In Lincoln County, Tom Zwainz and his son, Joel, are the fourth and fifth generations to farm the family’s land, some of which dates back to the 1860s. They grow mostly wheat and canola now, but they’ve grown malt barley, peas and chickpeas in the past.
Joel’s path back to the farm wasn’t direct, although he always knew he wanted to come back. After graduating from college, he worked as a CPA, spent some time at Northwest Farm Credit Services as an internal auditor and owned a custom spray business.
“I went to college and minored in ag business, knowing I always wanted to come back to the farm at some point, but the farm wasn’t quite big enough for me to come back to, so I had to do some other things for a while,” he said. That opportunity came about four years ago, when Joel was able to buy and lease some of his own ground. “Being the fifth generation means a lot to me to be able to continue on the family name.”
Joel feels that off-farm experience has made him a better farmer and given him a different perspective. Rather than feeling a sense of entitlement, he feels lucky to have the opportunity to eventually take over. Tom echoed that thought.
“I’m glad he didn’t come directly back to farm, but went out and got to see what the other side looked like,” Tom said.
Joel and his wife, Emily, have a 2-year-old son who the family is hoping will become the sixth generation to carry on farming.