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Daughter returns to help family farm after father’s death

By Deb Nicklay, Austin Daily Herald

ROSE CREEK — The sudden death of Mark Meany last fall hit his family hard. The 54-year-old father of three was a well-known Rose Creek father, farmer and friend.

His wife, Lyn Meany, and three daughters — Liz, 24, Laura, 22, and Rachel, 17 — continue to adjust to the emotional, financial and operational changes that happened after he died.

One of the major ones for Laura Meany, newly-graduated from Iowa State University, was a decision to return to the farm to make her claim as the next generation of Meany farming.

It is a decision that is exciting — and a bit scary as her first planting season approaches, she said. Laura Meany will be farming just over 300 acres of the land her grandfather owned; her mom has another 300 acres that she decided this year to rent for cropping to nearby landowners. Laura and Lyn Meany will work the operation together in partnership in the next year.

Laura Meany moved home to take over the family farm in Rose Creek. – Eric Johnson/Albert Lea Tribune

“I’ve always wanted to farm and this is a nice stepping stone,” Laura Meany said. “I’m farming the land my ancestors farmed … and I am keeping my dad’s legacy alive. I may be doing it sooner than I thought, but I love farming, so it’s great.”

The two sides of the partnership may be perfectly suited: Lyn  Meany has lots of experience on the farm, while Laura Meany is filled with youthful optimism.

Her mom praises her for taking the time to go to crop and ag finance meetings, or for getting together with agronomists to hash out the best fertilizers and chemicals to use.

There were times, though, when Laura Meany wondered if she was ready to get into the business.

“I think sometimes, ‘How am I ever going to be able to do this? How do farmers do this?’” she said with a chuckle. “And when I had to write that first check for seed! Wow!”

And that’s where her mom steps in, keeping her grounded.

“She’s been through this before,” Laura Meany said. “She calms me down.”

Being a woman on the farm elicits no special comment — or expectation — from either mom or daughter. Lyn Meany is well-versed in all farming roles, and gender has nothing to do with them. Her daughters learned the same. Laura Meany has a long history of work on the farm and in 4-H, where she excelled; fortunately, she has very little college debt, thanks to her folks who rewarded her work on the farm with subsidizing her college career.

Laura Meany climbs into a goat pen to give them some feed at the family farm. – Eric Johnson/Albert Lea Tribune

“That makes a big difference” as a young farmer beginning her ag career, Laura Meany said.

After Lyn and Mark Meany were married, Lyn Meany kept the books and “if he needed me in the field, I’d be in the field. And our board room was right here,” she said, nodding to the kitchen island.

Laura Meany graduated from ISU with a double major; one in public service and administration in agriculture and the other in international agriculture. She enjoyed her coursework and completed an internship with Iowa Farm Bureau in West Des Moines before moving back home.

She is ready to farm, but is also cautious.

“It is a transition process,” she said. “I want to prove to myself, in this first year, that I can do this. I have a lot of support (from family and neighbors).”

“They want to help — they want to see a young person come back that has that passion.”

A friend of the family, Rod Moe, is leasing machinery to the Meanys for this season.

“And my goal is to make enough money to buy a tractor next season,” she said, enthusiastically. “But it’s scary.”

She will begin her first year planting soybeans and sweet corn — staying with a rotation that leaves out field corn this year, she said.

“Actually, that worked in our favor,” Laura Meany said. “It makes everything a little easier and a little cheaper.”

Laura Meany is already looking to the future, pinning hopes of a vibrant operation.

“I want to grow the farm,” she said, adding she would like a more diverse operation, perhaps add a different crop or add beef cattle.

One thing is sure, Lyn Meany said — whatever her daughter pursues, she will do her homework first.

“I’m not afraid to try something new,” Laura Meany said. “And I’m not afraid to ask questions.”

Lyn Meany is proud that her daughter is willing to think outside the box.

“Farming doesn’t mean just a tractor out in the field,” Lyn Meany said. “Actually, the tractor is the easy part — it’s the everything else (that can take its toll).”

“But the legacy is going to continue … the farm will be continuing,” she added, thanks to her daughter.

“My mom says, ‘There is fear of the unknown; but the courage to step beyond — that’s what will make you successful,’” Laura Meany said. “I agree. You can’t be afraid to change; you just need calculated change.”

Laura Meany plays with some goats that are raised on the family’s farm south of Rose Creek. – Eric Johnson/Albert Lea Tribune