Young Farmer Feature: Dereck Price (Barbour County, WV)
Young, Beginning, Small & Veteran Farmers
Dereck Price, 30, has known that he wanted to farm since high school. He grew up helping his dad on their cow/calf operation and became more involved over the years. “Every time I got off the bus, the first thing I wanted to do was go to the barn, then we’d ride around and check on cows,” said Dereck. Dereck started building his own small herd of cattle in high school through his FFA Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE), beginning when he was in ninth grade. He began with a couple cows and was able to raise his own market steers to show at the county and state fairs. His dad would let Dereck keep lighter calves to feed over the winter and then keep or sell them the following spring. He also raised market hogs to show at the fairs.
Dereck graduated from West Virginia University (WVU) with a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture and a minor in Agribusiness Management. While at WVU, Dereck had the opportunity to work at the Animal Science Farm during the week and came home every weekend to work on the family farm. He began working as a Livestock Specialist for the Department of Agriculture right after college, where his primary duties are feeder cattle grading and crop reporting. Through this, Dereck has had the chance to meet with and learn from many other beef producers around the state. The flexibility and seasonality of the job allows him to focus on farming when he’s not busy. The Prices operate just outside of Belington, WV on primarily rented ground, all within about a 15-mile radius. Dereck and his dad, Steve, run the farm full-time, and Dereck’s fiancé, Layla, is in nursing school but enjoys helping as often as she can. The operation has grown from about 50 head of cattle when Dereck was in high school to now about 250-275 cows, 250 stocker calves they background and sell as yearlings, as well as 150 commercial ewes and a handful of feeder lambs. Dereck said that he and his dad work well together; they have determined the best way to split the workload and be the most efficient.
The farm continues to grow — the Prices have built three feed barns, two for cattle and one for sheep, over the last year, which have been extremely helpful to their operation and will allow them to expand more over the next couple of years. The competition for land in the area has proven to be a challenge and over the years, the Prices have had to adjust the scale of their farm based on the amount of land they are able to rent. However, they are in the process of purchasing the farmland where the new feed barns are located, which will be a huge benefit to their operation. Improved facilities make tasks easier and more efficient, though rising costs and maintaining the infrastructure around the farm while managing day-to-day tasks have been challenges the Prices have had to overcome as well.
Steve and Dereck Price have enjoyed a great working relationship with Farm Credit. Dereck got his first loan through Farm Credit in college when he was building his herd, and they have always had an operating line of credit for the farm. Farm Credit understands the challenges farmers face, and meets farmers where they are in terms of their needs. The Prices also appreciate the community support Farm Credit offers, through local events and youth activities.
What started as a dream in high school has now become a reality for Dereck, and he is thrilled to see all of his hard work, time and investment paying off as the farm grows. He is grateful to his dad for being supportive over the years, and he credits his success to his dad, for allowing him to use equipment and being a great mentor. The Prices hope to keep growing and adapting in the future. Dereck said, “Things seem to get easier and less stressful from year to year,” which is encouraging as he gains experience. Some advice that he would offer to other young and beginning farmers is to always be willing to ask the older generation for help and to never give up hope when things don’t go the way you expected. Dereck’s community of neighboring farmers has always been quick to help, so he enjoys paying it forward and helping others now. “It makes you feel good when the older generation calls on you for help — you know they trust you and value your opinion,” Dereck shared.