Posted on Jun 25, 2019
Growing up in a city, David Junker always imagined he would work in business or as a teacher. He never thought he would end up as a farmer in McCook, Nebraska.
Junker attended the University of Nebraska at Kearney where he met his wife. He was pursuing a degree in elementary education before he and his wife moved to Omaha where he began working in restaurant management. Junker worked for Famous Dave's as a corporate trainer traveling across the Midwest training employees for new locations.
In 2010, his wife's uncle was battling cancer and needed help on the farm. Although Junker had no prior agriculture experience, other than occasionally helping at his wife's family farm, they moved their family to McCook, Nebraska, and he went to work.
"It's one of my biggest accomplishments," Junker said, "moving my whole family from Omaha, Nebraska, to a small town like McCook, Nebraska, and just taking the jump into farming. It was kind of a blind leap of faith."
Junker said his experience working in restaurant management has helped him in the management aspect of farming. Just like in the restaurant, he said, farming takes long hours, necessary organization, and the ability to determine what is working for the operation and what is not.
"That prior experience also helps to bring a lot of calmness to the plate for farming which can help a lot on really stressful days or in times of drought," Junker said. " You draw back to some of the prior strengths and times that you had gone through something along the same lines."
Today, Junker and his father-in-law farm around 1,500 acres of sorghum, corn, wheat and soybeans, but he still wanted to know more about farming and sorghum. He said Mike Baker encouraged him to apply for Leadership Sorghum, and he saw the opportunity to expand his knowledge base. Baker, Nebraska Sorghum Board Chairman and National Sorghum Producers Legislative Committee member, was a member of the inaugural Leadership Sorghum class and has played a large role in helping Junker through his early years of farming.
Junker said the entire Leadership Sorghum experience has been "mind blowing." He said his favorite part has been seeing the entire life-cycle of sorghum from the breeding process to export and end-user. This experience has given him the confidence to share his newfound knowledge, and he hopes he can be a source of information for other farmers who may lack resources or are just starting in the business like himself.
Junker feels he has gained confidence in other areas of his life as well, even applying leadership skills from the class into his parenting and personal life. He said this opportunity has given him the skills and knowledge to take the next steps not only in farming, but the rest of his life.
Throughout the last nine years, Junker said he has truly come to love farming and everything that goes along with it. Whether it is working with tools and machinery, coming home dirty from working in the
field, or the long hours spent on the books, he said the sheer love of what he is doing keeps him going through the tough times. He said he hopes to share this love with his boys and wants to give them an opportunity to carry on the family legacy.
"It's just different when you're out in the field and you're working for yourself and for your crops and to support your family," Junker said. "It's just absolutely refreshing to get up, and I can't say there's been one day that I've regretted getting up and going to work."
Equipment: Green. They're all green.
Tractor Tunes: Sports talk radio shows or hip hop.
Favorite Season on the Farm: Definitely the fall.
Favorite part of Farming: Everything from learning how to become a mechanic, just getting to put seeds in the ground and watching them grow and being able to nurture them and raise a crop and just be proud that it's something he has accomplished.
Hobbies: Running and watching his boys play sports.
David is a member of Leadership Sorghum Class IV, a program designed to foster the next generation of sorghum leaders. The program exposes members to various aspects of the sorghum industry from basic and applied research to international marketing. Through both hands-on and classroom-style education, participants gain an understanding of how sorghum moves through the value chain, how checkoffs and interest organizations interact on behalf of the industry and what the future holds for the crop. The program also provides professional development training and networking opportunities.