Max Tjaden, Farmer participating in Invest An Acre
March 15, 2016
by Cortney Ahern

March 15 is National Agriculture Day – a day to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture. What better way for Feeding America to celebrate Ag Day than to showcase one of our Invest An Acre donors, farmer Max Tjaden. Max is a leader in his community, and gives back to his neighbors in need by donating portions of his crop to Invest An Acre. We sat down with Max to ask him about his farm and his commitment to ending hunger. Read more below!  

What do you love about being a farmer and contributing to the agricultural community?

I have a real interest in history. And farming has such a strong historical sense and the impact farmers have made over hundreds of years here in the US has really made a difference. As a farmer, there’s a motivational challenge to make things better, to get closer to the way nature works to provide good food, and to improve how we use our resources. People who work in agriculture have a like-mindedness. It’s unspoken. For us, it’s important what we do for society and the community. 

Tell us about your farm! How many generations has your family been farming? What do you grow/raise?

My great-great grandfather came to central Illinois in 1853. My great grandfather was one of seven brothers and he moved to Kansas in 1883. We’ve been farming in America for five generations now.

My grandpa farmed wheat and corn. My dad started farming in the 1950s, when 85% of the farmland around here was devoted to growing wheat. Today I grow corn, feed grain, soybeans and wheat.  

How have your experiences as a farmer shaped your desire to help other people?

Growing up, my dad would help out his neighbors. Whether it was painting each other’s houses or pitching in on the farm. When I was a kid, you would share the work with your community and help out in other ways. There aren’t as many people farming now but it’s still true that we will help out our fellow farmers when in need.

How did you learn about hunger in your community, and why did you decide to get involved?

There’s not a large food bank here – we have a small pantry run by local churches that is only open a few times a month. My neighbor, a farmer friend of mine, was helping at the food pantry and mentioned that he saw someone we would never expect at the pantry getting food. It’s times like that when you are surprised by how many people, and who, hunger affects.  I think we’re just not aware. 

Why is a program like Invest An Acre important to connect farmers to ways to help their neighbors in need?

I operate an average sized farm here, there’s bigger and smaller. For farmers to participate in Invest An Acre, it’s something that they can give that they’re already doing. Most people, no matter what their vocation is, they want to be able to express themselves through what they do. As farmers, Invest An Acre is a way to give even more than just writing a check – you give your sweat equity. I’m just going to keep plugging away at getting more of my fellow farmers involved by promoting the program through our Sedgwick County Farm Bureau organization and communicating with people. As time goes on, hopefully we can share the message again and again to get more farmers on board to help feed more people.

Spring is a time for growth and hope on a farm. What are you hopeful about for the 2016 growing season?

We have been recovering from a drought since 2010. With rain in November and December last year, this is the first time in several years that there’s adequate sub-soil moisture. So that gives me optimism for the spring that there will be good moisture for our corn, soybeans and wheat. It’s the best it has looked for quite a long time. 

Farming is kind of like a football or basketball game where you feel good until the other team sneaks up on you. But we’re always optimistic. When you’re planting in the spring, you always feel like it’s going to be great, whether it turns out that way or not.

March 15 is National Agriculture Day – a day to recognize and celebrate farmers and agriculture! What do you want to celebrate about the agricultural community today?

Most of the farms in the United States are family farms, and there’s a value set that underlies that. You want there to be a legacy of what you’re doing, and the people who are farming want to be really good at what they’re doing. We work hard every day to help feed the world and we could not be more proud of that. I know I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.

Tags: Hunger in the News

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