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Diversifying On and Off the Farm

This episode is also available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

“Everyone has their own theory on farming,” Jackson Drost explained to American Farmland Owner. The fact that he was standing atop a snow-covered mountain in Aspen, Colorado, while his wife, Amanda, joined the conversation from her office in Pella, Iowa, demonstrated the family’s theory on farming.


A key tenant of that theory is diversification, which is evident in nearly every aspect of their lives. “It’s a way to have supplemental income with the farm as the farm grew,” Jackson said matter-of-factly.


Jackson was finishing a project for a lighting company that he assists several times a year, primarily during the winter “off season” for the farm. It represents one part of the family’s strategy to diversify income streams to best support their Mahaska County farming operations.


Jackson optimistically points out that the growth (and the obligations) of the farm increased so that travel like this one isn’t as frequent. “it’s growing fast enough to where I don’t travel near like I used to.”


RELATED: Peoples Company honored Jackson Drost as its 2023 Farmer of the Year. Watch the video where Jackson and Amanda Drost explain what farming means to them here. 


Meanwhile, Amanda added this perspective from the hospital where she works: “When I’m done for the day. It’s…’what can I do to help on the farm?’”


Sometimes that is driving the grain cart or a host of other tasks. Multiple jobs. Countless responsibilities.


The work off the farm, on the farm, while raising two boys? Yes, it’s challenging for Amanda and Jackson. “Life just gets crazy sometimes, especially in the fall when we have harvest,” Amanda said. 

“Work. Field. Sleep. Work. Field. Sleep. Work. Field. Sleep.”


“It’s our rotation for 7 ½ weeks. But we wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Amanda said.

Median income of farm households depending on Size of Farm in dollars

The Drosts are among the American farm families blending commitment to family, finance, and future through a diversified compilation of multiple employment streams, intense organization skills, and long-term focus on preserving their farmland that ancestors first developed (both Jackson and Amanda grew up on family farms in Iowa). 


Jackson stressed the need to adapt to technology. What worked for his grandfather’s farm operation decades ago would likely not be as productive as today’s operations require.


Drost family standing in front of a tractor.
Amanda, Jackson, Andy and Richard Drost. Photo courtesy: Drost family.

“You have to change your ways as life goes on based on technology. God gives technology. It’s how we use it,” he said.


Technology is important for them. So, too, is the family’s dedication to cover crops and the overall focus on sustainability. The Drosts believe in being good stewards of the land for what they try to accomplish now but also for the future generations they hope will continue to expand here. 


“We have it make it sustainable for years to come,” Jackson said.


Financial sustainability points back to the family’s diversification efforts. And those include relying on Amanda’s career in public relations and marketing. She not only helps with the laborious tasks on the farm but also designs logos and other promotional materials to expand awareness.


Drost Farms logo. Image and design courtesy: Amanda Drost
Drost Farms logo. Image and design courtesy: Amanda Drost


“We’ve done anything from t-shirts to stocking caps to socks,” Amanda said, “It just helps to tell our story. It’s kind of like a conversation piece.”


A conversation piece….and just one other piece of the Drost family’s diversification.


The farm’s Facebook page reflects that diversification with this posted statement: “Drost Farms is a family operation that owns, rents, and crop shares land in Mahaska Co. IA. We grow corn, soybeans, hay, alfalfa, oats and do custom farm work including fertilizer applications, spraying, planting, harvesting, trucking, and management.”


That’s diversification.


So, it is likely not surprising that the couple’s two sons, Richard (9) and Andy (3), add to the family’s offerings.


Richard and Andy Drost’s yellow popcorn that they produce on the farm. Image courtesy: Amanda Drost.
Richard and Andy Drost’s yellow popcorn that they produce on the farm. Image courtesy: Amanda Drost.

The boys sell their “Drost Brothers Popcorn” (white or yellow). This is a family operation.


There’s a small cow-calf operation, too. “Mainly Black Angus,” Jackson said but added that in tribute to his red-haired bride, “But we have a few Red Angus!”


Amanda said that other families may bond through a game night or movie night. But for the Drosts, it is far more likely to be doing the farm work…together. “Farming is a lifestyle. I think people who have not grown up on the farm…or they’re not connected to a farm,” Amanda said, “It’s a 24-7 occupation. It’s just a way of life.


“That’s…,” Amanda added, “our family time together. It’s the best thing in the world.”


American Farmland Owner Hayfields mountains


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