Episode 007 - Female Farmer - Paige Turek Dvorak

This week’s podcast guest is a sixth-generation farmer who spends her days working on her family farm in South Haven, KS, Turek Farms. Paige graduated from Oklahoma State University and worked at a desk job for a year after college until she realized her heart is back at the farm. So, she quit her job and went back to farming full-time for her family’s farm. In this episode, she shares her struggles, growth, and victories in the agricultural lifestyle.

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Podcast Transcript

Taylor McAdams: You're listening to the Kick Your Boots Up podcast where we swap stories of the West. Whether you're just waking up or getting in for the day, come on in and kick your boots up. Joining me today on the Kick Your Boots Up podcast is none other than sixth-generation farmer, Paige Turek Dvorak. Paige, It's so good to have you here. Our lives have gone full circle, thank you for taking the time to sit with us as a career woman now. You know, you and I have had a lot of history we started we got to know each other through college and more specifically, our sorority, I was fortunate enough to be your big, you're fortunate enough to be my little, whatever we want to call it. It was so fun. And we'll never take those days for granted. So thank you for taking time out of your busy day and farm life to be here with us.

Paige Turek Dvorak Yeah, absolutely. I'm glad that you asked me to be on. It's good to have connections in the right places.So I'm just excited to share my story.

Taylor McAdams: And speaking of your story, let's get right into it. Talk to us a little bit about yourself your background, how you got started in ag and, and basically it's all you know, so tell us about it.

Paige Turek Dvorak Yeah, it absolutely is all I know. I was born and raised on a farm here in south central Kansas, went to a really small school. There's like 300 people in my hometown. And I went off to college, I always had an interest in ag. Growing up, I always worked on the farm. So when I went to Oklahoma State University, I studied studied agribusiness and kind of stayed within the industry didn't know what I wanted to do yet. So I kind of kept it broad with the agribusiness degree. I'm a grad graduated, worked at a desk job for a little over a year and then decided I'd go back to the farm. And I've been at the farm for a little over a year now. And this has been my first time working on the farm full time. So that's a little bit about me.

Taylor McAdams: I'm so glad you threw that in there that you graduated from college, you got that degree that piece of paper, you became a career woamn, and for a year and then decided you wanted to come back to the farm. Talk to us about that a little bit. Because a lot of people would have thought I want to seek the freedom and go to big city and learn what Big City Life is. But you did and then you decided no, thank you.

Paige Turek Dvorak Yeah, and something my parents were always really big about, they never wanted us to us being me. And my sisters never wanted us to feel like we had to farm they wanted us to do our own thing, choose our own career path. But I was always interested in the ag side. But when I graduated college, you know, my parents were like, No, you need to try something new, try something in town. And if you don't like it, the farm will always be here. So I told myself, I'll give it a year. And if I still you know, I'm not happy after a year at my desk job. And ultimately, farming is still what I want to do. I'm gonna find a way to make that happen. And so I did.

Taylor McAdams: And I'm so proud of you for that. And I noticed you talked about your family, your parents more specifically a lot. Let's talk a little bit more about them. Because even when we were in college, you overcame a challenge with your mother. Talk to us about that and how it was so hard being away from the farm going through a such a strong and hard challenge and how you guys overcame it together as a family.

Paige Turek Dvorak Yeah, um, I think it was at the end of my freshman year in college, and my mom was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer, um, get a little choked up about it. But as most of most some of you may know, farming is like a really big family operation. And my mom plays a huge role. My mom grew up in the city in Wichita, Kansas, and knew nothing about farm life. Um, but she, you know, brings meals to the field, she Uber's us around, she's a rural Uber's what we call her. And so whenever she was diagnosed with breast cancer, that was hard on us, because you know, my dad's trying to run this farm that is a full-time, I mean, more than full-time business, while also trying to be at home with my mom. And I was in college trying to you know, I wanted to be with my mom. But I also wanted to help my dad. And so it's just a lot of busy stuff. We'll try trying to balance family and everything in between. But I'm very thankful that we live in a small rural community. Because these people, I mean, they poured into us brought as meals helped us with anything that we needed. So it was it was awesome. We made it through, but definitely challenging.

Taylor McAdams: Yeah, you really did. And it was really inspiring for me just looking as an outsider too, because shout out to mom, Jill, she's a fashionista, very positive. She always kept you positive. She kept her all of her daughters positive, while dealing with one of the hardest things probably in her life, but then also being that backbone for you guys being the rural Uber being the one that brought the food so that's so inspiring, and kind of speaking more to that. I loved how you said everyone has a role and she has a very important one too. A lot of people don't realize that when it's harvest season or calving season or no matter what the season is. It's busy, it's time-consuming and it takes all hands on deck talk to us talk to us about the importance of having everyone involved in it.

Paige Turek Dvorak Whenever it comes to busy season on the farm, it's It's madness. I'm talking you know you're I'm working 16-hour days and so are hired hands and our family members and everyone truly plays a huge role in that and my dad, especially because obviously he makes all of the decisions at the end of the day. He carries the burden financially and all of that, but also our hired hands, I don't think that hire hands get enough credit. Because they are spending time here on the farm, their families are at home, their wives are at home. And a lot of times I feel for them because, you know, it's just, it's hard if you're if you if you're not raised in agriculture, and you're not on the farm, and you have to say goodbye to your husband, and you know, it's harvest can be a month-long process for us. So the hired hands in the family don't get enough credit. And also, my mom being the farm wife, like I said, Ubering us around spending tons of money on groceries to feed a whole harvest crew, um, and in everything in between. So it definitely takes every single person and if we see an extra person that thinks they want to help out, well, we'll pull them in and get them runnin’ a combine or helping us move equipment or whatever it may be.

Taylor McAdams: So that's so inspiring, too. And since you've mentioned Turk farms a little bit, let's kind of go into that and talk about the scope of your farm. What all you guys do, I mean, you do it all. So tell us about all of it.

Paige Turek DvorakYeah, so I'm actually a sixth-generation farmer. My dad is fifth generation, uh, he can tell you a little bit more about the history, you know, the land rush and how our family got here and the trading the quarters and all of that, and finally ended up where we are. I need to learn a little bit more about the history. Like essentially, essentially, my dad started when started direct farms, his his side of Turek Farms, I guess I should say, when he was in college, he helped his grandpa farm he rented equipment, you know, really kind of started from scratch, essentially. I mean, they had some, but he definitely put in the work. Spent when I was little, I remember my dad coming home the next morning, he would spend the night in the tractor, you know, he'd probably take a two-hour nap in the tractor, and then come home and you know, do it again the next day. So a little bit about Turek Farms. We have a Turek seed business Turek Seed Wheat business, we sell certified seed wheat, which takes up a lot of time. So we grow wheat, primarily corn, soybeans, Milo, and a little bit of canola. And then we also have a cow-calf operation that keeps us real busy in the winter. And so we also you know, have a hay season we hay alfalfa and Prairie hay as well, some crabgrass too. And so yeah, that's, that's we have a lot of irons in the fire. But like I said, we have a full team that makes it happen every year. So we keep on rolling.

Taylor McAdams: So you talking about all the different things that you do, it was really fun for me spending the college years with you, learning about everything that was going on at home for you, because you always kept in touch with the family always knew what was going on. And for me, I learned a lot from you. And similarly, but yet so different from you guys our kind of small cattle operation. We just grew enough hay and wheat, wheat, hay prairie hay to feed our own cattle operation. Whereas you guys in Kansas have taken it big scale, you now are producers and you got help provide for all of the farmers and ranchers around you. How does that make you feel knowing that you're able to be part of something way bigger than yourself and a big picture.

Paige Turek Dvorak It's a great feeling. The past couple of years, you know, we don't really sell our hay. So to say but the seed wheat business we do. Well, within the past few years, we've had drought so that that kind of cut into the hay a little bit. But I think that's one of my favorite parts about working in this industry is because it truly is something bigger than ourselves. And we are able to help people. I mean, we literally it sounds cheesy, but we are feeding the world. You know, every every tiny little seed that we plant grows into a awesome crop, hopefully. And the cattle business. It's just, it's awesome to see everything that you put in here on the farm is exactly what you're going to get out. Obviously, mother nature plays her large role in that as well. But it's just, it's unreal. I can't even put into words how awesome it is to work in an industry that is that is just so life changing. And so important for the world. I know it sounds really cheesy, but honestly, that's that's how it is. So,

Taylor McAdams: hey, we're here for it. We love the cheese around here. And one thing that you mentioned was the drought. And we'll get to that in a second. But I remember you saying you and your sisters, you referenced them earlier in the beginning part of this podcast. It's so interesting to me that your dad is a fifth-generation farmer he had three girls was probably wanting a boy I know we always joke that you and I were raised as the boys in our family. But it's so nice and inspiring for me to see that you're going on to continue the name and the brand. What's it like for you being a woman in the industry that soon going to be taking over that role of running the farm on down the line one day?

Paige Turek Dvorak Lots of things with that question I saw a question and it said, you know, how did you grow up and the first thing that came to mind is like, I grew up like a boy like a man.

Taylor McAdams: That’s so relatable.

Paige Turek Dvorak But my my dad saw no difference between girls and boys, you know, you were gonna do the work. He didn't care. You know who you were, he actually did mention, someone asked him one day, if he wishes he had a boy. And he said, I'd hire a woman or a girl to be on this farm over a boy any day, because we got tear as much stuff up. So we pay attention to the details a little, maybe a little bit too much. Sometimes my nerves get the best of me

Taylor McAdams: Speaking on that a little bit more you being such a strong role in the family. Tell us a little bit about like what you see the future of Turkey farms doing? I know you guys probably have huge plans in the future.

Paige Turek Dvorak Yeah, the future of Turkey farms. Whenever someone asked me, it's a little bit scary, because I want my dad to be around forever. Even though I know that's not possible. We do also farm with my uncle, and my grandpa, and my uncle has two boys and one girl. And they're very, they're significantly younger than me, my uncle's the youngest of four kids. So we think we have a pretty good future. The boys are super interested in the farm, and they're very, a lot more mechanically inclined than I am. So hopefully the future of Turek Farms, you know, if it does fall in our laps, one day, I think we can handle it, I think we'll, you know, we'll adapt to the position or the ownership changes in will also adapt with the ever-changing technology that the ag industry is showing, you know, it's changing every single day. It's a lot to keep up with. But I think as long as you keep adapting and keep going to those meetings and conferences and stay with the technology, I think the future of Turek Farms has a very positive outlook.

Taylor McAdams: That is a lot to keep up with and you guys have adapted so well. But we've got to give Coltin a little shout-out to I feel like your husband Coltin, anyone who follows you on social media knows that he's a big part of your story, but also your guys' success on the farm to what's it like marrying a farm boy and letting him come into your family and pick up help pick up the slack as well.

Paige Turek Dvorak Yeah, I don't give Coltin enough credit. Um, I have a little bit different of a situation going on. Because a lot of people alot of women and ag they work with their husbands or, you know, the husband at least works on the farm with them, or owns it, whatever it may be. Coltin is actually the reason I was able to come back to the farm because as most of you know, financially, it's really hard to come back to your family farm. And there's not a ton of money, you know, to provide for, you know, a large salary like you would get in Wichita, Kansas. So Coltin works off the farm. He works in Wichita, and he also farms with his dad part-time. And whenever he's done with his first job, and his part-time job, he comes back in helps us on our farm with my dad helps run equipment, you know what with the cattle, whatever it may be, and I think that's really awesome. He, he plays a lot of roles, and he helps me out a lot and I will never be able to thank him enough for letting me come back to the farm. I say letting me but allowing me the opportunity, I guess is a better way of putting it. So yeah, he does play a large role and and I'm forever thankful for that.

Taylor McAdams: Oh, without a doubt I'm so it's so good to see your heart and actually to see you guys on social media. I feel like you guys are up till wee hours of the night outside working still. And then same thing right back at it up in the morning again. So that's inspirational as well. But moving on to my next question. You mentioned earlier the drought and I think we should go back and talk to talk to you a little bit about this because it's so important for everyone to see the hardships that farmers face in any industry in any you know, era any scope. What is it like for you guys overcoming the hard times? And then how do you guys celebrate the High Times as well?

Paige Turek Dvorak I think we my dad does a pretty good job at keeping you know, an even even outlook on everything no matter what the years. One of my favorite you know, I'm a nervous Nellie so anything you know, if we don't get rain in a couple of weeks when the weeds you know at prime growth periods. I'm like, What are we doing? You know what's gonna happen in my dad always comes back and say, Oh, I've seen it worse than this. Oh, I've seen it worse than this. And so that always brings a little bit peace to my mind, except for this last summer. If you're in Kansas, you probably are aware you're within the drought range that we're experiencing. I think we were in the exceptional drought region this past summer, and I think we still might be we're not out of it. But my dad for the first time this summer he said, You know, I've never seen it this bad. And that freaked me out a lot. Because I was like, you know, what are we going to do what whatever um, but I think you know, farmers are so resilient they, you know, I kept seeing within this drought, I kept seeing, you know, there's nothing, there's not a more helpful profession than farming because we were literally dusting the wheat into the ground, there was no moisture in the ground, we were, my dad kept saying we're covering this wheat up, so the birds don't need it. And that's, you know, as good as it gets. Thankfully, we have had a little bit of moisture since then. But I think it just comes back to, you have to be resilient, you have to, you know, keep in mind, those good yields that you saw in the past, they're going to come back, they're gonna come back. But you know, when you have the good yields, you have to, you know, kind of keep a keep things on reserve, because, you know, hard times are coming to, essentially, at the end of the day, Mother Nature is totally in control of our industry. And I think it's just good to always be prepared for that, but celebrate the wins. But also, you know, just be, I don't want to say keep in mind that the bad things are coming, but you just have to be aware, you know, you have to be smart and you know, play the system. So, hard times are hard, but the good times are good. And it kind of all balances out in the end really.

Taylor McAdams: Oh, yeah. And through six generations you know, there's no doubt you guys have that under control. And I really love that you mentioned your dad's perspective on that it's it's probably really easy for farmers to get in their heads about things. And so it's so important that you guys continue to go forward like you do. But one more thing. Before we go, we're almost out of time, I've got to talk to us talk to you a little bit about the common ag misconceptions that women can't farm, that cheeseburgers only come from the store. So let's talk about that. I want to hear your theory on the misconceptions and how you tell people about ag that maybe aren't as informed.

Paige Turek Dvorak I think, you know, we hear a lot about, you know, misconceptions. As far as you know, the beef industry stopped blaming cows, stuff like that. One of the things I want to talk about because I was not prepared when I quit my office job, I had so many people come up and say, Oh, you're just going to farm, what else are you going to do? Or you're just going to be a farmer just, I don't think they were meaning it to be, you know, any kind of malicious, saying, but people just truly don't understand. I don't I don't know where along the lines that farmers got a bad rap. You know, people just think we're uneducated, and I don't know where that came from. And it cannot be more far from the truth. But I think it misconceptions like this, you know, I that's what I'm sharing on Instagram, I just want people to see the industry. You know, we care about our animals, we care about the land more than, you know, the people that live in the city who are attacking us day by day saying we don't care about the land. You know, we take care of the soil nutrients, and we take care of our cattle better than we take care of ourselves right now. Um, so I think it's just, I think we just have to keep sharing, and earning people's trust and showing them you know, why the misconceptions are wrong and doing it in a polite way, instead of, you know, attacking back. I feel like everywhere return we're getting attacked as agriculturalists. And I think it's just going to take time and patience for us to show, you know, people who didn't grow up in this industry, what's the truth and what's not the truth or gain their trust and teach them over time if they're not ready to learn about it now. So.

Taylor McAdams: Paige, you are such a classy woman, thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. I wish you all the best but I have enjoyed most importantly getting to follow along your journey getting to see the day-in and day-out joys and discomforts. I cry with you. I laugh with you. And I want people to be able to do that, too. So is there a social media channel or a website that people can come find you at?

Paige Turek Dvorak Yeah, you can follow me on Instagram at Paige underscore Turek underscore Dvorak, kind of a long name, but I'm there and I'll show you the day-to-day journey of Turek Farms.

Taylor McAdams: Very good Paige. It's been so good to reconnect. Thank you again for coming on inside cleaning up a little bit and taking the time to talk with us and kick your boots up corner. It's been so fun. And again, I wish you the best of luck and everything.

Paige Turek Dvorak Thanks, Taylor.

Taylor McAdams: Thanks for joining us on kick your boots up. I'm your host Taylor McAdams and we can't wait to share the next story of the West. Until then, feel free to like subscribe and leave us a review. Follow us on social media at Justin boots to keep up with our next episode. And we'll see you the next time you kick your boots up