30 Days of Farms & Families: The Martins

My Generation

Day 10: Doug and Erin Martin farm at Mt. Pulaski with the heart of a conservationist and the eye of a CEO.

Published on: November 10, 2011

Doug Martin is one of those farmers who it feels like I've known for most of my career. Like, that we might have gone to college together, except that we didn't. In fact, I don’t' remember exactly how we met, other than at some point I met his dad, Jeff, went to their farm, shot some pictures and we struck up an email friendship after that. Then, about a year ago, I had the pleasure of meeting his very lovely and very genuine wife, Erin, when the Illinois Farm Families coalition taught us all how to talk to consumers.

And if you keep your eyes open, you're likely to see Doug somewhere in the pages of the farm press. I'm about 90% certain I saw him smiling out from a John Deere ad not so long ago. (Doug, can you confirm or deny?!)

Doug and Erin married the same year my husband and I did, following his graduation from SIU. They joined the farm operation with his parents, Jeff and Jean, who can trace their family's central Illinois agricultural ancestry back to 1826. Today the Martins raise corn and soybeans on 5,600 acres near Mt. Pulaski. No livestock, save for one goat caught by their son at the county fair scramble. (Sounds familiar…this is how we wound up in the rabbit business. Which is a broad use of the word "business" because there is no profit center.)

But I digress. Now? They are parents to the cutest little kids: Drew, 9; Alec, 6; Luke, 4; Ella, 1. That's right, that little girl is going to grow up with three older brothers. I predict she will be both tough and well-protected.

Illinois farm family

When I asked Doug what worries him most right now, I found it interesting that he spoke of the recent good years and the pending downturn. Interesting, because his thinking parallels conversations at our house as well. Maybe we are a bunch of Debbie Downers. But we're anticipating a turn at some point, too – partly because we can't keep on at these land prices, partly because commodity prices will surely fall and mostly because, let's be real, agriculture has always run in cycles. We'll be plowing this year's profits into paying off debt.

"What worries me most down the road is being able to survive any big downfall that might occur, and continuing the family farm," Doug says.

Indeed. Again with the Debbie Downer, but it sort of feels like we're at the precipice of a period for which we'll want to be prepared. May I be wrong.

Doug adds, "I think we will have the tools to succeed, if the economy and the government allow us to."

30 Days of Farm & Families
Day 1: The Webels
Day 2: The Mies Family
Day 3: The Thomases
Day 4: The Stewarts
Day 5: The Weavers
Day 6: The Hawkinsons
Day 7: The Kortes
Day 8: The Walters
Day 9: The Schillings