Connor and Ashlyn McCarthy, pictured with their younger sister Sarah, are part of their family’s corn and soybean operation. Photo by Julie Turner-Crawford.
Connor and Ashlyn McCarthy, pictured with their younger sister Sarah, are part of their family’s corn and soybean operation. Photo by Julie Turner-Crawford.

Ashlyn and Connor McCarthy enjoy different aspects of their family farm

HALFWAY, MO. – For siblings Connor and Ashlyn McCarthy, farming is more than what their family does; it’s a part of who they are. 

Connor and Ashlyn’s family has farmed in Polk County, Mo., for at least six generations. Their parents, Brandon and Leslie McCarthy, have a corn and soybean operation on various properties, with about 250 acres in all. 

Connor, 16, and Ashlyn, 14, are active in the operation, but they take on different roles and have different interests. 

“I help in the fields and do whatever I can to help out,” Ashlyn said. “I like learning about the different soils and how they produce. I’ve learned growing crops takes time, money and effort. You really have to know what you’re doing.”

Connor likes turning wrenches more than turning the soil. 

“I’m more on the mechanical side of things,” Connor said. “I like finding out how everything works, how it functions, and its purpose. I work on the tractors, the combines, and occasionally on the trucks when Dad needs help. We might be working on something, but he has me do the work while he explains how it works.”

Connor is active in the Halfway FFA and enjoys competing in Career Leadership Events. Since joining FFA, Connor has competed on the livestock evaluation and soils teams.

“The contests are extremely fun,” Connor said. “In soils, we got to go to nationals last year. It was fun to learn, and the people I was on the team with, we were able to goof around, but we still learned. It’s fun to learn all of the aspects of soil, and you can learn the history of soil, what you can grow on it, or if it would be better for grass and cattle.”

This is her first year enrolled in ag classes and being a member of FFA,  but Ashlyn has helped with the chapter’s catering events.

“I’m excited to learn more about livestock, crops, soil and plants,” she said. “I can’t wait to be in FFA and ag classes because that’s what I’m interested in and want to  learn new things. Working the catering events, it was neat to learn another side of the industry.”

The teens agreed that being active on the farm has provided them with hands-on experience in agriculture. 

“We learn more on the farm than in any class,” Ashlyn said. “I like being able to drive the tractor and disk the fields. “

“I like being able to learn and being given the opportunity to learn what I want to learn,” Connor, who also works at his family’s tire and auto repair shop, said.

Connor added he would like to learn more about the cattle industry.

“I’ve been around cattle, but I haven’t got to do much with them since Dad’s a crop farmer,” Connor said. “I want to find out more about nutrition and breeding. I’d like to have some cattle, too so I can get more experience.”

The Brandon and Leslie McCarthy family raise have a row crop operation in Polk County, Mo. Photo by Julie Turner-Crawford.
The Brandon and Leslie McCarthy family raise have a row crop operation in Polk County, Mo. Photo by Julie Turner-Crawford.

Part of the hands-on experience they would like to explore is looking at other crops or varieties. 

“I would like to try cotton and see how it goes,” Connor said. “I’d really like to see how it would grow here. I doubt it would because it gets colder here than it does down south, but it would be interesting to see how it goes.

“I’d also like to find a way so we didn’t have to cut the corn for silage every year. We’ve done that for the last three years. This year, knock on wood, we don’t have to cut for silage yet, and we have a good crop. I want to experiment with different strains of corn and find out which one can withstand a drought. It would be interesting to do test plots or at least do the research. That’s something that will take a long time, and I might have to wait until I’m older and have my own land to do it, however.”

“I want to keep an open mind on what we can grow,” Ashlyn said. “I’d also love to start some irrigation. I also want to experiment more with cover crops and see what’s the best. We’ve done cover crops, like wheat and turnips, and they are important because they help keep nutrients in the ground, and if you’ve had a bad year, it helps bring your soil condition back up.”

Connor and Ashlyn credit their dad Brandon and grandfather Larry McCarthy for being their most prominent agricultural influences. 

“Dad has taught me a lot about crops, and Papa Larry has taught me about cattle,” Connor said. “We’ve been doing things with them since we were little.”

Being from a rural community with less than 175 people, the duo said most of their friends come from farming backgrounds, making them feel a little more at ease when they discuss agriculture and farming, but they wish more young people would take an interest in agriculture and see the many misconceptions about the industry.

“We’re helping feed people,” Ashlyn said. “Some of my friends aren’t from farms, so I want them to be able to learn more about it and understand it. Farmers aren’t the bad people some people think.” 

“Young people getting into ag need to know it’s not easy getting started, but it will get easier as you go along because you’re learning as you go,” Connor added. “I wish people would see that farmers don’t abuse their animals, and that we are growing healthy crops. I know it won’t change immediately, but there’s always hope for change.”

Ashlyn and Connor aren’t sure what career paths they want to take after high school, but they have a few ideas. 

“I want to be a crop adjuster,” she said. “I want to look at crops and see what might have caused damage to the crops.” 

Connor may continue his education in mechanics.

“No matter what, I want to remain in agriculture, maybe farm on the side,” he said. “If I go to college, I will go out west like Dad did, but I have time to decide.”

They hope the McCarthy family’s farming legacy continues for their younger sister Sarah, as well as for the generations to come. 

“It’s keeping the family tradition alive,” Connor said. “We can’t let all of the hard work go to waste. We’ve got to teach the younger generations and just try to keep it going.”

“This is something everyone before us as worked hard for,” Ashlyn said. 

They added Sarah, who is 7,  is ready for a few chores and more responsibilities on the farm.

“She’s old enough to drive a tractor,” Connor said with a laugh.


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