A rare breed: A farmers struggle to continue his passion

John Bowman’s 8-year-old grandson, Caidean, hugs him while waiting in a line at a Walmart Pharmacy in Rowan County.

Zac Popik

“Not everyone can be a farmer,” said 57-year-old Kentucky farmer John Bowman. “It takes a special breed.”

Bowman works a 75-acre farm high above Morehead on almost hidden land where horses, cattle and dogs roam free. He grows and harvests corn and tobacco.

After battling back issues, a stroke and Lyme disease, John’s health has affected his ability to work. As his body becomes weaker while working an understaffed farm, John is facing the reality this season might be his last. He comes from three generations of farmers, beginning with his great-grandfather.

“We’ve farmed since we’ve come over from Scotland.” said his only son, 26-year-old Jonathan. Jonathan works at the Kentucky Pawn and Gun shop in Morehead. Concerned about the high cost of maintaining a farm and his waning interest in the occupation, Jonathan decided he didn’t want to continue in his father’s footsteps. Instead, he has followed an interest in firearms.

“We need to find another way to keep taxes paid,” Bowman said. With tobacco season slowing down and the need to wait for his corn to dry, John turns to the lucrative business of logging to stay financially afloat. Michael Knipp, 26, who was hired by John six-months ago to not only help maintain the farm, but also help log wide oak, chestnut and black oak for timber. Knipp likes working for John.

“He’s fun and easy to get along with,” Knipp said. “He’s really understanding.”

Once finished with farming, John plans to live the simple life: hunting, fishing and spending time with his family. He believes farming is not for everyone, but only for someone—like himself—who truly loves the life.

“If I were to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.” Bowman said.

Zac Popik is a contributor. Contact him at [email protected]