Braden and Jordan McInnes of Tennessee Colony stand out in their field.
As thousands of U.S. family farms close each year, the young couple is fighting for the future of agriculture by not only successfully operating their own farm, but also leading efforts to strengthen the industry through lobbying, teaching, and mentoring.
For their efforts, Braden and Jordan have been named finalists in Texas Farm Bureau’s 2019 Young Farmer & Rancher contest at the state convention Friday and Saturday.
The young farmers are one of three couples, ages 18-35, nominated as finalists for an award that recognizes hard work and dedication to agriculture. Winners of this year’s contest will receive a pickup truck and $5,000; runners-up will each receive $500.
Other finalists in the Texas YF&R contest are Matt and Jessica Hanslik of Halletsville, and Jesse and Karri Wieners of Groom. The winning couple will represent Texas at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual competition in Austin in January.
At 25, Braden and Jordan have already acquired 4,500 acres in Anderson, Henderson, Navarro, and Kaufman counties, primarily on land along the Trinity River Basin. Such large operations are not common in East Texas, where landowners have traded farming for ranching and timber production.
Starting at 15 with less than 300 acres, Braden took a government loan for young farmers and began growing crops on land in Tennessee Colony that had not been turned for 50 years. Favorable rates on loans helped him expand.
Ted Britton, president of Anderson County Farm Bureau, said the McInnes’ farm is near the size of farms by the Red River, or those in West Texas, where Braden completed an agriculture degree at West Texas A&M University in Canyon.
With droughts in 2018 and 2019 and a growing feral hog problem, Braden hasn't always turned a profit, but that hasn't slowed him down. On the first morning in December, he was plowing fields to prepare for the spring growing season.
Corn is the McInnes’ primary crop, sold as chicken feed to Sanderson Farms and Lone Star Feed in Nacogdoches, but also as deer corn to local feed stores. The couple supply about 10 percent of the chicken feed needed in the East Texas; the rest comes on trains from Midwest farms.
Braden and Jordan also farm wheat, cotton, grain sorghum, soybeans, oats, and hay, as well as raise cattle and provide commercial spray applicator services and commercial trucking.
Their advocacy for agriculture, however, doesn't end with farming.
As a Farm Bureau member, Braden has lobbied for farmers’ causes in Austin; he serves on the Anderson County Farm Bureau Board of Directors.
Jordan teaches agriculture classes at Elkhart High School: Animal science, livestock production, and floral design. She also helps students with FFA projects, such as showing animals at livestock shows and career development and leadership events.
After participating in the statewide YF&R board, Jordan and Braden pushed to create the first county chapter. The couple has put on social events and shared their knowledge of agriculture by inviting youth to their farm for local field days.
Britton said the McInnes' provide a much-needed “voice for agriculture.”
“There’s a big disconnect between people in cities and farms,” said Jordan, a graduate of Plano East High School and Stephen F. Austin University.
Jordan owned horses and competed in English-saddle riding. Later, she competed in horse judging and radio events with FFA. She gained a greater appreciation for agriculture in college, and developed a passion for teaching it to others.