Days of tagging along with my dad quickly spurred my passion and led to a career in my family’s manure hauling business.

Most 4-year-olds do not go around telling everyone that they are going to “haul lime like dad” when they grow up, but that is exactly what I did. My mother was thankful I said lime and not another four letter word.

My father started W.D. Farms as a grain and fertilizer trucking company in 1985. In 1987, a local dairy farmer asked my dad if he would use his fertilizer tanks to haul some manure for him. Dad said yes, and the rest is history.

Committed from the start

My dad has always been my best friend, and I followed him everywhere. Fortunately, being in the agricultural industry, most days are “take your kids to work day,” so the opportunities to spend time with him and inadvertently learn something were endless.

It is debatable whether I fell in love with the manure industry because that’s what my dad did and I loved being with him, or if it was because I loved agriculture and being outside. The truth is it was a combination of the two. At the age of 7, I started operating the agitation pumps and loading the semis or honeywagons. I quickly learned that when I went to work with dad, I got to be outside and make money. It was a win-win situation.

When I was 12, two major things happened. I became responsible for doing the company payroll and entering the checkbook into the accounting system. I also became entrusted with the operation of the application unit, and subsequently, the application of manure. We use JCB Fastracs, Houle Honeywagons, and homemade chisel plows. These units are 75 feet long and 12 feet wide, have two hitch pins, and require attention to detail to operate, so this was no small feat.

On the fast track

In Ohio, if a business handles more than 25 million gallons or 4,500 tons of manure, they have to be certified. Our company believes that since the tractor drivers are the ones doing the work, they need to know the rules. I received this certification when I was 15.

At age 17, I started my own trucking company, MD Ag Services LLC, with the purchase of my first semitruck.

I then went to The Ohio State University-Agricultural Technical Institute to obtain a degree in agronomy, moved down to the main campus in Columbus to finish my bachelor’s degree in ag business, and returned home after that four year journey.

When I was 20, I began driving the semis that I owned. One round with Dad and I was on my own. I had been driving tractors for years, so it really wasn’t that much different.

I am now vice president of W.D. Farms LLC and will one day be a co-owner alongside one of my two brothers. The last 10 years have seen the development of my blog, Ohio Manure Gal, numerous speaking engagements, and a few published articles.

I feel I have a responsibility to engage with the public and share what the manure industry is and what it does. Most recently, I have entered the biological space with products that can enhance the utilization of nutrients in manure, including a disinfectant that is unique in many ways. My roots are firmly planted in the manure industry.

Food for thought

Manure application is a crucial part of the complicated web we call agriculture. Working with family, “right to repair” challenges, biosecurity, and all the topics in between have an impact on the manure industry. We must keep ourselves abreast of what’s going on in the world.

Holding a steering wheel or monitoring a pump leads to a lot of thinking time. This column will allow me to share reflections from my side of the lagoon. I hope that you, the reader, will read a thought-provoking sentence that makes you think and possibly impacts your operation, now or in the future.

This article appeared in the February 2024 issue of Journal of Nutrient Management on page 25. Not a subscriber? Click to get the print magazine.