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Farming a passion, way of life for Vculek

Farming isn’t what Cole Vculek does. It’s who he is.

The people who know him best were not surprised when he was named the American Star Farmer at the 84th National Future Farmers of America Convention & Expo in Indianapolis this past October.

Twenty-two-year-old Cole Vculek, who farms in Crete, ND, was named the American Star Farmer by the Future Farmers of America during the organization’s annual conference and expo this past October. He is seen here with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. (Photo courtesy of Julie Vculek)

Daniel Spellerberg, who teaches at the Southeast Region Career & Technology center in Oakes, ND, has known Mr. Vculek since 2005. “The Oakes-Sargent Central FFA Chapter is very proud of Cole and his accomplishments,” Mr. Spellerberg told The Produce News Dec. 20. “Cole has earned an award that no one in the state of North Dakota has achieved. This is truly the highest honor an FFA member can earn. Cole truly took advantage of virtually every opportunity possible in the FFA organization, and is already looking for ways to give back to it by being active in our alumni chapter.”

This is high praise for someone who just turned 22 this past November.

Farming is in Mr. Vculek’s blood. “Cole comes from a long line of agriculturalists,” said Mr. Vculek’s father, Brian. “His parents; grandparents; great-grandparents; and great-, great-, great-grandparents on both sides of his family have all farmed. You can bet they, too, are or would be proud. I was very proud to be the father of the Star Farmer. But to be the first one ever from North Dakota to win was just tremendous. His whole family is very proud of his accomplishment.”

Mr. Vculek began his association with FFA in high school and continued his activities with the organization while attending North Dakota State College of Science, where he earned a degree in farm management.

He was one of four finalists grilled by a panel of judges who evaluated each candidate in the areas of supervised agriculture experience, scholastic accomplishment, management skills, leadership and attainment of the American Future Farmers of America Degree, the organization’s highest accomplishment.

“I have never wanted to do anything else but farm,” Mr. Vculek commented. “I really enjoy it. The earliest influences driving me in agriculture had to be my grandpa and dad. Ever since I was little, I have been in the field and been interested in what’s going on.”

He was an observant child. “My mom tells that when I was lower elementary school age, I wanted to know everything that happened on the farm while I was gone. My first question after coming in the house off the bus was to learn what I had missed. If a piece of machinery had moved in the yard during the day, I wanted to know where it went and why. I would ask questions on the way to town as to why neighbors were doing things ‘different’ than us in their fields.”

His career as a farmer began when he was 15 years old, starting out with two acres planted to onions at his parents’ farm in Crete, ND. Through careful planning and reinvestment, he was growing 60 acres of potatoes and 200 acres of soybeans when he was a senior in high school. By the time he was 21, Mr. Vculek owned a 640-acre farm and rented another 360 acres to grow crops that also include corn and Navy beans. He is already contemplating operational expansion over the coming decade.

Mr. Spellerberg knows what makes Mr. Vculek tick. “Drive,” he stated. “He is motivated to continue to produce a better crop, better yield, as efficiently as he possibly can. I have been able to witness many superior qualities from this young person. Cole is very knowledgeable about agriculture. He loves working, and he is not afraid to work hard. Countless times Cole came to class at 8:30 a.m. and had two hours of the day’s work already completed. Cole’s work ethic is unmatched when it comes to being passionate about agriculture.”

His academic studies were honed with real-life experiences. “Cole has grown up watching his parents and all of his uncles struggle, mostly successfully, to build successful farming and-or grain elevator businesses,” Brian Vculek noted. “He has seen, and been a part of, most of the latest and greatest technologies pertinent to our area put into practice all of his life.”

Cole Vculek speaks of his chosen profession with insights that are uncharacteristic for someone so young. “I really enjoy working with the potatoes from planting through harvest,” he told The Produce News. “There is so much involved with potatoes that it keeps it interesting. As a producer, I need to make many decisions every day. A carefully prepared plan can need abrupt change because of the weather, a crop disease, change in the markets or some global activity. I enjoy making these decisions and watching to see the end results. Some of these results are obvious right away and others won’t be known for years. I am excited about the new technology and information that we have available to us as producers. It is challenging for me to know that the population is continuing to grow, which means we need to produce more food. But society wants us to produce this food safer and with fewer inputs.”

With all this hard work and dedication to his profession, it’s hard to imagine Mr. Vculek has time left to squeeze in his personal interests in hunting, ice fishing and snowmobiling.