Kentucky Ag News
Why I Farm Roadtrip: Nicholas and Bethany Hardesty
Special to Kentucky Agricultural News
GUSTON, Ky. - Farming is tough. The pride that a successful harvest brings doesn’t come without heartache, stress and sacrifice. The Hardesty family knows this well.
Nicholas Hardesty grew up on a farm until he was eight years old. After his father was seriously hurt in a tractor accident and his mother was diagnosed with a rare lung disease, the family farm had to be sold. Nicholas didn’t let this discourage him from pursuing his desire to farm. In 2001, as a freshman in high school, Nicholas started from scratch on what is now his own family’s first generation farm. “It started with just a small FFA tobacco project and it grew. It’s kind of neat, but it’s been a struggle. There’s tough times, and there’s good times. There have been days where we’ve wondered how we’re going to pay this bill or that bill, but we always manage. I guess it was something that was meant to be. The good Lord only picks so many people to be farmers. It takes a certain person. We were the lucky ones.”
Many people doubted Nicholas when he started out. “Everybody said, ‘What? You can’t farm. You can’t do it. There’s no way. With Dad not giving you anything, you can’t do it.’ We’ve proved everybody wrong.” Now, Nicolas and his wife, Bethany, are raising three girls, Alea, Maylee, and Whitley on their diversified farm. “We raise grain on about 300 acres. We’ve got 65 cows. We grow 25 acres of tobacco now. We also raise 500 acres’ worth of tobacco transplants in our greenhouses. That’s about 4 million plants.”
The farm has grown to include more people as well. Nicholas’s dad quit his job and came to help on the farm full time a little over a year ago. Seasonal H2A workers come each year to help on the farm. “They’re family. They’re here ten months out of the year with us. If it wasn’t for them, we couldn’t do it. Those guys have seen me at my best, and they’ve seen me at my worst.” Nicholas explains. Each season, everyone takes pride in a job well done.
Every year brings its own challenges. “It’s hard work. It’s not all biscuits and gravy. We lived through the drought of 2012. That was horrible. I don’t ever want to see anything like that again. Ever. But we’ve learned a lot.”
This fall, harvest will be different. Nicholas’ father passed away in May. “The last year he was here he got to do what he enjoyed. He got one more harvest in. He drove the combine all harvest. I never did drive it except to move from farm to farm. I was hoping I would have four, five, six years to farm with him, but I got a year. That was better was nothing. Something we can always look back on and remember.”As summer continues and the weather tests them, the Hardestys draw strength from the memories they have of their dad and grandpa. “He gave me Dum-Dums. I got to ride in the combine with him cutting beans. We would play LEGOS. And he got me Bug Juice,” Alea beams.
“We raised two liters of baby pigs,” Nicholas recalls. “That’s something Dad wanted the girls to see before something happened to him. We had a lot of good family times with the pigs. They had fun with it.”
In the end, it’s hard work and faith that gets them through the hardships. “Lots and lots of tea, no sleep, and adrenaline. Knowing it has to be done, that’s what keeps us going. We want the girls to know it’s important to keep your faith, too. Without God, we wouldn’t have anything.”
“We take pride in this. This is where we live. This is where our kids grow up. This is where our customers come. Everything we do is to preserve it for the girls. They’re the main reason we farm. Don’t get me wrong, the good Lord picked us to do this, but we farm for them. If they decide to farm, we want something to be here. Alea says she’s going to drive combine, and Daddy’s going to drive semis. They learn a lot that other kids aren’t learning. She can tell you every vehicle. If it takes diesel or gas. She can tell you all about the green houses, and she’s four years old. They are able to run and play, get dirty and learn. They’re taught real values and where their food comes from. They know hard work and responsibility too.”
That’s why Nicholas and Bethany farm.
Above: Bethany and Nicholas Hardesty with daughters Alea, Maylee, and Whitley.
Why I Farm is an ongoing series by Beck's to tell the story of the hard-working American farmer. Since 2013, Beck's Why I Farm Movement has shared the stories of 21 farmers and reached more than 3.8 million people. To see the Hardesty family story with more photos on the Why I Farm blog, click here.