentary talents make the farm work easier. 


“I handle the business side of it,” says Casey. “This includes most of the purchasing, and marketing of the commodities. Alex is a really good mechanic — he can fix anything — and he also weighs in on the business decisions. We’ve both got our strengths and weaknesses that continue to keep the farm moving.”


Casey and his wife, Sara, live on part of the farm with their two sons Will 11 and Erik 9. Sara is the Dean of Math and Natural Sciences at Jackson State. Alex and his wife, Molly, live with their two-year-old son, Hayes, on the farm in a house built by his great-grandfather. Molly is a nurse at Jackson General Hospital. 


With both brothers on the farm full time, they manage corn, soybean, and cotton rotation totalling more than 2,200 acres of row crops. Their grain is marketed through Pilgrims Pride in Alabama for poultry feed, soybeans are contracted through Galvalon in New Johnsonville or Ronny Bait in Gleason, and corn is often sold to Martha White for tortilla chips. 


“We take the crops all over the place,” says Casey. “Sometimes it feels like we do as much trucking as we do farming.” 


They have several tractor trailers to haul their crops to market and to handle custom farm trucking for neighbors. They also chop silage for three local cattle farmers. 


While the duo has their plate loaded with row crops and trucking, they still manage to carve out time to raise 15 commercial cows earmarked for local farm-fresh meat. 


Both brothers are involved in organizations outside the farm, giving back to their community through service.  Casey is the chairman of the Tennessee Soybean Council, president of the Tennessee Soybean Promotion Board, and board member for the American Soybean Association. He is also a board member of Henderson County Farm Bureau, member of the Henderson County Volunteer Fire Department, and Business Board Chairman at New Hope United Methodist Church where the entire Youngerman family attends. 


Alex is chairman of the Henderson County Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers, a truck driver for the county volunteer fire department, and chairman of the church board. 


While times may not always be easy, the brothers agreed they couldn’t imagine doing anything else for a living.  


“It’s a lifestyle,” says Casey. “I grew up farming and can’t imagine doing anything else. I didn’t think I wanted this when I was my son’s age, but as I got older, especially in college, I realized it’s a pretty good place to be. And I wanted my kids to grow up farming. We’re the fourth generation to live and work it, and we hope our sons will be the fifth.” 


While some folks couldn’t imagine working so closely with family members day in and day out, the Youngerman brothers say they wouldn’t have it any other way. 


“A lot of people rarely see their families, but we work together every day,” says Alex. “There are ups and downs to it, but that is a good part of it. Each knows what the other is doing and feeling pretty much all the time. Working with your family is great.” 


 
 
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