CommonGround Kansas Volunteer Krystale Neitzel

Krystale Neitzel CommonGround Kansas Volunteer

Krystale is part of a fourth-generation family farm outside Lawrence, Kan., and a full-time operations manager for an insurance company. She and her husband, Lowell, are raising their two kids while growing crops and running a small beef cattle feedlot. Krystale is an expert multi-tasker and fits in hobbies like baking, writing, running and reading.

Farming doesn’t have regular working hours. We must plant and harvest when the timing is right. The weather, season and plants must all be ready — whether we are or not! Occasionally, that means adjusting family travel plans, date nights and more. Other times, it can mean the farm work adjusts to our growing family.

I still consider myself a farmer even though I’m an operations manager for an insurance company most of the week. Like many of you, I am juggling many parts of my life: family, hobbies and a career. How I get it all done probably looks similar to most moms too!

 

Farm job

Our farming operation consists of corn, soybeans, hay and cattle. My great-grandfather and grandfather began our farming operation in 1945. My mom and dad farm the same ground today with my aunt and uncle. In 2011, my family began to develop a succession plan to help keep my brother, his wife, my husband and I part of the family farm for many more years down the road. Together, we formed Bismarck Farms.

With my parents transitioning away from day-to-day farming duties, it has meant our workloads have increased. This year, my husband completed the majority of planting. It’s meant he’s been in the field for weeks straight — moving straight from fertilizing fields to corn planting into soybean planting and then harvesting hay.

When we “put up hay,” it involves mowing the grass, letting it dry, raking it up, baling into bundles and then hauling it back to the farm. These working hours are not 8 to 5, Monday through Friday. We must time actions based on weather, supplies of products (like seed, twine, drivers, equipment, etc.), machinery working as it should, tending to other areas of the farm where help is needed (for example, we have cattle, irrigation tasks, equipment moving, and ever-present equipment breakdowns).

My husband probably averages more than 12 hours per day farming, which leaves a lot of the day-to-day family duties to me during the busy seasons.

 

Day job

I work off the farm Monday through Friday, 8 to 5. I oversee and work with five insurance offices doing everything from employee management, checking in with marketing reps, account reviews, quotes and whatever else the day may bring. Recently, I took on a management role so I’m often working more than 45 hours a week. My co-workers love stories about country life. I often have tales of visits from opossums or skunks.

My sister-in-law also has a full-time job off the farm. With six people involved in the farm, our schedules can look a little crazy!

Weekend job

Our families each have young children. As anyone knows, that’s a full-time job in itself! Recently, all our careers required some flexibility to accommodate our kids’ new hobbies and interests.

For example, my family offered a public roadside fresh garden market since 1982. Most weekends, we would put in 12-hour days, interacting with customers and explaining how we grew our crops. The market was truly a family affair. Our mom helped with deposits, payroll for employees and other daily tasks.

We all loved the market, but the extra time became too much to handle. Our son begged to grow his 4-H projects and have livestock. Unfortunately, our market was still open during the week of our county fair.

This year, we decided as a family not to operate the summer garden. It has been a bittersweet decision. We’re missing our customers but have more family time. My son has been able to raise pigs as a 4-H project. Having pigs was something he’s wanted to do since he was a toddler. I’ve never raised pigs, so it’s been an adventure for us as well!

Juggling

The demands of farming, a full-time career and a family require a juggling act every single day. I love running to the field after I leave work to help move equipment — sometimes I don’t get to change clothes so I do it in heels! Other days, I bring the guys an iced tea in the hot field and end up untangling alfalfa from the hay swather (the equipment that helps harvest the hay). Now that my son has pigs, you’ll often find me helping him. I’ve quickly learned I must take the time to change out of my work clothes first!

Finding the balance between an 8-to-5 job and farming sometimes gets the best of me, but there isn’t much I’d change. I’m never sure how the day will go between work, dropping off our kid for classes and farming.

Like most moms juggling a family and career, my passion for each keeps me motivated. I’m lucky our family business involves every member of our family. We can each work towards a shared goal of improving our business and helping to feed the world.