Honor on the farm

PATTON – Tommy Nagle became interested in the idea of farming at a young age.

“My grandfather [Joseph Davis] had a farm in St. Augustine. I started going to the farm at the age of four. I would ride on the tractors and be anxious to help feed the animals,” said Nagle, 34. “This sparked my love for farming and the desire to own the farm I run today.”

Nagle and his wife Tracy, 29, recently were named by the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau as winners of the 2013 Young Farmer and Rancher Achievement Award.

The award honors the farm couple or individual between the ages of 18 and 35 who have demonstrated outstanding farming and leadership achievements. The contestants were evaluated by a panel of judges on the basis of their farm operation, with emphasis on the farm’s growth and financial progress and the applicant’s record of leadership within and outside of the Farm Bureau.

Both were excited to win the award.

“It is a real big honor to receive. It lets us know we are on the right track,” Tommy Nagle said.

“It is an honor. It makes you feel like you are doing something right, that it is worth all of the hard effort,” Tracy Nagle said.

The Nagles were encouraged by Joe Diamond, regional organizational director for Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.

“I encouraged them to apply because of his involvement in the farm bureau, his leadership ability and the innovative farm practices that he is trying,” Diamond said.

Tommy Nagle, who has served as vice president of the Cambria County Farm Bureau, is now the bureau president.

Tommy Nagle, a 1998 graduate of Cambria Heights High School and a 2002 graduate of St. Francis University with a degree in accounting, worked at M&T Bank and Imler’s Poultry before becoming a full-time farmer.

“While still working, I started to buy equipment and then cows. Our transition was the birth of our daughter three years ago. We decided it was time to go full-time and have a career,” Tommy Nagle said.

Tracy Nagle, a 2002 Cambria Heights graduate and a 2006 graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a degree in sociology, worked as a mental health therapist before becoming a stay at home mother.

The couple has two children – Abby, 3, and Brady, 8 months, with a third child expected in May.

Today, the Nagles own Nagle Farms near Patton, where they manage a 170-head beef cattle operation and grow 650 acres of grains, including corn, soybeans, barley and hay.

“The Nagles have demonstrated the drive and determination that is often needed for young farmers to succeed in a challenging industry. A key for the Nagles is that they are continually looking ahead to improve the overall value of the family farm,” said Carl T. Shaffer, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau president.

Hard work and family support has been the key to the Nagle’s success.

“We’ve made very good decisions and have had very strong markets. We made the key decision on when to expand the beef herd and expand the corn acreage as well. Favorable markets have helped us over the last few years,” Tommy Nagle said. “My challenge is to see where the markets are going. You don’t want to chase them but figure out where the markets are heading.”

The Nagles plan to expand their farm.

“The ultimate goal is to farm about 3,000 acres and have 250 brood cows,” Tommy Nagle said.

The Nagles have advice for other young people who may be considering a career in farming.

“Make sure you are passionate about it. You have to have your heart in it,” Tracy Nagle said.

“Put together a good solid business plan and put together a small advisory board such as a banker, crop specialist and nutritionist. Show them your plan and get advice,” Tommy Nagle said. “The key is not just being smart but being smart enough to talk to the right people to get the answers.”

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.