Jason Mallon won the Outstanding Farmer Award at the 2013 Farmers Appreciation Banquet. Pictured are members of his family, from left are his son, Nick, Jason, his wife, Nicki, his daughter, Brooke, his mother Kay and his father Pat. PHOTO BY KARA GUTORMSON/PLAINSMAN
HURON — The Huron Chamber & Visitors Bureau presented the Outstanding Farmer Award to a Huron area farmer who, through the years, has not only dedicated himself to the family farm — but also to serving his country.
Jason Mallon, 38, was presented with the award at this year’s Farmers Appreciation Banquet on Jan. 28.
Mallon farms seven miles north and three miles west of Huron, on the same land his father, Pat, purchased in 1978. He is married to Nicki and they have two children, Nick and Brooke. He recently retired from the Army National Guard’s 153rd Engineer Battalion as a master sergeant with 21 years of service.
“We farm around 800 acres and have 600 acres of pasture,” he said. He raises corn, soybeans, alfalfa and some wheat and also has a cow/calf operation.
Mallon has been farming for 22 years; he started working for his father in high school. “I started helping out on the farm and driving tractor when I was 10 years old,” he said.
“Then, at 16, I started helping out quite a bit more and eventually bought my own calves.”
After high school, Mallon decided that two things were a priority: becoming a member of the Army National Guard and getting an education. “I went to vo-tech for natural gas,” he said. “Thinking that I’d eventually work for someplace like Northwestern Public Service.”
But that’s not the direction his life ended up taking.
“I worked on the farm with my dad during the summers,” he said. Then he started farming full time.
“At that time, it wasn’t enough for my family and I to live on,” he said. “So I ended up working in town every winter for 14 years to make some supplemental income.”
Finally, he saw his window of opportunity open up, and bought out the farm from his father in 2001. Now, his dad works for him, which isn’t how he likes to think of it, says Mallon. “I like to say that we work together,” he said. “Because, even though he works for me now, I hate saying it that way. The truth is, he’s the best hired man I could ever have.”
Mallon says the most rewarding aspect of being the farmer is there’s always a different task to focus on.
“I love the fact that my job changes, there’s never anything that stays the same for very long. You might sit in a corn planter for four weeks in a row, but when that’s done, there’s cattle to be worked and then cattle to be moved to pasture.”
He also really likes seeing new calves being born. “There’s nothing like pulling a calf,” he said. “To be able to help create life and watch it grow in front of your eyes,” he said.
And every year, he still gets a thrill out of farming the land. “It’s hard to explain the feeling of planting crops and watching them grow and then harvesting them. It’s definitely different than a lot of professions,” he said. He compared farming to a 9-to-5 desk job. “It’s not the same thing everyday,” he said. “And that’s probably what I like the most.”
With any vocation, comes challenges. “I would say the most challenging part in farming is the uncertainty,” he said. “Wondering if it’s going to rain, if the prices are going to stay up, if we are going to have a good crop or not.”
He attributes his success to the support of his family. “My wife does the bookkeeping and my daughter helps with the chores,” he said. His parents haven’t slowed down a bit, and are still very much an active part of the operation. “My dad is always helping out, he always gives 100 percent,” said Mallon. “And my mom helps during the harvest. She likes to drive the silage truck and the grain truck.”
From 2004 to 2005, the 153rd Battalion was called to active duty and sent to Iraq. “I was activated Dec. 7, 2003 and spent a couple of months training at Ft. Carson,” he said. “Then I went to Iraq in February of 2004.”
While he was deployed as a combat engineer, his family banded together to run the farm.
“I had the farm in my possession for a year, then my dad took over control of it when I was deployed,” he said. While in Iraq, his family sent him farm magazines and green sheets so he could keep up with the industry in South Dakota. “When I first left, it was tough for me,” he said. “When you’re in another country, there’s nothing other than your friends to remind you of home. I asked her if she could sent me a few farm magazines to keep me up to date.
One of the biggest things he missed that year was seeing the calves being auctioned off. “Sale day is the day you work for all year,” said Mallon. “I really wanted to see that. So my wife took a videocamera into the auction and recorded it for me.”
He watched the video of the calf auction repeatedly, which resulted in him being teased quite a bit by his fellow soldiers. “But it all worked out. It rained when we needed it to rain, and we had a great calving season. The good Lord looked out for us.”
In the desert, Mallon found himself missing the sight of green vegetation. So he had his wife send him something to remind him of home. “I had her send me a package of potting soil and grass seed,” he said. “I planted grass in a one gallon ice cream bucket. I watered it everyday and watched it grow. Then, when it was long enough, I took a pair of scissors and cut it.”
The smell of freshly-cut grass was what Mallon was after. “It reminded me of home,” he said.
He said the whole experience made him appreciate being an American. “We are the greatest country in the world with all of the freedoms we have.” For the complete article see the 02-08-2013 issue.
Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 02-08-2013 paper.
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